This is not specifically about mobile. It is more about the blinkered view of people living, working, reflecting on certain constrained areas in this world (and, no, for once I am not looking at you, Silicon Valley). And it is a cry for my adopted country (and county) to start getting things right…
London, oh London…
A writer way superior to me, i.e. the inimitable Monty Munford (that is a compliment, by the way), wrote a note about a report by the good folks from GfK about the challenges of the centre of horn-rimmed glasses and checkered shirts that is otherwise known as Shoreditch, the London former no-go zone come tech-hipster-central and biggest adversary to Berlin (in Europe, that is), in other words, the British equiavalent to the Valley.
According to the GfK survey, who queried a full 141 people, the biggest challenge is finding talent. Well, doh, given that London has one of the highest costs of living in the universe and beyond. The second biggest challenge was access to capital (generally true but, well, tough luck if you’re trying to flog hotel-room-finder #47).
Things May not Be What They Seem…
Now, you see, I am living and working in the North-West of England (which feels, when you live in Shoreditch, something like North Dakota when you live in the Valley). The difference is this: the rather affluent area South of Manchester is a mere 1:40 hours by train away from London, which is roughly the equivalent of going from Sunnyvale into SF – if you’re lucky). Now, them Londoners still things it’s North friggin’ Dakota… So whenever I tweet a picture of the view from my home office (our “proper” office is even cooler) people regularly go ooh and aah about how great I have it. And you get proper big city grid, too. So the question is: what’s stopping you?
The thing is this: the NW of England boasts a few goodies (and the McLaren F1 dealership down the road in a town of 15,000 is not even one of those – maybe it becomes one after your big exit): the University of Manchester has the Kingdom’s largest Physics faculty, there’s also a UI lab and the neighbouring universities in Salford, Lancaster, etc. all have run digitally-focussed courses for quite some time with great success. Manchester now also has MediaCityUK (yeah, someone with an English degree should have had a look at that name) with the BBC and tons of media production being there. The region also is home to some of the revolutions in video games (Psygnosis, Rockstar Leeds, Infogrames, EA’s studio in Warrington [now closed] and Travellers Tales [of LEGO Star Wars fame]) all being here. Chillingo is here. I-Play and Mforma were (but then, they “were” anyway). With Astra Zeneca et al, there is also “real” business up here. Tons of agencies etc. All this produced a surprisingly large sector or digital citizens “oop North”. When you sit in the train to London, there are plenty of fancy Macs being hammered on to get the latest RFP, pitch, proposal sent out via the train’s dodgy WiFi en route down South.
Then, of course, there’s the history. It was Manchester where capitalism proper was born, forgot? And there’s plenty of that to be had. Old Abe thanked the workers of Manchester for it – as there might not have been an independent US otherwise… (I stop here as this would be a huge post on its own). But you have more than cotton and silk (yes, I live in Macclesfield, the official Western end of the Silk Road) and, more recently, footballers (soccer players for you Americans). Because, you see, there’s them coders here. And designers, programmers, and some such thing. They’re rare anywhere, mind you. But they cannot only be found in and around Shoreditch. And it is because of that I would plead to stop this navel-gazing. It doesn’t suit you, London (or anyone else – it’s slightly embarrassing, you see).
So, my dear fixie-riding, horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing, checkered-shirt-flogging Hoxton friends: give it some thought… There’s even fancy coffee now, by the way. Try ManCoCo or Has Bean (a little further South, admittedly) for your artisan fix. Oh, and did I mention you can do kerbside to gate in 15 minutes at MAN (try that at LHR)?