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Huddle CEO: Olympic Park tech plan flawed

Government's plan to turn Olympic Park into tech centre will just create a big office park, Alastair Mitchell tells CBR

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Olympic Park

The government’s plan to turn parts of the London 2012 Olympic Park into a hub for technology companies is flawed, Huddle’s CEO Alastair Mitchell has told CBR.

As part of the government’s Tech City initiative, plans were made to turn the press and media centre into an "accelerator" space for start-ups, providing office space and mentorship to help UK companies develop. Prime minister David Cameron also wanted to entice major international companies to the area, he said.

However that part of the initiative has received a fair bit of criticism. Recently, a report said the focus on expanding the existing hub from Shoreditch out to Stratford, Hackney Wick and the Olympic Park could have negative consequences. The report, by think tank Centre for London, said the initiative risks losing its primary focus if its attention is shifted further east.

Huddle’s co-founder and CEO, Alastair Mitchell, agrees. His company is based right in the heart of Shoreditch, with offices overlooking the Old Street roundabout, which has given the area its Silicon Roundabout moniker.

"It’s great that it’s provided a spotlight in the tech industry but it is aimed wrong," he told CBR. "I know they are trying to build initiative after the games and they will be successful in some ways but it will be like a big office park."

It is telling that Google recently opened its Campus right in Shoreditch rather than any closer to the Olympic Park, Mitchell said. "There will be some big tech companies there, like Microsoft is in Victoria. But that doesn’t mean Victoria is the tech hub of London," he added.

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However there are some positive aspects of the plan, Mitchell said. "Hopefully the area from here to the Olympic Park will become more of a stretch that will rival Reading and the M4 corridor. That would be great – an alternative M4 corridor, with the start-ups here and the big companies up in the Park," he said.

In fact, Huddle is close to hitting the capacity of its current office space and will be looking to move in the not too distant future. The cloud collaboration company will definitely be staying in the area though.

There are similarities between Shoreditch and Silicon Valley, he says, although obviously London’s scene is on a much smaller scale. "In the Valley all the coffee shops are filled the tech people," he said. "Now here people tweet to me saying they are having a coffee in the shop across the road and can see me at my desk. There is a real scene here and people are talking about it."

For a full Q&A with Alastair Mitchell, click here.

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