The importance of the ecosystem

Posted on March 29, 2012


Ecosystem used to be something I only heard in biology class, but is today an oft overused word. It’s hard to get through a few tech articles without it being mentioned at least once. In fact using it in a blog article title should probably earn me a fine of some sort.


But two quite different things have recently emphasised the importance of a technology ecosystem. One was the opening of the new shared office space Google Campus in London, the other my purchase of a (cheap, cheap) Blackberry Playbook.


The Google Campus launch party was last week. It is the only time I have and I expect the only time I will ever queue for the opening of an office. That said, the queuing was worth it – with free drinks and strangely coloured jellies on offer.

Google Campus is another development in the rapidly growing London technology ecosystem. Where as a few years ago there were but a few tech companies of note, and hardly any tech events, today there is an explosion of tech businesses being started, tech focused shared offices for these businesses like Campus and tech focused events literally every evening.


This ecosystem growth is important as it creates a virtuous cycle:

more start-ups –> more excitement –> more events and support services –> yet more excitement and accompanying news articles (possible including supportive politicians) –> more people quitting jobs to do start-ups –> more start-ups –> more successful exits etc…


It really feels like London has hit a critical mass now, and in the next few years there’s going to be an acceleration in the creation of tech businesses, with all the accompanying economic benefits that brings (jobs, wealth creation, money being spent on support services…)


So I’m now confident that it’s a great time to be starting a tech business in London, and would comfortably advise anyone thinking of it to take the plunge and quit there jobs – the ecosystem is in place.


Meanwhile, I’ve recently invested in a Playbook, which at a reduced price of £162 was a bargain. It’s a great piece of kit. Really good hardware. And I really like the OS, probably more than Android or iOS or WP7. Sadly, it doesn’t have much of an ecosystem, and as a result is a significantly weaker device than it deserves to be.


The app selection is poor. While the app store is well laid out, the quality and breadth of applications is low. In reality you can do a lot via the web, but some core apps are really required that are missing: Skype, Kindle, Dropbox, a good offline RSS reader, a bunch of other well known services like TripIt or Springpad (Evernote is there, but then it’s strategy is to be everywhere!).


This surprised me this far into its release. I’d have thought the Playbook team would have been all over the big vendors offering $$$ incentives to get their apps out to provide a really solid first run experience.


So despite the fact that I think the Playbook is great for the price, it would be hard to recommend to many people who’ve become used to using Apple, Android and increasingly Windows Phone, because with those systems you’ll have a fantastic ecosystem of apps, media and hardware options that is simply lacking in the Playbook and the Blackberry range.


This is why ecosystem is important. Because once it’s developed it adds ever increasing value to its member parts.

Posted in: Start-ups