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A 1.2 Million Sq. Ft. Slice Of Startup Heaven?

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It’s as long as One Canada Square is Tall – Can Plexal turn Here East into Europe’s premier tech hub?

Plexal is the new “mini city” that opened its doors to more than 800 members, mainly tech startup founders and their teams, on 12th June 2017.

Plexal is built on the site of Here East, the 1.2 million square foot complex at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in Stratford, East London, that served as the Press and Broadcast Centre during the Olympics and is also home to BT Sport.

Designed by the award winning architects Grimshaw, Plexal is a fully functioning eco-system with its own internal high street and town square, as well as a multimedia events space and enormous canal-side terrace designed to encourage “business networking, inspiration and wellbeing”, according to a recent press release.

Plexal was officially opened by London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Monday, at the beginning of London Tech Week.

The complex comes with everything a startup, or even a scale up could reasonably expect to need, from legal, marketing and accountancy services on-site, to an industry leading events programme, mentorship and entrepreneurship training, and the chance to work alongside fellow entrepreneurs, designers, developers, and rub shoulders with investors, celebrated CEOs and assorted members of the “techerati”.

Plexal’s aim is to “focus on driving and supporting collaboration between global corporations & Plexal startups”, and it has its own dedicated Corporate Innovation division.

Plexal will be run by a team headed up by Claire Cockerton, who was instrumental in creating Cognicity, a smart city technology pilot programme in London, and Level39, the fintech accelerator in Canary Wharf.

At 68,000 square feet, Plexal will become Europe’s largest connected business campus, larger even than the much-vaunted Station F project in France, created by the French Richard Branson, billionaire Xavier Niel, on the site of an old railway station close to the Seine.

Cockerton says that: “Plexal will become a truly unique innovation centre not only for London but the rest of the World. Our mission is to become the beating heart of inventive enterprise; connected, intelligent and dynamic – where people join forces, ideas spark and new business is born.”

“I believe we have created a first-class space design to deliver this and look forward to telling the success stories of the new technology products and services that emerge from Plexal”.

Here East is certainly an impressive space, and the area around Hackney Wick has impeccable hipster credentials, having housed independent artists and disruptive businesses in warehouse style offices for many years.

On top of this, the construction of Crossrail will help transport business people from overseas to the complex direct from Heathrow in a fraction of the time it currently takes – and project a much more impressive image than the chic-but-shabby Silicon Roundabout.

Plexal is not far from Stratford International Station, with links to the Docklands Light Railway, Jubilee, and Central underground lines, and overground via Hackney Wick station.

Plexal has put partnerships in place with the London Legacy Development Corporation, London & Partners, Tech London Advocates, University College London, Loughborough University, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Guild of Entrepreneurs.

Members of Plexal will from £220 per month for “open” studios, a floating membership that also provides access to events and hot desking civic areas. Permanent desks in the library start at £350 per month, and private enclosed spaces also start from £350.

Startups can access office space from 4-30 desks.

On the face of it, Plexal looks to be a world class startup resource that can make a huge difference to London’s already thriving startup ecosystem.

It has been a long time coming – at one stage Here East was promising a fully functioning centre by April 2016 after signing a 200-year lease with the LLDC with £1 billion of investment. But that was then, and now East London has a new development that it can be proud of and that could deliver those much sought after “Unicorn” tech startups.


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