With my investor and start up hat on, I went to check out Google Campus, London, this week. It’s near the Liverpool St / Shoreditch area. There are certain elements that impressed me.
A decent number of women. Campus claims female membership overall is 38%. This is much better than Google which is only 20% female in tech roles, 31% overall (see Google Diversity)
The room seemed about 40/60 and the café downstairs perhaps also close to that, maybe 30/70.
It helps having Code First: Girls (CFG) on the 4th floor. (Code First: Girls works with companies and with men and women directly, to help increase the number of women in tech).
You get a decent amount of intangibles for free. There’s no silver bullet but you get access to a co-working café-space, events, mentoring and advice; plus that all important network and start-up go-getting vibe. All of that means, I recommend you sign up if you are at all interested in the start-up area.
“the basement, which houses our first come, first served coworking café space. Members can post and find jobs on the community board, meet fellow founders, and make connections that could change your business. On the ground floor is our Main Event Space, which fits 135”
BUT. The café looks crammed (see top photo) few sockets and so I imagine it is hard to get written or coding work done. Then again – it is likely super useful for getting feedback on work in progress, and for the random focused serendipity networking effects. If you are shy, you can rely on others to approach, I expect – though start up land generally doesn’t seem initially a place conducive to the shy.
So, good for networking, demoing apps, sites and ideas. Not good for concentration work.
The other floors, you don’t really have access to for free, but you can get a spill over network effect from the people working there.
The co-working prices are not super cheap, there are cheaper in London, but perhaps not the same vibe. Though I think WeWork, Central Working amongst others are giving it a good go in tech startups; in arts… Makerversity at Somerset House is a London coworking space for designers, markers and start-ups - Somerset House..... Impact Hub Westminster is co-working for Social Enterprise and charities...
“Why did Google start Campus? Google began life as a startup in a garage in California, and we’ve kept our passion for entrepreneurship. With Campus, we wanted to create a connecting space, somewhere for founders to network, learn, teach, and grow.” I don’t fully buy this as the entire reason, but it’s good enough and does align with long term values.
On that note Campus has these community values, which they were keen to impress upon at orientation. I took that as a good sign.
I’d note the concentration on tech startups. There are other types of startups, which could also do with this networking mingle (the social enterprise sector as mentioned above with the Impact hub).
There’s also – I sense – an obsession of scale with startups at the moment. I suppose, “big money” comes with scale and startup peeps are ambitious. But, I admit I’d like to see what localism could achieve. Tech is there to scale on smaller amounts of capital to make large returns, I guess…. A local coffee shop, with nice food and drink won’t do that.
But are these startups solving problems that need to be solved?
Climate change, water use, recycling
Gender inequality, Income inequality, Access for marginalized and minority groups
Fake news, privacy, hacking, housing...
...Or are startups just giving you a chance to rent-a-dog? There’s space for both in the world, I suppose.
That’s not to denigrate Campus. It’s worthy. It’s interesting. You should sign up!
If you'd like to feel inspired by commencement addresses and life lessons try: Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; or JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Or Charlie Munger on always inverting; Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude or investor Ray Dalio on on Principles.
Cross fertilise. Read about the autistic mind here.