Blog / TechHub and Silicon Roundabout

James Darling
December 21, 2010

Yesterday, I posted a message on twitter. It went like this:

“TechHub is currently just a PR company producing misleading press releases. The idea they represent Silicon Roundabout is wrong.”

I thought quite hard about this short update, even running a few drafts past friends. I believe it to be true, and I thought I’d just run through a bit of my thinking as to why.

Mike Butcher sought me out last night and seemed quite eager to suggest that I was wrong. I’ll be mentioning the arguments he, and a few others, made every now and again so I can respond to them. I’m not a journalist, so please do not regard this as an attempt to be balanced, or rely on any quotes, which are from memory.

The key thing I tried to avoid is to talk about TechHub’s ambitions or motivations, it’s not for me to discuss. It was suggested that I did not know that it is a co-working space, or understand what that means. I believe I do: I have been following it both online and in the real world - it’s got a fantastic location.

Myself and around 40 other people work out of TechHub, it’s an office and event space for tech people/businesses.”

I have worked or spent time in more than my fair share of offices around London, especially around Shoreditch. I understand the idea of co-working spaces - there are already plenty around Shoreditch. (The Trampery, London Hackspace, MOO, BRIG and Soundcloud have all been offering something similar for years)

I don’t really want to say “but it’s not a very good one”. It feels rude and personal. The fact the space and the community it claims to have created does not seem like a very good one had seemed irrelevant, but when they started releasing their press releases and advising Government, suddenly it feels important.

So what about these misleading press releases?

“Tech cluster around London’s new TechHub grows 700% inside three years”

This is the press release that spawned my concern. In my view, calling it misleading was quite controlled.

The 700% claim has no evidence. Source 1: Matt Biddulph makes a list in 2007 of the companies he’s friends with. Source 2: “research” from TechHub themselves. And this is to assume that all growth happened in and because of the 3 months of TechHub’s existence in the 3 years researched. Mike Butcher’s response to this was:

“We didn’t claim it was scientific”

Maybe, but it is certainly misleading. And when you are advising David Cameron, who includes the same unscientific (inaccurate) information in his speech, it is irresponsible.

If we were to forgive the press release for creating it’s own evidence in the name of a greater good, then we move on to their greater good, and what they claim to be the source of it.

“London’s new TechHub, the space for the technology community, is acting as a catalyst for the increasingly active startup scene”

Now, obviously, I have as much evidence that they have had next to no influence on the Silicon Roundabout movement as they have to say the opposite. It does not mean I am not slightly creeped out by the tone of the release as they sidle up to the achievements of companies they have no association with, and in some cases, are actively disliked by.

I’m not a massive fan of TechHub, but this is not the issue. They’re trying something out and they’re young. I, like many others, was more than happy to have more friendly neighbours here in Shoreditch. When they started to become a bit noisy about things we didn’t think were true or agree with, it became a bit annoying. Now TechHub is advising the Government on how to harness something they have yet to prove they had anything to do with. This is wrong.