By Farah Khalique
The unstoppable erosion of London’s Tech City in as detailed in The Guardian makes for a depressing read. Blogger Cory Doctorow details how the City’s start-ups are being forced out of the area, with Hackney council approving the demolition of small office spaces to make way for student housing and property developers. The irony of booting out exciting start-ups to make way for what is possibly the most uniform type of accommodation - student housing - in an area that is supposed to foster creativity appears to be lost on Hackney council.
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Music discovery service Last.fm and technology start-up Berg were both forced out of their offices, and Berg’s new space is due to be demolished at the end of the year. Chuck in the problem of escalating rents, and it’s not hard to see why the City’s start-ups are nervous about holding onto office space.
Regular networking events help foster a pioneering entrepreneurial community that can only be a good thing for fledgling businesses.
But for those start-ups wanting to stay in the heart of the capital, there is a solution: co-working. The concept is simple. Self-employed professionals such as freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs share office space with all the usual trappings including printers, meeting rooms and wi-fi, without the worry of eviction or spiralling rent. The idea has caught on all over the world, from London to New York and, of course, in the very heart of start-ups, California’s Silicon Valley.
But it’s more than just an office space with reliable wi-fi – regular networking events help foster a pioneering entrepreneurial community that can only be a good thing for fledgling businesses. The UK has a growing army of self-employed workers eager to set up their own business and work their own hours. Since the recession in 2008 to last year, the number of self-employed workers has increased by 333,000 versus a fall of 201,000 in the number of employees. The growing popularity of co-working space could not come at a better time for the UK’s SME sector.
Farah Khalique is a freelance business and financial journalist, with a keen interest in writing about non-bank financing solutions that can help SMEs grow their business. She has written extensively about banking scandals and has made TV appearances on Sky News and The Wall Street Journal Live to comment on topical issues including money laundering and bankers’ bonuses. Follow her on Twitter.