Even real estate professionals have started to register differences in accommodation requirements and pricing points in this sector – but most seem to be thinking mainly in terms of building types and the design of offices for big ‘supra-national’ tech companies.
What we are interested in is the role of the city itself as a commercial entity. In an industry where human interaction, chance meetings, serendipitous collaborations and the free exchange of ideas can add so much value, it is notable that people are moving away from the single-use environment of purpose-built out-of-town business parks and toward high-quality urban environments. It is the city that has become the attractor, not the corporate entity. This is especially true in the self-employed world of small start-ups and scale-ups that are such an important component of this industry.
The migration of talent from suburban locations to urban ones represents an important flow of human capital, on which the industry depends. If this capital is flocking to cities and away from isolated business parks, employers need to understand what makes these urban centres successful and which ones to pick next.
All the old location drivers, such as proximity to raw materials and proximity to market, are of no importance in a world where the internet is everywhere and anyone with a laptop has the capability to create businesses worth multimillions. Start-ups, scale-ups and established corporations in the tech space are competing fiercely for talent, not buildings. In a labour marketplace where millennials matter and access to the coding creative classes is essential, your city matters much more than your office space.
Even access to financial capital is of less importance than access to this human capital. Finding the place where the cool kids hang out – and want to continue hanging – is the driver of tech business location.
The Savills Tech Cities research programme aims to understand the many, diverse drivers that make good cities for this sector so that we can advise tech and tech-associated companies not just on which office to rent but which city that office needs to be in.
In this global search for the home of the hipster, some cities stand out. We have identified a few of them in this research and launched a year-long programme to understand what makes them tick, how they might fare in the future and which cities may usurp them going forwards.