Occupying the 39th floor of Canary Wharf’s rather exclusive Canada One, Tech City’s newest accelerator is committed to transforming the financial sector that surrounds it, the shopping centres beneath and to enhancing the smart city technologies on which the area was first built.
This is not an attempt to “copy and paste” Shoreditch, said Eric Van Der Kleij, Head of Level39 and fintech entrepreneur, rather to be complementary to other tech hubs in the Capital and become the focal point for financial technology in London. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, marked the opening by unveiling a (rather suitable) digital plaque.
From meat shop to £1m pad
Canary Wharf already has some 7,000 people working in tech companies like Thomson Reuters and Ogilvy and Mather. Level39 has now welcomed its first businesses, which are competing in Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab start-up competition. This is sponsored by 14 of the overlooking banks, including Barclays and Capital One, and is backed by the Mayor’s office.
Digital Shadows, among the first tenants, is a cyber monitoring service created to help companies manage the ‘digital footprint’ left by social media, mobile and the cloud. Having started off as a two man band working above a meat shop in Farringdon, the company is completing its 10 week programme with mentoring from four banks in an office which is worth around £1.1m and used to be occupied by KPMG.
Government meets hackers
The accelerator space houses four sandboxes, including one called ‘Eastminster’, which has already been used by the Ministry of Justice to discover how they could use their procurement power to drive the economy, has event space for 250, the obligatory open plan eatery complete with iPad-controllled coffee machine and a board room. A hackday called ‘Hack (Make) the Bank’ to try and devise a new kind of banking was already underway.
A club lounge, with a membership fee to pay for the space, is half price for any business angels and VCs who are prepared to mentor the young companies. “They teach start-ups how to solve their problems faster. We focus every day on helping the companies get traction through mentoring – it is worth more than investment”, Van Der Kleij said. There are hotdesks available, along with more permanent work space. “If you ask us to build you a 2000 person facility – we would do that for companies rather than punishing them for growth.”
Downstairs will be a “living lab for next generation retail technology” located in some of the “highest yielding shopping centres in the UK” he said. Level39’s future cities strategy will be unveiled later this year and much of it will be centred in the new Wood Wharf development. Van Der Kleij promised that Canary Wharf’s new cross rail station, with a 39 minute journey to Heathrow, would be completed by 2015, “years ahead of schedule”.
Canary Wharf Group has issued a call for companies and entrepreneurs to apply to be based at Level39. Click here for more info.
Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here: http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/level39-tech-hub-opens-canary-wharf