The mix of creative, technology and traditional service industries has become a major attraction of the quickly evolving area around King’s Cross station in London, which is presenting a challenge to even the traditional creative-class hub of Soho.
One company that has made the move from Soho to King’s Cross is mobile transformation company the App Business, which was acquired in late January by St Ives Group, an international marketing services group, and will now operate as a subsidiary of St Ives but will continue to be managed from its King’s Cross location by its existing management team. Rob Evans, its founder and strategy director, explains the logic behind the move. “For more than four years, the App Business had
a great time in Soho. Who wouldn’t? Central, bustling and with a real neighbourhood feel, it suited our needs perfectly. But our rapid growth – by about 120% in 2014 – meant that as we looked forward into 2015, Soho could just no longer contain our growing team.”
Space to breathe
The company spent a lot of time looking for the right new home. Its search team initially looked at east London, including areas around Old Street – an area just north of the City of London, that contains the thriving ‘Silicon Roundabout’ hub for technology companies – as well as Farringdon in the north-east of the city's central zone.
“These areas have a lot going for them and established reputations for housing tech and product companies, but we’ve always like to do things differently, and never really wanted to be just another east London tech company – hence our choice of Soho in the first place,” says Mr Evans.
In King's Cross, the company found a place with “room to breathe and grow in spades”, according to Mr Evans. “Our new studio is in a fantastic Edwardian warehouse, with three floors of light-filled, flexible open-plan space,” he says. “High-calibre space such as we have here in the Spitfire Building is important to us for two reasons. First, unlike a lot of tech companies or digital agencies, everything we do is in house, to maintain our quality. So we need the room to locate multiple squads of designers, engineers, strategists, product owners and agile coaches, not just under one roof, but with each squad sat around a single working area.”
Another consideration was that the App Business uses what Mr Evans says is a “highly collaborative, agile methodology” to deliver its work. “This means not only do we need room for our teams, we need to give them the additional flexibility of breakout and collaboration space. We also invite our clients to work alongside us, so the additional room is critical for our cross-functional, blended teams,” he says.
The right vibe
Choosing King's Cross also meant that the App Business lost none of Soho's easy accessibility. In fact, the company is now even better positioned to serve clients, being just two minutes from one of the best-connected train stations in the UK.
“King's Cross is very outward looking, and as our clients become more international in scope and outlook, this is a massive asset for our company,” says Mr Evans. “And, if we're honest, we feel more at home in King's Cross. We work in a rapidly evolving industry, and the neighbourhood vibe in King's Cross is also undergoing great change – there is so much going on, wherever you look, that we felt there was a synthesis or atmosphere of growth and progress that really suited our own outlook and position."
David Partridge, partner at property developers Argent, shares this view of King's Cross. “[It has] a creative buzz that Soho has sadly lost to some extent as it becomes over-sanitised,” he says.