I'm Salim Virani. I used to design peer learning programs, and these days I'm having fun building stuff.

What can Google Campus teach us about Paul Graham's perspective on startup hubs?
Mar 21, 2012

With the launch of Google Campus in London, I think there’s a chance to observe and potentially take away practical, repeatable lessons for nurturing startup communities elsewhere.

Last year, Paul Graham posited that in order for a startup community to be an effective antidote to startup death, it needs to provide a supportive cultural environment and a high and dense enough startup population where chance encounters happen regularly.  I think we’ve subscribed to this as a theory, but now we have a chance to validate it and build more applicable approaches on top of it.

In terms of an encouraging and supportive environment, I have total confidence that Eze Vidra‘s the right leader to set the right cultural norm.  In the past, the UK scene has been criticised for its insular startup culture and lack of a pay-it-forward attitude, but there are few, sprouting groups here, like Leancamp, that are open, inclusive and giving. Eze has supported and connected us, and lead by example. It will be useful to learn if and how Campus becomes platform to further those ideals.

Since last year, the conversation about startup density has continued and there have been a few observations of startup density at a city-by-city level.  Trying to get past the rivalry and towards lessons that help everyone make a better environment for themselves, I’ve wondered if the difference in startup saturation in different cities (the number of startups over the total population of the city) was a relevant factor. (Compare Boulder to New York to Berlin, for example.)

With the Google Campus opening in London, we now have a chance to observe this phenomenon, while separating density and saturation. As I’ve discussed with Eze, this is a Lean ecosystem experiment. London, and even East London or the sprawlingly vague definition of Tech City, is too big to ever be dominated by startup culture, but that doesn’t mean Campus, a relatively small island within it, can’t have both the size and density required to create enough regular chance encounters. With Seedcamp, Springboard, TechHub and Central Working moving in, seems the quality ingredients will be there in quantity.  The Campus launch party was a shining demonstration of that – so many people glowing about all the great people they met, especially the founders, who were walking tall, with a sense of control, empowerment and optimism.

So in an attempt to be scientific, honest with myself about this, and to learn concretely, my next question is: how do we measure success of such a startup hub?  What will we look for as a signal that Campus is working for founders?



What am I up to these days?

I’m working on a communication tool for loose community groups and unconference-style interactions. It focuses on individual autonomy rather than top-down coordination.

I recently became a Kernel fellow, where I was exploring models for self-directing communities of care, the history of economic cultural norms, and the connection between mimicry, memes and our sense of belonging.

I did a few advisory gigs too - for Polygon, Limechain and Bankless on education and support programs.

In the past, I designed peer learning programs for Oxford, UCL, Techstars, Microsoft Ventures and The Royal Academy Of Engineering. I also played a role in creating the Lean Startup methodology, and the European startup ecosystem. You can read about this here.


  • Cuppa - decentralised collaboration protocol (WIP)
  • Nonfungo - completely on-chain NFT sale notification bot for Discord. (Look ma! No Opensea API!)
  • Powerplays - real-time token launches


  • Peer Learning Is - a broad look at peer learning around the world, and how to design peer learning to outperform traditional education
  • Mentor Impact - researched the practices used by the startup mentors that really make a difference

Collected practices

  • Source Institute - skunkworks I founded with open peer learning formats and ops guides, and our internal guide on decentralised teams
  • DAOistry - practices and mindsets that work in blockchain communities
  • Decision Hacks - early-stage startup decisions distilled