Case Studies | 11 May 2017 - by KCOM

C4DI light years ahead of competition as Hull tech sector booms

Sometimes, it’s worth taking a step back to appreciate exactly what we have in Hull.

Take the hot desks inside the city’s iconic C4DI building for instance.

Each one has a 1Gbps broadband connection that most entire tech hubs can’t match.

It’s a fact that C4DI’s community manager Dileepa Ranawake likes to use to demonstrate just how far Hull’s emerging tech sector has come in recent years.

“I did hear that there was an American football stadium that was boasting it had 1Gbps connectivity for the 100,000 people who attended games there,” he smiles. “When I heard that I thought ‘wow, we’ve got that for every hot desk here’.”

Grid iron football comparisons aside, the strength of Hull’s impressive water-front “high tech start-up incubator” is something the city can be proud of.

C4DI managing director John Connolly offers another insight into how the centre has taken the concept of building a tech community and pushed it further than anywhere else in the country.

“We visited the Google Campus building to see how they did things in London,” he says. “When we said we had 1Gbps to each desk, they didn’t believe us.

“They said ‘we think you might have got your figures wrong there’ but when they actually looked it up they were totally blown away. They couldn’t believe it because to them it seemed so ridiculous. I think they had a gig to the whole building.”

John, a 15-year veteran of tech start-ups in Hull, was one of the guiding lights behind the creation of C4DI – a centre designed to act as a stimulus to the city’s high value, digital economy.

After witnessing how successful tech hubs had been in other parts of the country, developers Wykeland, in partnership with the University of Hull and industry leaders such as KCOM, put together a team of people including John to set up the C4DI Beta hub, in Hull’s redeveloping Fruit Market.

“From the start we wanted it to be more than just a ‘gym membership’ for techies,” says John.

“It had to be somewhere that brought together techies and industry in a place that would help start-ups grow and big business innovate. The Beta building worked, and that gave Wykeland the confidence to build this,” he says signalling the building around him.

‘This’ is the imposing, gold-tiled building that now stands on the side of Hull’s old Dry Dock; a striking addition to the Hull skyline and a fitting counterpoint to the silver jutting angles of The Deep across the water.

Over three hundred people use the building on a daily basis including 120 SMBs and ten major international businesses including BP, Rix, Reckitt Benckiser, Siemens and Label Worx, the biggest distributor of electronic dance music in the world. The most recent addition to the building is global technology giant Saab.

The building also hosts regular community knowledge sharing events, such as its recent ‘hackathon’ which was judged by none other than NASA.

“If you look at how big industry innovates it’s in really slow, incremental cycles, or what I call ‘slow tech’,” says John.

“At the other end of the scale is the ‘fast tech’ of start-ups, who are small and nimble, use cutting edge technology and have fresh new ideas. These are the ones who can innovate quicker.

“Those big organisations are looking at the fast tech world and saying ‘how can we take advantage of that?’ While the start-up are looking at the big, successful organisations and saying ‘how do we get there?’

“We want to be well known as the place in the UK where the start-up and the big business world can come together, learn from each other and both benefit. It’s a community, not just a silo of geeks in nice offices. It’s a community. It’s a virtuous circle of innovation.”

KCOM’s ultrafast Lightstream connectivity is at the heart of what makes C4DI possible.

“We’re different to every other tech hub in the country because we are faster,” says John.

“We’ve got more connectivity to every desk than most tech hubs have to their whole buildings.

“It just makes it possible to do business quicker. You have the connectivity here that the whole world will get in the next few years, so we’re effectively working in the future.

“It basically boils down to little things that make life better; you can send files faster so you can get home to the family and play with the kids instead of waiting endlessly for something to upload.

“And because we’re already years ahead of where the rest of the country is, that gives us a competitive edge. We are already playing in the future where the rest of the world wants to be.”