London's reputation as one of the largest technology centers in the world is under threat from the coronavirus pandemic.
At the beginning of the last decade, a group of start-ups formed around the Old Street roundabout in East London (technically a roundabout system), nicknamed the "Silicon Roundabout".
The British Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, built on their success and described the area in and around the hipster district of Shoreditch as "Tech City".
Since then, London's technological ecosystem has expanded to other corners of the capital, including King & # 39; s Cross and the West End. Today, technology companies and their employees stretch across the city.
Native startups like DeepMind, Shazam, Revolut, and TransferWise have become household names in their respective industries, and US tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple have also opened huge new offices for thousands of employees.
But the coronavirus pandemic threatens to change the landscape.
Because of the nature of their work, technology companies can often do remote work much more easily than companies in other industries.
"The downside for London could be that chance is wearing off," said Harry Briggs, venture capitalist at Omers Ventures.
"While Shoreditch never made it to Silicon Valley, the square mile between Shoreditch, Clerkenwell and Kings Cross has become Europe's most random place for founders," said Briggs. "You can't go to Ozone (cafe), Granger & Co (restaurant) or Google Campus without running into multiple VCs or co-founders."
In the meantime, events by the Founders Forum, VC company Seedcamp and the start-up factory EF (Entrepreneur First) have gone virtual.
"Now the meetings and events are happening on Zoom, many founders have moved to Lisbon temporarily, and the VCs work from their country houses," said Briggs.
Many of the city's startups have settled in flexible coworking spaces, but the future of these hubs also depends on balance.
This month, TechHub, an office space provider that has hosted hundreds of startups over the past decade, filed for administration. TechHub was founded in 2010 by Elizabeth Varley and TechCrunch Editor-in-Chief Mike Butcher and said it lost three-quarters of its sales due to the lockdown.
"Elements of Tech City like co-working spaces are being hit hard," said Eze Vidra, managing partner at Remagine Ventures and former tech investor at Google Ventures. "But from a start-up and VC perspective, I am regularly reminded that some of the best companies were born in times of crisis. I see great companies that are effectively doing the rounds and gaining ground."
The shortage of technicians in and around Shoreditch doesn't go unnoticed. Entrepreneur Rich Pleeth told CNBC that the Griffin Pub in Shoreditch was practically empty when he visited last Thursday. "That used to be the beating heart," he said.
"We saw Covid make more decisions than a CEO could ever make while working remotely," Pleeth said, adding, "Why go back to the office when you have to sit alone and no colleagues in yours." Close? "
These problems are in no way limited to the London tech ecosystem. On the other side of the Atlantic, San Francisco is experiencing a similar situation, while there are now over 13,000 empty apartments in Manhattan. Big cities are turning into ghost towns as people choose to work remotely from less populated parts of the world.
"London will survive – it always does – and people will find new ways to connect – we always do. But Tech City's role as a center of chance may have peaked," Briggs said.