If you are in the channel, the chances are you have served your stint driving (and sometime sitting stationary) on the M4. It is a simple consequence of working in our industry.
The M4 corridor is where the IT industry has grown and flourished for the past 30 years. However, the UK's "Silicon Valley" is in danger of looking increasingly like the desert which surrounds its US namesake.
The UK's tech hub is shifting as new cities compete to host the world's biggest technology firms and the country's own major players.
This all raises the questions: Why are firms leaving? Where are they going? And should you be doing the same?
The birth of "Silicon Valley"
The M4 corridor, particularly in Berkshire, Swindon and the Thames Valley, has long been the Blighty outpost for the world's biggest technology companies. Cisco has offices in Feltham and Reading, with the latter homing Microsoft too. IBM can be found in Bracknell (as too can HP), Didcot, Woking and Feltham, while Oracle has a Reading presence.
This has created the obvious channel ripple which has seen resellers set up camp in similar locations door-stepping their most important vendor partners. While Computacenter has its headquarters in Hatfield, it also has offices in Reading and Milton Keynes. Softcat has its headquarters in Marlow, while Bytes has offices in Leatherhead and Reading.
"For 30 years there has been a gravitation of tech firms to that Thames Valley area of Slough, Maidenhead and Reading," said Stuart Fenton, CEO at QuantiQ Technology. "It is not just because of cheaper office space either. At first, a lot of the companies were American. The American execs did not want to jump on the tube. They would come in and drive out west for 20 minutes as that was easier than going into London."
However, Fenton said that on visiting a vendor in Reading recently, he discovered a near-deserted office. "I have noticed a lot of firms moving out of the [Silicon Valley] business parks. Some offices are very empty," he explained.
Returning to his point on American execs not wanting to go into London, Fenton said this has changed as US firms now have strong local management teams in the UK to handle most matters.
Robertson Sumner boss Marc Sumner said the recruitment firm has also witnessed a shift of channel talent away from our Silicon Valley.
"This has especially happened in the partner community. That M4 corridor is not proving as popular. There are also a lot of American start-ups coming to London. In the last seven or eight months, roles are certainly spreading beyond the Home Counties," said Sumner.
So is the UK's capital the new Silicon Valley?
The perpetual lure of England's capital city has won over the world's biggest tech firms. In the last couple of years major tech firms have not just moved into new London offices - they have unveiled suburb-sized monster spaces.
Apple moved its UK headquarters to Battersea Power Station in 2016, taking up 500,000 sq ft spread over six floors. The move consolidated Apple's London staff from various city offices into a single location.
In November Google moved into its new £1bn London digs - a 870,000 sq ft building in King's Cross which was the first office it had designed for itself outside California.
Amazon also opened a new UK headquarters in London last year. The Principal Place building, based on the fringes of Shoreditch and the City of London, has 15 storeys and is 600,000 sq ft.
While Microsoft might still have Reading as its headquarters, its Paddington offices in London are frequently busier and more vital to the vendor giant. "Microsoft never had a London office of any scale and it now has several floors in Paddington," commented Fenton.
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