Westminster is home to some of Britain’s biggest businesses but there is a quiet revolution happening in the borough, championed by newer companies with very different goals.
Hidden away on the first floor of New Zealand House in the West End is a new home for start-ups with world-changing ideas.
Impact Hub Westminster is a 12,000 sq ft office space designed for an economy still in its infancy, but growing fast.
The space is choc-a-bloc with inventors, capitalists, activists, designers and engineers, and is an exciting atmosphere for small firms looking to hit the ground running.
But this is no ordinary office for hire.
All the members are involved in social enterprises, or, as hub chief executive Alex Soskin puts it: “There’s a triple bottom line – people, planet and profit.
“You don’t just care about the money, you care about society and the environment as well.
“We only allow people to join if they can demonstrate they are working on some sort of social or environment impact business model.”
It’s a subject he is passionate about, since coming to manage the hub from a background in investment management.
“It’s got a lot more heart because it is not just about profit maximisation, where you are just trying to make a shareholder richer,” he says. “Companies have to have some responsibility, or the world will move in the wrong direction over the long term.”
It is just the third of its kind in London, the first having opened in Islington in 2005 and the second in King’s Cross in 2008.
It is part of a global network of impact hubs in more than 60 cities around the world which cater for 7,000 members.
The Westminster space celebrated its second anniversary in October.
Many company bosses in the hub say its strength comes from collaboration between businesses – and the secret may be down to the workshop’s innovative and interesting layout.
Creative director of architect firm Developer00, Nick Ierodiaconou, 32, was one of the hub’s chief designers.
“It was a conscious decision not to build lots of dedicated office spaces within it – to make it more open and social for smaller businesses that are happy to move around from desk to desk,” he says.
One of those is Upreach, which came to the hub just after it opened.
It wants to help people from underprivileged backgrounds through university and then into graduate jobs.
“Now we are scaling up to the hundreds,” beams chief executive Henry Morris, 26, “and we have actually just selected our first group of 160.
“We were based in a back room when I saw Hub Westminster and at first I worked for them to pay for our space, now we are full members.
“The ability to meet other entrepreneurs who are on the same journey and have that support was really motivating.”
“It’s definitely the connections,” agrees Dom Potter, 28, from Hub Launchpad. “If we were all on our own there would be none of the crossovers, conversations and partnerships that happen here.”
Team member Richard Brownston, 31, met and joined Hub Launchpad in the building.
He said: “You can just bump into people over a cup of tea and from that business can happen.”
Launchpad has only been there since May, but already plans to run four programmes over four years to help entrepreneurs get ideas off the ground.
In addition, last year 50,000 people attended the 1,200 events put on in the hub, including Prince Charles and David Cameron.
“That’s an average of about three a day, seven days a week,” Mr Soskin points out.
At the moment it has about 560 members, with a small number just using an online platform. But he sees a bigger future for it.
“An equilibrium, I think, would be one to 2,000 space users in the local area,” he says.
“But I don’t see why we couldn’t have 10 to 20,000 members in the centre of London using the online platform.”
“I want Hub Westminster to become the best support centre for small to medium-sized enterprises in London. That’s where we’re going.”