Innovation at the core – Why location is everything when growing a business

Head of Level39 Ben Brabyn is an enthusiastic student of network science; the study of complex networks and the connections among them. Ben’s passion serves him well in his role leading Level39 in supporting more than 200 tech companies in achieving fast growth and scale. Network science, Ben believes, is crucial to the process, with success dependent on access to customers, talent and infrastructure, expert mentors, and a dynamic workspace. Five years after launching the organisation, wholly owned by Canary Wharf Group, Level39 has expanded to occupy 80,000 square feet.

Location, Brabyn believes, is everything, especially when it comes to growing young businesses.

“For us, it’s about creating conditions in which everyone has the shortest critical path to the resources they need. That means access to customers, investors, technological expertise, leadership expertise and all of this wrapped in the most flexible, the most agile, real estate proposition. We measure success by the productivity gains for our tenants or members. The way we do that is by bringing them as close as possible to the best of all those things and providing them with the physical space to grow from startup to scaleup business to global enterprise.”

Members require state-of-the-art infrastructure, and flexibility, but Brabyn says Level39’s tenants have come to expect far more than the usual bells and whistles startup offices provide, with software bringing as much value as hardware.

“What we’re all about is creating an environment where highly ambitious people from all over the world come together to solve economically significant problems because you’re surrounded by people and organisations with global access, big budgets and big challenges. Those things go much deeper than a great coffee machine or canteen.”

The mixed residential community at Wood Wharf will also play a role, as a number of Level39’s companies are focused on financial inclusion, which means that a population made up of different socio-economic levels is like having a test market in your back garden. But Brabyn envisions community integration reaching beyond that of a customer base.

“One of the things we’re looking at is distributing the value our members create to a wider group of people. In other words, Level39 seeks to be a beacon, not only of ambition but also accessibility and inclusion. Innovation represents the great golden thread of our history as well as opportunities for the future. Just as Canary Wharf has reinvented itself from one of the great trading centres of London, to one of the most international commercial centres, it is transforming Wood Wharf into an environment set to foster innovation and growth on a large, inclusive scale.”

Interview by Amy Guttman

Twitter @AmyGuttman1