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August 12, 2013

Startup accelerator denies Tech City move reflects badly on ex-base Birmingham

Oxygen Accelerator says Google office offer was too good to refuse.

By Joe Curtis

A startup accelerator’s move to London is "not a reflection" on the state of the tech scene in its former base, Birmingham, according to the CEO.

Oxygen Accelerator will shortly start working out of Google’s Shoreditch offices after previously being based in the Midlands city, as it joins rivals Tech Stars, Seed Camp and Wayra in the capital.

But CEO Simon Jenner denied the firm’s move is an indictment of Birmingham’s start-up scene, and said the offer to work out of Google’s campus was too good to pass up.

Jenner said: "This is not a reflection on Birmingham. When Google said we have a bit of space coming up that makes sense for us. There’s no reason next year we wouldn’t be based in Manchester or anywhere.

"We’re attracting talent from all over the world, we’ve had teams from China and Russia. Where we’re located is a secondary issue."

The bootcamp’s move to the capital has provoked media comment that other tech clusters in the UK are losing out to London’s international sway and ability to attract the bigger VCs and investors.

However, Jenner maintains his company’s former home city still has advantages over London.

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"It has cheaper office space, cheaper everything," he said. "I definitely don’t see this as Birmingham is deprived being where it is. There are more VCs and investors in London but that’s true in [a Europe context] as well.

"The government has put a whole bunch of money in Tech City but that’s money being spent on marketing and PR and not anything else.

"It’s attracted Google to move here which is great. In Birmingham we’d still get a lot of people up from London whereas now we’ll probably get people popping in. It’s more serendipitous in London but the travel links to Birmingham are good."

The accelerator believes working from Google’s offices will still be an advantage for the company.

Jenner said: "It’s the hub of the community. To be at the centre of that is a good place to be, there’s a lot of tech start ups there."

Oxygen Accelerator is accepting applications for its next intake until August 23 and has just helped, which took part in its 2011 bootcamp, to a second round of funding worth around £400,000.

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