Tech startups and Croydon facelifts

Catherine Tate

Asked to think of a hub of technical innovation, daring and creative thinking, most people don’t picture it being in Croydon.

So to be an ex-resident and frequent visitor of the place and be writing a feature on its very own Tech City feels not a little odd.

The grassroots initiative has been burgeoning for some time, though, and now a few well-meaning individuals have donned their gardening gloves to see if they can encourage a few flowers to grow.

With the bold claim that Croydon has the potential to be a bigger tech hub than Shoreditch in the future, there’s no lack of confidence – just a lack of computer science graduates (Silicon Roundabout has two universities – City and the Uni of London – nice and close by).

But with plans underway to ‘skill up’ the populace with free afterschool coding clubs and an aim to extend that to school leavers and older people, that could ameliorate that issue, while cheap rent and excellent transport links (14 mins to London on the train, for one) could make all the difference to startups wavering between fashionable Shoreditch and grimy south London.

Croydon has been nicknamed The New Manhattan by people who noticed all the skyscrapers adorning its skyline – presumably because they’ve never been there.

For anyone who’s actually brave enough to have stepped further in than Fairfield Halls it will forever be the Cronx – a spin on the moniker of Manhattan’s nasty, violent older brother.

I doubt that will change, and to be honest it would be a pity if the Croydon facelift (hair tied so tightly back it pulls the skin of your forehead upwards) ever became a thing of the past, but maybe its reputation could play in its favour – rents are cheaper when people don’t think much of an area.

Whatever you think of the sprawling town and borough south of the river, it’s terrific there are people there helping the tech scene grow as more and more firms come out of the woodwork.

If it doesn’t revolutionise Croydon the way Tech City has Shoreditch, maybe it will at least get people to think of the area in a new light.

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