Google’s London campus is credited by many in the City’s Silicon Roundabout district as being one of the catalysts for the explosion in the local tech centre.
One of the features of the London facility is the free co-working space the company offers which has become an important landmark for the city’s startup and small business community.
Getting into the basement co-working space requires pre-registration and, in theory, you’ll be able to pick up an access card when you first arrive.
In practice the cards are long out of stock, so just showing your registration confirmation with it’s code to the rather rude and brusque receptionists will get you buzzed in.
The coworking space takes up the entire basement with four distinct coworking spaces – a courtyard, an array of tables, a lounge area and a shared bench.
Immediately inside the door is the communal bench that seats around twenty people. These are probably the best if you’re happy to socialise while you work. Even if you don’t it’s worthwhile grabbing a spot here if you see one available during busy times.
Directly beside the workbench area is the Android demonstration station. This is a clever initiative by Google to showcase their mobile platform and encourage their developer community.
Across from the Android test bench is the lounge area, this will be your best bet to find a place should you arrive when the coworking space is busy. It isn’t the most comfortable and quiet place in the room though as it gets lots of foot traffic and is across from the café.
The café serves a standard range of sandwiches, coffees and drinks with specials on certain days. Prices aren’t dissimilar from most of the coffee shops in the neighbourhood although you might find better range and a quieter spot eating elsewhere.
One of the missed opportunities in the cafes is the opportunity to sell computer accessories like chargers and cables, during each visit this reviewer noticed how there was always someone asking to borrow other users’ accessories to charge their phones or synch their devices.
Alongside the coffee shop is the courtyard; on nice day this would be a good place to work or to enjoy a beer and a chat with fellow geeks in the afternoon. During this visit in November, the weather was dark and dank with the outdoor area only being used by people making phone calls.
Beside the courtyard is the desk area where the serious workers hunker down. These spaces tend to get taken early and some people seem to arrive shortly after opening at 9am and don’t leave until the room closes at 6pm. Get there before ten if you want a spot.
One of the problems in the room is the fight for power sockets. By mid-morning it’s almost impossible to find a spare plug so if you’re looking to recharge a device you may want to consider a local café.
Another problem with the coworking space is it gets very crowded and some of the regulars have a habit of spreading out or hogging power sockets. It may be necessary to be quite pushy to get a seat or power socket when someone is taking up too much space.
Overall, Google’s London Campus is a good facility that many other cities could use. However with its congestion mobile workers may find it easier to set up in one of the many geek friendly cafes in the neighbourhood like the nearby Ozone or Shoreditch Grind right on the Silicon Roundabout itself.