Facebook opens new London office and start-up incubator
Image credit: REUTERS/Toby Melville
The social media giant has opened its largest office outside the US in central London, which will employ a further 800 people over the next year. Meanwhile, the company will be scrutinised in a new investigation backed by the Australian government.
Facebook plans to employ 800 people in highly technical jobs at the office in Rathbone Place, near Oxford Street, beginning in 2018. This will raise the number of UK-based Facebook employees to more than 2300.
The office will mostly house engineers, although there will also be staff working in development, marketing and sales. It will be Facebook’s largest engineering hub outside the US.
The seven-floor office was designed by architect Frank Gehry, who was also responsible for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
Notably, the office will house a start-up incubator, LDN-LAB, where British start-ups will be able to apply to remain for three months in the early stages of their business. According to a statement from Facebook, start-ups that focus on “creating, building or empowering communities through innovation and technology” will be prioritised.
“We’re delighted to be opening our new UK office today, announcing the creation of 800 new jobs and launching LDN_LAB, a dedicated development space for UK start-ups. Today’s announcements show that Facebook is more committed than ever to the UK and in supporting the growth of the country’s innovative start-ups,” said Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s VP for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Julian David, CEO of techUK, commenting on the arrival of the incubator, said that: “It is great to see a world-leading company like Facebook continuing to invest in London’s renowned tech ecosystem, despite the uncertainties surrounding Brexit […] The message is clear: London is open, and tech is the flag bearer.”
Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, also welcomed the opening of the new office, saying that: “It’s a sign of confidence in our country that innovative companies like Facebook invest here.”
Meanwhile, internet search giant Google is planning a major office in North London, which will employ a further 3000 engineers and other staff. Prolific designer Thomas Heatherwick will be responsible for the design of the enormous 11-floor building, which will stretch 330m across the ground.
Despite their continued global expansions, Facebook, Google and other tech giants are under scrutiny around the world due to their alleged role in the spreading of misinformation and other undesirable content, particularly during the 2016 EU referendum and US presidential election.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced that it will be investigating Facebook and Google in order to determine whether the companies have the quality of news being produced and consumed with their shake-up of how media is distributed.
“We will examine whether platforms are exercising market power in commercial dealings to the detriment of consumers, media content creators and advertisers,” said Rod Sims, ACCC Chairman. The government-backed inquiry will also attempt to answer whether Facebook and Google have operated to “fully understand their influence in Australia”.