With legacy copper infrastructure holding back the growth of London-based IT startups, the founders of a new tech hub in Hull are hoping to use the promise of superfast fibre to draw more tech talent to east Yorkshire.
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In May, Computer Weekly reported that many startups in and around London’s Tech City hub were struggling for connectivity, with a number resorting to mobile broadband services to get around the problem.
The Hull Centre for Digital Innovation (C4DI) was jointly set up by Hull Digital founder Jon Moss and tech entrepreneur John Connolly last year to bring together digital talent in east Yorkshire.
Hull sits outside BT’s national hegemony, famously being served by its own incumbent operator, Kingston Communications (KC), part of network and comms supplier KCOM Group.
C4DI now has access to KC’s Lightstream business broadband product, a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) solution with download speeds of up to 100Mbps.
“I get 300Mbps at home, C4DI gets 3Gbps up and down,” said Moss. “Every desk has a 100Mbps symmetric connection.
“KC recognise that FTTP is the most important element, and FTTC (fibre-to-the-cabinet) is not a good way of spending money. They understand that future-proofing the network is important.”
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Moss told Computer Weekly he wanted to change perceptions of Hull as a depressed northern city suffering from high unemployment.
“Our job over the next few years is to help change the perception of the area. We have a strong and growing sector that is currently bubbling under,” he said.
“Hull University has a very strong computer science department and we want their talent in particular to know that there are opportunities in the local sector.”
C4DI opened its doors last year as a co-working space, but its founders quickly saw that they were providing more than just a hotdesking service.
Projects currently in the incubation stage at C4DI, said Moss, include a couple of software startups, a social enterprise and a gaming developer.
It has now partnered with several enterprises. They include: Handelsbanken for financial advice; PwC for advice on book-keeping and accounting compliance, R&D tax credits, VAT and payroll; and engineering solutions provider The Spencer Group.
It has also just become a member of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Activate startup programme, which was behind a number of online businesses including Instagram and Pinterest.
Currently in its beta stage, C4DI hopes to move out of rented space into its own, purpose-built office in Hull’s Fruit Market, a newly regenerated creative quarter, in the near future. It is also in the process of finalising funding for an accelerator project to run during 2015, which will be run with assistance from regional fintech startup accelerator Dotforge.