London’s tech startups are divided, sometimes bitterly, between the bigger and better known firms in the startup jungle and the new breed of almost identikit one-off companies. Now three interesting start-ups – Connectify, Pryt, and Rent Lounge – have one thing in common: they are co-working spaces that use larger amounts of space than rivals in the neighbourhood.
Described as a “community workspace” by its founder and owner Ira Breitman, Pryt is tiny. An offshoot of personal workspace business Spacecoats, it accommodates just 12 people and is crammed with low-tech kitchen equipment and furnishings (outdoor furniture, for instance, is made of plastic). Its ethos is for collaboration and creative technology, and it has an ethos as much as a quality of life or catering services. Its emphasis is on technology and, indeed, the areas Pryt helps to pioneer, such as Node up the road in Clerkenwell, are pure tech hub, said Mike Richardson, Pryt’s director.
“I think there’s a pretty significant trend towards co-working. It’s not just a case of startups. It’s more like independent freelancers, people taking a space, a couple of people coming in and out with a few projects. Where a lot of them come from is the engineering sector. Everyone at Pryt is in a creative capacity, whether it’s creative writing or media or technology, so what we do is we give you a spaces to work on, you can have a coffee, you can explore the technology that’s available, and you don’t have to feel like you have to have everyone’s ear around you.”
The space at Pryt provides electric trolleys, stationary power bikes, USB charging points and even a communal kitchenette. And just so you can use your telecommuting gadgetry, Pryt does offer free wi-fi. Spacecoats even subsidises Pryt with the use of their premises.
Eero, a Google Project I contributed to, operated in larger spaces in Camden and Shoreditch. That was ten years ago, but now co-working spaces in the area are rising up the traditional London tech startup hierarchy, said Laurence Rhys, founder of work.hub, a co-working space in Islington. Two years ago Co-working Unlimited of Islington allowed Like Goods to establish a home there. Like Goods is a software consultancy that gets funded through commission and sales of e-commerce websites and resellers. It is also a co-working space, and Eero residents include companies such as Zopa and Memebox.
“In our smaller size, we have massive business spaces,” said Rhys. “While we would like to be a bit more boutique in our space, we don’t want to look too much like a startup. We want to try and support the neighbours.”
No company will say exactly how many people they have in their office space, or in some of the smaller spaces. Pryt doesn’t release any figures, nor do they disclose any pricing details, except to say the startup spaces are all on a per seat basis.
While Pryt and is crowd-funding everything in its name, it has a two-year lease on its space, through who is a top London law firm, Goodwin Procter. Like Like Goods has a six-month lease. Only Eero’s lease isn’t as long.
Pryt tenants include international companies and local start-ups that were met in its week-long pop-up “Foundry” earlier this year. Looking to expand internationally, Like Goods was looking for a new home. “It is definitely a place where they think this is a great way to be in London, or at least branch into the UK market,” said Rhys. “It also gives them a more intimate space to work in.”
“I think London is a very dog-eat-dog business community, sometimes dog-eat-bacon,” said Rhys. “The only way to survive is to move, to move from a ratty little corner of the capital, because it’s so noisy and congested and funky. To really have a chance to succeed and achieve, we need to be able to move into new areas.”