Digital DUMBO Lands in Londonby Kathryn
This past month I got the opportunity to attend London's first Digital DUMBO. Though it wasn't my first visit to the city, I would hardly say I'm very familiar with it and its culture. So the chance to do some international work there was truly an exciting opportunity for me.
Digital DUMBO has been on a roll lately. Coming off the heels of dd:Impact, Digital DUMBO held their first London event on June 20th in Shoreditch (an area in East London much like DUMBO). It's the perfect time to be in London. Not only was the city still in hangover mode from the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, but they had jumped right into Euro Cup action (sorry England), with the Olympics quickly following in July. But more importantly, East London has been the hub for digital innovation in Europe, having the greatest concentration of entrepreneurs.
It took just one walk down Commercial St. in Shoreditch to realize how similar the two areas are to one another. With the emergence of American style coffee shops and food trucks throughout the city, it's clear Brooklyn has rubbed off on them. Just like DUMBO, Shoreditch sprung up in popularity over the past 10 years due to their affordable rent (though, not so much the case now) and has evolved into a thriving, active tech hub.
The night began right after work, with the majority of THE CUBE members (the collaborative workspace that hosted the event) sticking around to take part in the panel discussion. In true Brit fashion, everyone helped themselves to drinks before the social part of the night even began. What I love about Digital DUMBO is that it's always way more laid back than other networking events I've been to.
Great turnout for Digital DUMBO's 1st appearance in London. (Photo Credit: Niran Vinod of http://yinnyang.co.uk
THE CUBE founder (and fellow American) Araceli Camargo lead the discussion with panelists from Virgin Media, Rewire London, The Hackney Council, Oury Clark, and The Web Psychologist. Araceli fired off questions that covered everything from the emergence of Tech City in East London, to debating not only where the future of digital was heading, but also, what we hoped that future would look like.
Friends of Carrot and the global Digital DUMBO community.
The panel spent a lot of time discussing how to prepare the next wave of entrepreneurs. Director of Innovation of Virgin Media, Dale Barnes, talked about how Virgin looks for those who aren't necessarily university educated to become the next big innovator, as they think they offer more potential. On a similar note, Shawnee Keck, a policy advisor at the Hackney Council believes that there is a diversity that now exists thanks to the Internet. This insight is driving her to find ways to engage the 2nd worst school system in the world just north of Shoreditch, arming them with the skills they need for web development and entrepreneurship. It was a thought provoking and substantive discussion, the kind you never want to end.
Luckily though, the social part of the night was just a continuation of the panel discussion, but in smaller, more focused groups. I was surprised to meet so many New Yorkers who now call London home. Interestingly, many who I spoke with agreed that one of the biggest issues both cities face is how to control the content and quality of their creativity when pressured to grow so quickly. It's something they thought Brooklyn companies, in general, handle very well, though it's still an area for improvement in London.
One of my favorite conversations of the night was about a CUBE member's research on digital distraction in social gatherings. We often joke at Carrot that we should start a Tumblr of photos of Carrots on their iPhones at various outings, so it was interesting to debate that topic with someone who's spent her last year researching it for a book.
Overall, I left London with a greater appreciation for the culture and work ethic in Brooklyn. Their city has a lot to offer, but it became clear to me that Brooklyn remains one of the most respected hubs for entrepreneurship and innovation. I've also been amazed at how many small world connections I've made since living in New York between Carrot and my college network. Two worlds that I thought would hardly ever collide. But based on who I met at dd:London and those I ran into at the event from home, I'd say it's made this world feel a whole lot smaller.
Me with my friend Alison, a fellow Virginia Tech grad who was also in town for work & stopped by the event!
You stay classy London, we'll be back.
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