A View from Dalston


entrepreneurship innovation london startup Tech Uncategorized



By Michael Elborn at The Bakery HQ

Photo Credit: Tom Sawyer, The Bakery

“The next big thing is almost certainly a fringe thing today. That’s how it always is.” — Fred Wilson. This is a very real mindset being adopted by some of the world’s largest companies and investors from our small abode in Dalston, East London. The Bakery exists to help early stage companies scale through facilitating access to large corporates and in turn allowing them to solve key internal challenges.

We recently moved to Dalston, a strip of London only a few blocks wide. Once described by former resident and ex-Prime minster Tony Blair as “being on the wrong side of the Kingsland Road”, contrasting the then-deprived east London neighbourhood with the more fashionable North London borough of Islington. But as many will have witnessed within fast growing cities and tech clusters around the world, you find resourceful entrepreneurs, artists and creators with their heads down, building communities and products in these types of places. Grayson Perry once described artists in London “They march in…the first people to go “we like this old warehouse, yeah we need a cheap studio”… they do their work, they’re cool and a little bit of a buzz starts up”. More recently in London, this work been done has much by startup tech companies as by artists. As the core tech city grows and suits move into WeWork, places like Dalston attract a different type of creator.

One particular success story is music company ROLI which is changing how artists express themselves through music. It hits all three archetypes: entrepreneurs, artists and creators, building a thriving community under the arches of Haggerston. Having recently raised a $27million series B round, led by Foundry Group joined by First Mark and Founders Fund, ROLI has truly connected those that chose to start in the ‘fringes’ of London, New York, Boulder and San Francisco.

It’s not every day we get to see cheques written for $27 million in Dalston but what we are seeing more of is some of the world’s largest companies exploring the fringes of big cities. This is a distinct shift in mindset from the partners and c-suite execs, and in part recognizing that they no longer have the best talent within the boundaries of the organization. Adding to this it is getting harder to attract the talent they need as innovators opt to go it alone.

At our small office on the ‘wrong side of the Kingsland Road’ we and some of the most exciting tech companies are greeting these execs with open arms and a common goal; to change how large companies innovate and build products. We are certainly not alone or unique in driving this and I don’t think we are far away from a day where the corporates are writing the million dollars cheques for companies that are ‘hanging out on the fringes’. Whether you are in London or New York, I challenge you to do one thing this month, go somewhere unassuming and meet with people who are ‘surviving’ on the creative ability… these are the uncommon people in an uncommon place we see everyday vying to ‘disrupt’…

Leave a comment