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Google Campus – One year later


Google Campus officially opened on the 29th March 2012

Has it been a flash of smoke and mirrors? Or a piece of PR hype? One year on, Ian Dowson gives us his take.

Ian Dowson

What Google didn’t do

Google could have set campus up as a PR brand building exercise showcasing its latest technology straight out of the box.

We could have been wowed with glasses that provided us with the history of the world while wandering through a virtual British Museum surrounded by a 3D sound pool. If that wasn’t enough we could have been whizzed round the Finsbury square in a driverless car with the soundtrack of HG Well’s “Things to Come” piped from our glasses.

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This would have been loved by the public, press and even the startup community

A chance to mix with the magicals of Google, some of the stardust would have rubbed off and we all would have left Campus happy with our little bit of Google embedded within us and have been better start-ups and humans for it.

What Google did

Google’s realised it didn’t need to micromanage its slice of London’s digital startup scene.

From an external perspective, from what I can see, they have been given broad principles on what they do, but in effect they are getting on with their stuff in the same way as they always have done, by enabling experimentation and free thinking.

Openness is key

Campus opened its doors and the energy in the surrounding streets and localities flowed into its building.

If Google had an ulterior motive, or was seeking to manipulate, control or bend the creative flare burning in London to its own commercial or political agenda it would have been immediately exposed as a fraud, in no uncertain terms, 50ft high letters exclaiming this would have been hung from the pillars of the Old Street roundabout or draped around the murals than now adorn the walls of the old street magistrates court.

Campus has created a place where you can convene suits and denim of any variety, private equity, venture capitalists, teenagers doing their first hackday; PhD’s plotting a big data play, silver surfers taking a shot at a start-up.

It’s a neutral place to go, has a certain coolness, without snobbishness, there is no feeling of exclusiveness; everyone is treated in similar fashion.  The underlying theme is on hard work, intellectual application with forecasts, spreadsheets and market assessments that add up, dare I say it, software that works just enough.

It works 7 days a week, Saturdays and Sundays are full up with hackdays minimal viable products and lean things, 124 events were held in November 2012.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

In its first 12 months Google campus has been a resounding success, rather than alienate the local constituency of East London it has embraced it and has let its building develop its own momentum and pulse.

There can be no greater complement than Microsoft opening its own salon in East London called “Modern Jago”.

Creating, moving start-ups on and getting people to speak to one another is incredible fun as well and something you need a sense of humour to understand.

Maybe it’s time for us all to take on the odd apprentice magician of whatever age, open the shop door and see what comes in.

image credits: bayerberg on flickr & carrierdetect on flickr

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