I recently spent a day up in the Big Smoke and thought I’d check out the newest addition to Shoreditch’s startup and coworking community, Google Campus, an amalgam of two of the biggest coworking spaces in London, TechHub and Central Working (plus some extra bits thrown in).
The space, located down the completely unassuming Bonhill Street (this is literally the entrance), offers a range of options for the freelancer or startup business looking for some outside-the-home offices. The majority of my time there was spent at the cafe run by Central Working, which is located in the basement. Central have created a very pleasant space, featuring a community notice board, table football, and even a small courtyard complete with Campus rocket (which seemed appropriate given the eight floors rising above you on all sides make it feel a bit like sitting in a silo).
The space is a far cry from TechHub’s rather drab Old Street location (the only other comparable coworking space in the area), and features most of the necessities for the modern worker – namely, plenty of power sockets, fast WiFi and reasonably-priced coffee – although frustratingly weak mobile signal, being based below-ground.
There is definitely something of a buzz about the place. Huddles of laptop-bound workers chat in hushed tones, no doubt struggling to reconcile the must-be-seen-to-be-seen nature of Shoreditch startuppery with their desire to keep their projects away from prying eyes.
I tried to take a look around the new TechHub premises, but was denied by the receptionist – instead learning that they offer twice-weekly ‘tours’, which seems rather at odds with the come-one-come-all ethos of Campus.
The occupants of Campus go some way towards validating the Government’s continued insistance that London is a technological hub of Europe. Around me were people from Canada, the US, Ireland, France, Norway and Sweden, all hard at work on the benches, sofas, armchairs and beanbags provided.
Central Working run the cafe in the basement, with the reception floor above them at ground level. The second and third floors are occupied by paying TechHub tenants, while the events space and startup incubator Seedcamp occupy the higher floors. Google, of course, kept the top floor for themselves.
On the street-level floor there are more seating areas and a presentation space around the back. On the day of my visit there was a Startup Caravan event, and it was very well attended – with Google and their high-profile partners pulling strings, there’s no doubt Campus will become the premier location for tech events in Shoreditch.
Campus isn’t without its problems, though. It was hastily cobbled together as part of the Government’s grand plans for ‘Tech City’, and as a result isn’t a completely ideal venue for up-and-coming startups or freelancers looking for a workspace. The location is far from perfect, down an obscure side-street (I’m assuming it was chosen as it was the only large piece of real estate available in the area when Google inked their deal with the TCIO), and although it’s been given a modern lick of paint and adorned with the quirky accoutrements you associate with the cash-rich tech sector the building bares the scars of it’s hurried birth, with damp ceilings here and leaky pipes there. The wooden benches (as seen in the picture to the left) look as though they were knocked together over a hurried weekend.
The positives for Campus still vastly outweigh the negatives, and the space is a valuable addition to the East End, and a great venue in which to get some work done. There is a pleasant bustle, good amenities, and for people doing business around Shoreditch could provide a great base of operations. It’s free to work in the cafe area, and if you want access to the TechHub floors above it’ll cost you £275 per month (or £375 annually).