Innovation in Shoreditch: Interview with Richard Celm Manager of Accelerator

Richard Celm is the manager of Accelerator, a business incubator in Shoreditch specialising in the ICT and digital media industry. This week, Made in Shoreditch co-founder Giedrius Ivanauskas had a chance to chat with Richard about Accelerator, as well as exciting innovative and entrepreneurial happenings in the heart of the Silicon Roundabout.

G: Tell us about your organization – how does it foster innovation and help entrepreneurs?

R: I manage Accelerator, which is a business incubator in Shoreditch. We provide start-up and early stage support to ICT/Digital Media companies. This comes in the form of infrastructure support (e.g. office space, desks, connectivity, mailboxes, etc.), as well as intellectual support (e.g. mentoring, coaching, holding business workshops, securing financing, and establishing links to commercial service providers such as accountants, lawyers etc.).

I think business incubators are great because of the flexibility they provide, the costs savings economies of scale bring, and the community of practice they help facilitate. As a manager, I can keep an eye on things such as grant opportunities, changes to tax laws, and new legislation, and inform the companies on these or bring someone in to talk about them – something which they find difficult to keep abreast of because they are so busy running their businesses. I have had a number of companies graduate and go onto £1 million-plus buyouts who have said that were it not for the flexibility and assistance provided by the incubator, they would not have survived.

G: Why do you think Shoreditch is becoming the centre of innovation in London?

R: Shoreditch is a great place to start a digital business because of the high concentration of other great people working in the area in the same space. It is now attracting talent from around the world, and these people feed off each other’s energy, ideas and success. It is extremely close to central London, Europe’s financial capital, which means good ideas can get funding. It has great restaurants, bars, and cafes and ‘packs a big punch’ in terms of all the things people look for. It is also good value in terms of cost (e.g. rent) compared to other areas of London.

G: What does Shoreditch have to do to compete with Silicon Valley?

R: Shoreditch is different from Silicon Valley in that the types of businesses here are more social and artistic digital businesses, as opposed to the engineering technology businesses you find in Silicon Valley. This point of difference represents a strength, building on the traditions of the area.

[quote_right] Shoreditch is now attracting talent from around the world, and these people feed off each other’s energy, ideas and success [/quote_right]

G: What are the main threats to innovation, as well as the challenges that young start-ups face here, and how can they be avoided?

R: The main challenges young start-ups face are the same today as they always have been. These can be summarized in the following three questions start-ups must ask themselves:

1. Do I have a good business idea (i.e. is there a market, am I solving a problem people will pay for, etc.)
2. Do I have the right team of people who can deliver it?
3. Do I have the resources to deliver it?

Without a doubt, getting assistance in all three of these areas dramatically increases the chances of success, and that is why something like a business incubator is so cool – because it can help you with each of these.

G: What advice would you give to those interested in starting their own businesses in Shoreditch?

R: Go for it – but know what you are getting yourself into. If you want to bounce some ideas off someone, feel free to contact us.

G: What does the future have in store for Shoreditch?

R: Google, Microsoft, Starbucks and McDonalds! Maybe even a Westfield Shopping Centre. Now that would be awesome.

No…hopefully the area will keep spreading out like an ink spot in the way the Government is hoping it does, so we will see this awesome concentration extending eastwards towards Stratford. You can already start to see this happening, so I think it will happen over time and the Olympics will certainly help in this regard.