Digital hub planned for Surrey St that points to future

The recovery, from the banker-induced recession as well as August’s riots, and the rebuilding process in Croydon will need development from more than just multi-national businesses and millionaire property speculators, and at least one local resident, Saif Bonar, is doing something about that.

Bonar is plugged in to the digital age, and he believes that Croydon’s business future ought to include a hefty amount of new tech development.

Now, Bonar wants to break out of the virtual world, and have Croydon as a physical hub for technology businesses.

CR0tech was launched at the Federation of Small Business’s exhibition at the Fairfield Halls earlier in November, and aims to attract start-up and established businesses to the borough “to take advantage of its excellent infrastructure”, which means we have phone and broadband lines that work, and swift train routes into London and to Gatwick airport, “competitive rates for office space”, which means we’re cheap, “and a buoyant labour market”, which means there’s a large and still growing number of skilled but unemployed locals.

Bonar says he was inspired to set up the project “after observing how the riots destroyed swathes of the town centre”. Thus CR0tech was born.

Saif Bonar: CR0tech will offer digital hub in Croydon

“Until the recent riots I played no part in Croydon’s community. I just saw it as a convenient place to live with comparatively modest house prices for London,” he said. “The destruction which unfolded on 8/8 grabbed my attention and got me thinking about how I could contribute to the efforts to rebuild the town and how I could use my skills and experience to provide a positive and sustainable contribution.

“The riots were a key shock factor which motivated me to do something positive. I am pleased that I did and as a result, I’ve already met dozens of great people that live and work in Croydon.

“Croydon has some of the best transport infrastructure in the UK. It is 15 minutes from London and 15 minutes from the countryside. The abundance of commercial property, ambitious regeneration plans and a range of other factors combine to make it a very appealing proposition for any business looking to keep costs down in the current economic climate.”

Bonar has received no financial help at all from the local council. He intends to work with other agencies in the area in order to meet its objectives, starting with “dedicated full-time co-working facility offering a low-cost, flexible home to technology and creative start-ups and entrepreneurs”.

Bonar has just started negotiations on a physical premises near Surrey Street which he hopes to open by March. “We are unable to reveal the precise location at this stage, but it will be in the region of 5,000 sqft and equidistant from East and West Croydon stations. The Hub will initially offer low-cost flexible work space, meeting rooms, a training space and a cafe.

“We would like to expand on this over time and with sponsorship to add a multimedia suite including recording studio and potentially a TV studio. While the main focus is to provide support for technology and creative professionals in Croydon we intend to also develop a series of events and workshops to engage the wider community in areas of technology and digital media.”

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3 Responses to Digital hub planned for Surrey St that points to future

  1. Good Luck to you Saif Bonar, it will be good to have a new and refreshing business in Surrey Street market. Hopefully this will attract more people into Surrey Street Market.

  2. It’s a nice idea. Let’s hope the local businesses choose to use it. A set-up like that can be pricy. I built all my own gear for my office/ network from scrap, but then I won’t have local firms using it so it having bits of tape etc etc on it is not an issue. You need cash to do it with new shiny equipment.

    Still, it’ll be good for those local firms that want to move into the digital age locally. And that has to be a good thing.

    As well as handy for luncheon if you work there 😉

    As I said, I hope you get the custom you need to keep it ticking over.

  3. mraemiller says:

    Well, one problem with running any high technology business in Croydon is the crime.

    You have to keep your location secret because if the criminal underworld find where there’s a load of decent gear to be nicked you’ll become a magnet for them and it doesn’t matter how many security guards you hire that isn’t going to protect you because while the police may catch them and the insurance company replace the lost physical equipment what they can’t replace is the sense of trust that comes with the clients trusting you with highly sensitive data.

    Fortunately most of the petty crooks we encountered just weren’t bright enough to know the commercial value of the information they’d stolen but that’s very little comfort to the MD.

    When the company I worked for had offices at 256 High Street (now a hotel) it was regularly turned over and you can’t ask security guards to lay down their lives for a seismic cube no matter what you pay them. We tried everything. Bars on the window. Razor wire. Some of it’s still there. But ultimately the only solution was to move to another office which meant carrying on paying two sets of rents until the breakout point in the lease. Even when we moved to Leon House over the road someone climbed to the 20th floor on the scaffolding when they were doing up the outside to get in …although we were relatively safe there.

    Obviously I’m not going to tell you where we are now! But you do feel that police response times are a bit quicker in Zone 1. Not that the police in Croydon weren’t any good. They “caught the perps” every time as Joe Swanson would say, but that isn’t really that much help. It doesn’t pay you back for the stress of lost man hours.

    And even Leon House lost 8 plate glass windows in the Euro riots. All that gets reabsorbed in your rent costs. The saddest thing is that this small criminal element (and it is a very small number of hardened criminals for whom the family business usually is and always has been and always will be crime) are actually driving out the employers – the lack of which they blame for their lack of social mobility.

    So yes office rents are low – but they’re low for a reason and really what we need is much faster police response times that can only come from more financial investment.

    Added to this if you turn over a bank or a shop it’ll be in the local papers fast … no one’s interested in the press in crime against business and due to the nature of the business and the fact that we didn’t want to exactly advertise the loss of highly sensitive data much crime on high tech businesses goes unreported, further hiding the problem and sweeping it under the carpet. The underworld know this and exploit it.

    I don’t want to give the impression that the company moved out of Croydon purely because of the level of crime because that isn’t actually true …but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it was a factor and I expect the same if true for many other high technology business. You can’t run a high technology business without expensive hardware and that makes you a magnet for theives. Fortunately these days computer equipment needed is less expensive in real terms … but it’s still a factor.

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