I’ve been letting RookieOven slide. Sure the Meetups are still running every month and I try post regularly to Facebook and Twitter but I’ve not been posting content or keeping the site up to date. But there’s nothing better to light a fire under you than an invite to a Royal Reception for the UK Tech Industry.
So last Monday I along with 350 others from across the UK went to Buckingham Palace by invitation of the Queen. Hugely exciting, a great honour, totally unexpected and most of all inspirational. Meeting amazingly talented people from communities around the UK was great but I felt at a bit of a loss when describing the Glasgow tech scene. So for example with the likes of Ignite in Newcastle, the huge crowd from Cardiff with the ICE centre and the Tech Britain team from Manchester there was a sense of community in all these places. But what about Glasgow? What does our tech community have? Where is out heart?
Why do we need it?
Other communities clearly have a central hub, especially our neighbours in Edinburgh. These days you have not only the Appleton Tower but also the two great communities of TechCube and CodeBase. All three are within a 20 minute walk of each other. In Glasgow however I feel this is lacking, but firstly is this kind of focal point even important to have?
Well I would say definitely it is for a few reasons:
- Drawing people in: Firstly a central hub can act as a great draw to outsiders. Secondly and most importantly a visitor stopping off, in say Edinburgh, for a day or two can hit the area around CodeBase, TechCube and the Appleton Tower and immerse themselves in the local tech scene. You could easily squeeze in a visit to 10 or more top quality startups.
- The chance meeting: In some places there is such a density of talent that you can’t help but bump into others in your field of work. These chance meetings are powerful. Idea’s spark, introductions get made and customers can be found.
- Support: One of my main drivers for starting the RookieOven blog and meetup was to provide a peer support network for founders. Missing a sale, struggling to find customers or chasing funding there’s no better support than those who have been there and bought the tshirt. With a community hub this network is more natural and not confined to the monthly meetups.
- Hiring: Finding talent is hard. Companies across the country are struggling to fill design and development positions. I believe having a central hub would act as a melting pot, bringing together the talent and the employers and allowing them to develop relationships which can turn into successful partnerships/employment. Currently companies are reaching out far and wide, would it not be easier to reach out to your front door?
What do we have
Glasgow from the Tech Britain Map.
Ok so hopefully we agree it’s important to have a community so what does Glasgow currently have? Let’s start with the incubators and coworking spaces. We have the Hillington Innovation Centre, in Hillington. Yip Hillington. Granted close to the M8 and the airport but hardly convenient. Well how about closer to the city centre, there’s ‘ESpark’ but they are based away in the Gorbals, hard to reach unless by taxi and in my opinion poorly suited to the needs of tech startups. Then we have the incubators and working spaces offered by Digital Enterprise Glasgow but they are spread throughout the city with no real core.
CitizenM is a great venue and has successfully hosted Culture Hack and Startup Weekend. It has a great mix of talented people who regularly work there but it’s fully booked up. The South Block likewise is to my understanding full.
The startups and Infrastructure
So where are the businesses based? Again it’s all over the place. We have companies doing good stuff in the all corners of the city. For example there’s Twig in the west end, Emerge Adapt in the south side, IC Mobile in the north, then the Open Glasgow project working out the east end of the city and many more throughout.
We also have Glasgow University, University of Strathclyde, The Art School and Glasgow Caledonian all in the city and the University of the West of Scotland just outside. I don’t have hard stats but I would guess that’s easily over 40,000 students in the area. And granted not all going to be studying CS but I bet a large proportion will have skills required for tech business (marketing, accounts, legal, design, research etc).
So we clearly have the businesses capable of delivering. We produce the talent here. It just seems a bit blotchy across the city. Having companies closer together would facilitate the chance meeting, mean an investor could visit two or three companies in one afternoon and talent looking
Can’t forget the events
Then we have events; a look at the Google Campus Calendar shows an insane number of upcoming events. Glasgow is home to a fair few events itself as shown on the excellent Open Tech Calendar but they take place all across it. While I feel the meetups can happen anywhere; especially the ones in the style of RookieOven, Lean Agile Glasgow or Refresh they just need somewhere with a well stocked bar in all honesty. It’s the events of a bigger scale, hackathons and conferences that need a consistent reliable home, where would they be in Glasgow? CitizenM has proven good for hack events as has The Whisky Bond but others have also been used with varying success.
So my reason for this post is really to see if these are the rambling of someone with their head in the clouds or if the rest of the community genuinely shares my beliefs and frustrations. What do you think the Glasgow community needs and more importantly what steps do we need to take to get there?
As always appreciate your comments or if you would rather feel free to email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.