Two and a half years ago the Digital Jersey Hub was opened and the island’s tech community gained itself a home in which to network, meet like-minded people and run their businesses.
Starting with just twelve dedicated desks the Hub offered a ‘permanent’ home for tech/digital entrepreneurs starting their companies. These desks compliment the ‘hot desk’ area of the Hub, where members can come in and use the space on an ad hoc basis.
By this time last year there was a waiting list for the dedicated desks. Priced at a very affordable rate, and with the complementary room hire service for meetings, the desks were in demand. Among these twelve we had a web development company which had grown from one owner to four staff, an entrepreneur who had developed an app that was helping local charities, (after sourcing the developer through Hub networking), and a variety of one to two person digital businesses ranging from designers to software developers.
The Hub forms just one level of the Forum 3 building. Above us are three more floors where digital businesses are growing and employing. In April around half of the dedicated desk entrepreneurs graduated upstairs to their own offices. We didn’t ‘lose’ these businesses, the Hub had served its purpose in helping nurture them; their businesses had grown sufficiently, enabling them to commit to permanent office space of their own. This is a great news story for everyone – not just those who were on the waiting list for Hub desks! Several of those entrepreneurs that outgrew the Hub are now employing other islanders and all of them are contributing to our economy.
In their place we soon filled up the empty dedicated desks as new digital entrepreneurs walk through the Hub doors every week looking for advice, support and somewhere to work from. For a couple of months this year the Hub was home to the new Specsavers creative team in Jersey, before they also moved upstairs. Above us are a gaming company, fintech business, web developers and on the top floor is Calligo, the cloud service provider which has just secured $20million in investment. We may not have a Silicon roundabout in St Helier, but there is definitely digital density in and around the Hub.
There is also no doubt that our digital economy is growing. The Digital Jersey team, in conjunction with various states departments, has worked to come up with clear statistics on just who and what constitutes the digital sector. There has been a 28% growth in digital sector employment since 2010, that compares to just 7% across the island as a whole. The individuals who walk through the Hub doors with an idea, and rent their desk space with us, are future employers that will contribute further to this growth.
With our desk space demand growing and the Hub getting busier, we have now expanded the entrepreneur facilities in the Hub, going from the original 12 desks to 26. In January our new small business benefits package launches. Any small business member of the Hub will be eligible for a range of discounted services to help their company develop, all provided by the supportive network in and around the industry. In addition, Digital Jersey is working to identify any barriers to digital businesses setting up and growing, and working on how to address these.
So if you, or someone you know, has a brilliant idea for a digital business, now is the time to head to the Hub and start turning that idea into a profitable business.