Tech Hub misrepresents Silicon Roundabout

Yesterday I had a brief conversation on Twitter with Elizabeth Varley of Tech Hub about their claims of 700% startup growth in the Old Street area. I’d suggest reading the original article and the Twitter conversation first. I was convinced to write up some broader thoughts by an excellent post by James Darling, so that is worth reading too.

It may seem pedantic to quibble over a number, but it is important when the number is in the headline of your article, and more importantly gets repeated by others and even Government. Whilst this may be a common tactic in PR it’s still fundementally misleading and irresponsible on their part.

To get this % increase they claim two sources:

  1. A “crowd sourced” map thrown together by Dopplr shortly after the (joke) term ‘silicon roundabout’ was coined.
  2. Further research by Tech Hub based on a detailed ethnographic survey of the area, done over a period of months, long after the term had stuck and more companies were eager to be associated

Now, they don’t claim the research behind the number is scientific (which is fair) but you shouldn’t use precise figures that appear to be so. Use appropriately unscientific terms like “significant growth” or other hand wavvy term instead.

Thats not to say the area hasn’t seen growth, but that 700% is an entirely misrepresentative number. To the extreme that using it is essentially making up a number to suit a purpose.

Most of all, despite being very careful not to explicitly say it, Tech Hub aligns themselves with this growth, suggestion they are in some way associated or responsible for it. Something I personally don’t believe to be true.

Recent events make me worry that Tech Hub have become the de-facto voice of “silicon roundabout”, despite being so new to the area, and rather different to the many existing co-working spaces. To me at least, this seems to be because they are entrepreneur and business focused, they’re not developers. Of course they’re going to be more willing to, and better at, speaking to the press and promoting themselves.

James does a much better job explaining that last point than me. I could happily write a few more hundred words on that alone, but I won’t tonight. I do feel compelled to make a point of

Tech Hub does not represent for me, or the whole of the area. It worries me that they appear to do so.