What is Level39? And how is it revolutionising the London tech scene?

Employment & Skills | South East | Technology

The capital has become a beacon for British tech brilliance in recent years, and now has the eyes of the world focused on what new innovations will come to market from the ever-increasing number of companies making a mark in the sector.

With over 187,000 tech companies achieving a combined reported annual turnover of £292bn, London tech businesses, from start-ups to international powerhouses have benefited from the many advantages the capital affords.

Despite the impressive statistics, what is more eye-catching is the fact that this annual turnover has been achieved with 16% year-on-year growth over the last three years.

The lifeblood of the tech system are new age start-ups that are either developing a piece of tech or software to revolutionise a sector – or introducing something completely new to the world.

In 2018, London start-ups attributed £11.4bn to the UK economy, and gave employment to almost 40,000 people across the 33 London boroughs where they are based.

Many of these start-ups are based in 50 plus accelerator programmes and shared office spaces that are spread throughout the city.

One of the most prominent and well-respected tech communities is Level39.

What is Level39?

Based in the heart of London’s business centre – Canary Wharf – this incubator has over 1250 leaders in cybersecurity, fintech, artificial intelligence, blockchain and retail tech based at their offices.

Almost 200 member companies call the space home – all of which are considered ‘fast-growth tech companies’.

Asif Faruque, Head of Content at Level39 comments: “The community came to life in 2013 – opening its doors to fintech, cybersecurity, retail tech and smart city tech businesses. Based in the One Canada Square skyscraper, Level39 runs four floors of workspace, totaling 100,000 sq. ft.

“The community is characterised by ambitious businesses working in close collaboration. Sharing ideas, working with each other, bidding on projects with one another – a very supportive environment. Surrounded by some of the world’s biggest and most powerful financial institutions, Level39’s entrepreneurs are within a few minutes of relevant, well-financed customers. Entrepreneurs get to market faster at Level39 with the support of those around them.”

Level39 is wholly-owned by the Canary Wharf Group – but ultimately, it is a private, for-profit, company that has built a strong brand and community over the past six years.

The company is self-funded through its membership model where every member of Level39 pays a rate, depending on what they require; office space, hot-desks or fixed desks.

How has Level39 helped its businesses?

Level39 sets itself apart from the other major tech communities in London through its ability to elevate its businesses ahead of a heavily crowded tech sector and create a community of leading industry innovators.

Faruque explains: “Level39’s entrepreneurs are characterised by their focus, ambition and willingness to help each other. They learn from one another, at times they compete, the kind of competition which opens up new opportunities.

“They work in unison – like a cycling peloton – saving energy by working closely side-by-side – attracting customers closer to their circle – collaborating on projects and new developments – bringing their products to market faster, raising funds faster, hiring faster and having their talent perform better. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience seeing how our entrepreneurs work.”

Through this collaborative work and inclusive mindset, all businesses within Level39 have created their own ecosystem, within the larger confines of the London tech scene.

Faruque continues: “Level39 is really a subset of London’s entrepreneur ecosystem. They’re hugely ambitious, well-connected, and supported by one of the world’s most robust, progressive governance and regulatory systems. Time and time again, overseas delegations visit Level39 and comment on the favourable conditions for running a business in this city, the physical proximity of some of the world’s best universities, a widely praised financial regulator, a superb legal system and plenty of support for entrepreneurs. It’s hard to pick out the best part of working in London – our entrepreneurs are very happy!”

One of those entrepreneurs is Oz Alashe MBE, CEO of intelligent cyber security platform, Cybsafe.

CybSafe was launched in 2017 and last year secured £3.5m in Series A funding. The company’s intelligent cyber security and data analytics platform is accessed by over 120,000 people worldwide and has customers including Lloyds Bank, Air Canada, Credit Suisse, the NHS, Premier League, John Lewis, and Just Eat.

Alashe comments on the impact the community has provided: “We’ve had access to mentors, investors, and regular networking events. It was undoubtedly a factor in our Series A, and Level39 continues to be an important element in the exciting growth of our software and our customer base. In fact, because of our location, we get the opportunity to be particularly close to our customers; we can meet them in person and discuss the challenges they’re facing. We can even show them around the office so they can meet the team and feel the energy.

“Through Level39, we’ve had access to world class talent and as a result we’ve built a fantastic tribe of clever, hard-working and passionate people. As our team has grown Level39 has been accommodating and a few months ago we expanded our office space yet again!”

Due to the extensive amount of expertise provided by the companies that call Level39 home, businesses within the various sub-sectors of tech can tap into the knowledge of their neighbours.

Alashe continues: “A dynamic and innovative cyber security community is one of Level39’s greatest strengths. Home to more than 20 cyber security companies, as well as the UK’s Cyber Demonstration Centre and Cyber39, Level39 has given us the right cyber-focused foundation for our business to grow. All the cyber security businesses at Level39 are united by this shared vision, to make the digital world a safer place, and it’s encouraging to be a part of a collaborative environment.”

This is also the case for regtech renowned cloud computing specialist, Taina, who utilise software-as-a-service (Saas) to help financial institutions around the world.

CEO Maria Scott commented: “Being around other tech companies experiencing similar challenges has to rank up there, but it’s a combination of important factors that add up to a trajectory changing impact. Proximity to talent, clients, transport links, both nationally and internationally are all critical factors for us and other Level39 members.

“There are a number of competing accelerator projects and spaces across London and the UK. However, almost always these are tied to a particular organisation and ultimately are designed around meeting their interests rather than ours. Level39, by virtue of its independence of these aims and ultimate goal as a landlord, has a direct incentive to help us grow!”

What does the future hold for Level39?

Last year, the Canary Wharf Group unveiled plans for a brand-new development, Wood Wharf, one of the most ambitious urban regeneration projects in London.

Having already created one of the largest business districts in Europe, Canary Wharf Group is continuing to evolve London’s former docks site by redeveloping a 23 acre site into five million sq. ft. of mixed-use space.

A sense of community, education and culture are at the heart of these plans, which include two million sq. ft. dedicated to fast-growth businesses.

Creating workspaces for entrepreneurs and innovative businesses, set to bring 20,000 jobs to the region, Wood Wharf will be a new part of London and one of the largest clusters of tech and creative businesses in the UK.

Faruque comments: “The future of Canary Wharf lies in Wood Wharf – an exciting new district, just east of Canary Wharf – and the future site to more than 3000 homes, commercial office space, shops and restaurants. It will be a community full of vibrant and dynamic entrepreneurs and scaling businesses.

“Our plan remains to support Canary Wharf with its goal of becoming the most supportive landlord of fast-growth, dynamic businesses and scaleups. Our member companies Revolut, Digital Shadows and Motive Partners have already taken space in Canary Wharf – and we’re lining up exciting technology and creative businesses to take residence in Wood Wharf.”

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