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Does Tobacco Dock have what it takes to be London's hottest venue?

11th Oct 16 10:00 am

We speak to Tobacco Dock’s Jonathan Read

Three reasons you should be watching them

1.       One of London’s most exciting and fastest-growing spaces for cultural and coporate events and experiences

2.       Campaigning to placemark Wapping and Shadwell as a leading London destination for cultural and business tourism

3.       A community for the generation of ideas, a creative hotspot housing over 100 kickstarters and start-ups


Company:  Tobacco Dock

What it does, in a sentence:  A community and spaces for the ideas generation

Founded: [date, location] 2012, London

Founder/s:  Jonathan Read & Patrick Donovan

Size of team: 25

Your name and role: Jonathan Read, Co-Founder/Commercial Director


What problem are you trying to solve?

“Even during the recession there was a lack of events space in London, and the real problem was developing venues which balanced architectural merit with flexibility. We created the ultimate ‘producer’s venue’, that’s our niche. The versatility of spaces available coupled with plenty of points of historic interest allows for many different styles of events and opportunities. In a nutshell, we offer creative event producers the opportunity to enhance the experiences they’re putting on here.”

How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own?

“Latest figures show the events industry is £20 billion in gross value added; Tobacco Dock is certainly in the top 10 London venues list. What we really want is to become the go-to destination for creative and professional services and tech based events. Our location puts us in a pole position, equidistant between the City of London, Canary Wharf and Tech City.”

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?

“You must have a sustainable business plan and deliver on it. We get approached weekly by entrepreneurs with ambitious and ethereal ideas, the essential problem is there is no end goal other than raising their next round of investment. You definitely need long-term vision and a plan to execute it if you want to put forward a convincing case for investors.”

What do you believe the key to growing this business is? 

“Our key thing is identifying and recruiting the best people in the industry who share our vision, so much of our success has come from the team. Our Head of Sales and Head of Operations are great examples. From the start they believed in the space’s potential and our business plan and left comfortable jobs where they had a very clear career paths to join, what was then, a startup. They hav been key in building up Tobacco Dock’s business portfolio, generating repeat business of over 84% and putting us in a strong position in our market.”

What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead? 

“It’s still unclear what the impact of Brexit is going to be in the short, medium and long term, but we’ve seen a significant growth in tech sector events and user conferences. So many of the companies we work with are growing year-on-year and so too is their scope and vision, this is partly driven by the increase in the use of technology and apps to enhance experience of events.”

Which London start-up/s are you watching, and why?

“We track an array of startups, including Pronto, Vidsy, Zipcube and others. We are tracking City Pantry with great interest, as it’s pertinent to Tobacco Dock. When our commercial kitchen upstairs is busy on events it’s great, but how can we better utilise them when they are not? City Pantry or a similar disruptor could help reach new markets for our catering business and led to greater efficiencies. They’re almost like a niche version of Deliveroo, serving the City and Canary Wharf with a delivery service for meeting catering.”

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