Many entrepreneurs are forced to work out of their homes, which is not always conducive to productivity and professionalism, yet finding suitable office space can be prohibitively expensive! Vanessa Lee Butz saw that there was a need for this, and having run similar projects in the past, she came on board to develop Interchange as a space for startups to share space and resources at an affordable cost. 

Tell us a bit more about Interchange

Interchange is a new all inclusive co-working and events space based in the heart of Camden, providing companies and entrepreneurs with the ideal framework for creativity and growth.

Interchange’s primary sites, the Atrium and Triangle buildings, are based in the iconic Camden Market area and will be available from the beginning of October 2015 onwards for companies and entrepreneurs to start moving in. A further site, Utopia – which is situated in Primrose Hill, is available now and provides larger office space for growing and established companies.  I have personally moved to London from Berlin to run Interchange.

Was there any particular reason Camden market was chosen to be an Interchange location? Would this indicates that many of the startup tenants have a tie with the retail or art related sector? 

Camden Lock was originally used as a key trade route from the Midlands to London in the early part of the 19th century. Later on in the 1970’s, the markets were first established and Camden developed a reputation for cutting edge fashion, music, art and creativity. Interchange will continue this tradition of Camden as a business and creative hub, by bringing innovative and fast-growth companies to the area. The stand and shop owners in the markets are entrepreneurs in their own rights and some, such as Mark the Founder of Half Hitch Gin, have already become Interchange members.  

interchange launch event_london camden market

Vanessa gave talk at Interchange launch event

Did you notice any difference between the startup scenes in London and Berlin? What were the coolest startup companies that you’ve came across in these cities so far?

There is still a significant difference in the startup scene and general cultures of London vs Berlin. London is more fast paced and has a more developed startup scene. Berlin is slightly rougher along its edges, which is an advantage or disadvantage depending on the company and the founders. Perhaps the largest difference between London and Berlin is the availability of capital necessary to fund ambitious startups. Hence often Berlin startups raise funding from London based Venture Capitalists or Business Angels.

Ultimately though, a good founding team with a great product will raise money regardless of where they are based and both cities are fantastic places to start a company. The choice ultimately comes down to what industry you are operating in and how close you need to be to your users. There are amazing startups in both cities. Doctify is a great example of a fantastic startup in London, actually based at Interchange, tackling a huge market. In Berlin, one of my personal favourites is CareerFoundry and they are based at my previous company, Factory Berlin. Watch those companies – both have the potential to become unicorns! 

And who would you say your target market is?

Interchange is open to all creative, innovative and fast-growth companies, who are looking for an inspiring working environment that will support them from startup through to scale-up. Our tenants range from individual entrepreneurs looking to hire flexible desk space, to more established businesses. Interchange is currently signing up interesting companies and entrepreneurs, anyone can book a tour on www.interchange.io.

What makes you different from your competitors and what do you think gives you the edge?

Interchange’s main focus is the help entrepreneurs and creatives take their business to the next level. We are the wheel in the background that is constantly turning to keep the machine growing – although you won’t ever see us. We are not an incubator or accelerator, rather we will connect you with the right people or programs for your business. For example, we have recently partnered with some wondering companies to give our members great offers such as free software credit.

By offering an environment and facilities that encourage innovation, we enable companies and entrepreneurs to scale their businesses effectively. As an important part of this, Interchange members will have the opportunity to bring their product directly to the consumer and establish their own space in Camden Market, which has over 28 million visitors a year.

Design is also very unique and an essential part of bringing your business to the next level. Being in a beautiful space not only fosters creativity and inspires people, but can also be used as a great way to show off your business to investors and clients. The interiors of our Camden buildings have been designed by Tom Dixon and his studio DRS, combining extremely high quality design with very competitive tenant rates. Our members also have access to the wider Interchange network and stakeholders, plus, a range of on-site facilities including a cafe, restaurant and gym.

How long have you been working on the project?

I have been working on Interchange for the last three months only – a lot has happened! I was speaking with Market Tech Holdings, the company that backs Interchange, about their buildings a while back but they decided to build their own brand and wanted me to run it. The project is part of their larger ambitions of revitalising Camden, which fits in beautifully with the entrepreneurial heritage of Camden and the markets.

I have always been quite excited about network effects and micro “interchanges” between people that occur on a daily basis creating business opportunity and serendipity. These are fostered by the right design and community surroundings. I also wrote my Master’s at Oxford University on “Understanding the DNA of Strong Entrepreneurial Hubs” so it is an area I have always been very interested in and a space like Interchange provides the ideal basis for such frameworks to be built upon.

Tell us a bit more about your personal background?

Prior to taking my role at Interchange, I managed the “Special Projects” for Factory Berlin, Germany’s largest startup campus. Previously I also started a tech company called Trending, and worked for a Venture Capital firm, Earlybird in Berlin.

Both my parents are entrepreneurs in their own right, although very removed from the definitions of startups these days. My mum is a dentist and runs several dentist offices and my dad runs a company that organises driving safety events for large car companies – they have always worked very hard and been amazing supporters of what my sister and I wanted to do.

What are you aiming to achieve with Interchange for the next few years

Currently the focus is entirely on Camden and our community. In relation to the future, who knows what will happen. We have large ambitions.

Finally, if someone asks your advice on setting up a startup, what would be your one line of recommendation?

It is all about the design of the space and the people, both need to be first class to create a thriving work environment.

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