Start-up founders have called Google’s decision to not reopen its London Campus for early-stage businesses “sad”, after the company said it would refocus on providing support for entrepreneurs across the UK.
The Google for Startups Campus opened in London in 2012. Close to Old Street Roundabout, its seven-storey building was located in an area full of young tech companies that was then becoming known as ‘Silicon Roundabout’ – the UK’s answer to America’s Silicon Valley. The co-working space offered events, mentorship and classes for growing businesses.
The Campus building was opened by then-Chancellor George Osborne, who said it would help Britain become the “technology centre of Europe”.
But the Campus’s programmes of support for founders pivoted to online channels when Covid-19 forced it to close the doors of its physical space last year.
“This shift demonstrated that, similar to the support we provide in other advanced startup ecosystems like the US and Germany, we can provide support for startups right across the country without a physical space,” Google for Startups said in a statement on the Campus website yesterday. “We are therefore opening a new chapter for our work in the UK, and we will not be reopening our Campus in London.”
The organisation said the UK’s tech scene has matured and that the start-up community “doesn’t need access to a single-shared physical space as much as it needs access to resources, mentors, and programs available at scale, anywhere”.
The move comes just under a year after TechHub, another bastion of the early 2010s London start-up scene, went bust.
Founders whose businesses had been through programmes delivered at the Campus lamented the news.
“With TechHub and now Google Campus leaving it feels like the heart of the early stage startup ecosystem – one that created countless successful start-ups between 2010-2020 – has been pulled out,” said Max Kreijn, co-founder and CSO at retail techology firm, NearSt.
“These organisations had the financial capital, knowhow and most importantly a genuine purpose to support startups before thinking about profit. It’s truly sad to see how the pandemic has impacted the ecosystem in London.”
NearSt took part in the world’s first Google Campus Residency programme, which helped lead to its partnership with Google.
Valentina Milanova, founder of innovative period product maker Daye, also remembered the Campus fondly.
“Google Campus offered Daye it’s first home – we used the space to build our first machines, experiment with our tampon formulations, slept on the communal couches after pulling all-nighters… It was so beautifully run, and fostered such a wonderful energy. It will be greatly missed, and hopefully soon replaced by an even better springboard for startups.”
Areeq Chowdhury, founder of WebRoots Democracy, took to Twitter to mourn the demise of his now-closed think tank’s former home.
“Very few offices (and zero homeworking set ups) can match the energy of start-up co-working spaces,” he said. “They need a revival after the pandemic.”