In many ways, Campus London’s trajectory is much like that of any successful start-up: the first phase was all about establishing a minimum viable product. The next stage is all about scaling.London already had plenty of accelerators and co-working spaces when Google decided to launch Campus London. What London needed was a hub that would allow participants from all of these to meet up for large community events, to hack and to learn together. Google has given the city that and more. In fact the model has been so successful it is being emulated around the globe.
Since Campus London launched on March 29th, 2012, Google has opened a second Campus, in Tel Aviv; it has partnered with Campus-like entities in other parts of Europe, such as Numa in Paris and The Factory in Berlin; and Campus has become a stop for start-up delegations coming through London.
“Governments are starting to realize that start-ups are where the growth is coming from,” says Eze Vidra, the man who has been heading up the co-working space on Bonhill Street for the past two years. “They used to say we want to build Silicon Valley, now they say we want a Tech City,” with a Campus-like entity at its center. Some are going as far as planning look-alikes.
Google doesn’t seem to mind. As more campus-like entities flourish in Europe and elsewhere and connections between them become stronger, it will create a network effect between the hubs and a sharing of best practices, ensuring that not just London but cities across Europe and even the world are filled with start-ups.
Campus London was the first, and remains the largest, physical hub supported by Google for Entrepreneurs, which also supports a network of start-up hubs across the U.S., Europe, Middle East and Africa. Building Campus London was a way for Google for Entrepreneurs to invest in start-up ecosystems outside of the U.S. “Campus London was a very new thing for us — it was the first to be built by Google anywhere in the world. It was a way for us to say we care about entrepreneurship. It is an “open source building” that is open to any entrepreneur, regardless of whether they develop on Facebook, iOS or are hosting software on Amazon,” says Vidra.
Campus has hosted more than 200,000 entrepreneurs, developers and techies in the last two years.
The community comes together to seize opportunities; for example, the chance to “Pitch the Palace,” a competition at Buckingham Palace that will include an appearance by Prince Andrew. Or to help out the wider community, as was the case with #FloodHack, a February hackathon which gathered over 200 developers in less than 24 hours to figure out how to use government data to help UK flood victims and emergency services.
Campus 1.0 was “all about the physical and establishing the community; the next iteration is all about satisfying the demand and getting out of the building,” says Vidra.
Lots of other changes are afoot
The goal of Campus 2.0 is also to reach a greater number of people. So, in the spirit of “getting out of the building,” rather than limiting classes and lectures to the physical space (as these are often sold out), Campus London is starting to live stream its events to a larger, not only physically present, audience.
Lots of other changes are afoot. Vidra, who has been juggling both his new role as head of Google for Entrepreneurs Europe and running Campus London since October will focus primarily on Europe. Google is planning to appoint a community manager for Campus shortly.
The basement is also undergoing a change of management: the Campus cafe, a buzzing open seating area at Campus, which has played a central role in brewing new start-ups over the last 24 months, will be completely transformed in the coming weeks. Giant touch screens will enable people to find out who is on Campus, ticker screens will flash social media communications, and, promises Vidra, there will be better visibility into what is going on at Campus at any given moment. “We want to make it more high tech and more connected.” Among the most important changes: a program called Launchpad will be introduced in London. (Until now Launchpad has been unique to Campus Tel Aviv.) The week-long program — which is free — will cover subjects such as user interface, product strategy and technology, marketing, business development and analytics and measurement tools. Start-ups from other European hubs will compete for the chance to participate in the Campus London Launchpad.
London Put Campus On The Map
“This is a big part of my new role,” says Vidra. “To take what we have learned from working closely with start-ups at Campus London and apply that knowledge to other start-up ecosystems but also to connect them to each other.”
Launchpad builds on what already works well on Campus. “We started as an open source building with multiple apps,” explains Vidra. Start-ups participate in events organized by partners like Seedcamp or TechHub, or those run by Google. One of the most popular programs is “Google Office Hours,” which are scheduled 30-minute slots for entrepreneurs to tap the brains of experts from Google on topics ranging from mobile to social media. Entrepreneurs who make the trek to Campus can also sign up to CampusEDU for lectures on topics including legal issues and product management. Campus Talks offer a chance to learn first-hand from tech star guest speakers such as Google’s Bradley Horowitz or Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Launchpad “is all about learning how to nail your product. It is very hands on. It is not an accelerator per-se but a bootcamp where start-ups work side by side with mentors on a variety of issues in a much deeper way during a whole week,” says Vidra. “Start-up founders can work intensely alongside of a UI person, study the pros and cons of different approaches and actually prototype.”
As the first, and biggest, of such projects the London Campus has set the path for Google’s program worldwide. It has helped put London on the start-up map, and in return London has helped put Campus on the map.