The Hype app, launched in 2013, has transformed how we discover North and East London. We meet four of the key players to find out more

The Resident:

Back in 2013, the Hype app was launched to help people keep their finger on the pulse of London life. It all started in East London and Hype continues to celebrate everything from the independent coffee shops of Shoreditch through to the amazing street art of Hackney Wick. Now the message has spread all across the capital, including North London, and if you visit you can join the party.


Head of Partnerships

Was there a particular moment that inspired the launch of Hype?

While I wasn’t there for the launch (I’m employee #1), the problem that we’re trying to solve for our users was a constant in my life prior to my involvement: how do I find great new independent places to check out in a highly visual and curated way?

There are other services like Timeout, Yelp, Foursquare, etc, but in my experience these all offer too much information. Hype is about quality over quantity, and it uses a style that the mobile generation understands. I don’t want to read 1,000 words on a restaurant, I want a few sentences highlighting the best things there – and to get a peek inside (using beautiful visual content).

Some people lament that East London isn’t the same place now as it was five years ago – do you agree?

In the five years I’ve lived East I’ve watched Dalston happen, Bethnal Green come to life, and Hackney Wick change from an industrial warehouse district to a creative hot spot.

While I personally don’t spend a huge amount of time in Shoreditch outside of work, it’s still impressive to have such a density of creative places. It’s one of those things where the longer you live here, the further out you journey. The places I would have taken friends visiting London a year ago are totally different to the places I’d show them now.

How different is Islington compared to East London?

I think Islington is slightly more civil, but there are neighbourhoods in East London that don’t feel all that different. De Beauvoir and the area around Victoria Park feel very ‘Islington-e’ to me. Much like any area of London, there are always pockets of nice things, you just have to search them out.

What’s great in Angel right now?

I’m loving a few places up and around Highbury and Islington: Sawyer and Gray (great coffee, good brunch, super cool space); Le Coq (rotisserie roast chicken, super simple menu); Prawn on the Lawn (amazing seafood, secret basement space). In Angel proper, you’ll find me at The CoffeeWorks project.

What do you make of the transformation in King’s Cross?

Funny story. Back in 2011 I remember getting chased down Pentonville Road after leaving my girlfriend’s flat by someone trying to mug me. You’d still see prostitutes on the street who have all but disappeared.

If I’m totally honest, I’m a big fan of the development in this area. I love the immediate area around St Martin’s, and enjoy cycling past on the canal. We’ll see what happens once the tech companies truly arrive, but the young creatives who work at these companies will spur development of the right type of businesses (I hope).

Hype is a business, but do you still get a buzz out of finding new places?

Absolutely, the best part of my job is visiting these amazing tucked away places, meeting the people who run them, and falling in love with new neighbourhoods.


Co-Founder and Head of Design

How different did you initially find London compared Lithuania, where you are from?

Lithuania is a tiny country: London alone has three times more people than Lithuania! So you can imagine how overwhelming the transition could be, although I personally find pleasure and calming solitude in the vast sea of metropolis. When you live in a small town or even in the capital of Lithuania, you bump into someone you know almost too often.

I love that in London you can explore whenever you wish. You have your own local spots you adore, but you know that there is a huge unchartered area around it. So even that feeling alone gives me goosebumps, in a good way. In Vilnius or Kaunas, there are cool people doing cool stuff, but you can count it on your fingers.

What were you doing before Hype?

I am a graphic designer by trade. While in Lithuania, I was working as a freelancer, and on my own projects. Gradually shifted to digital media, as we called it back then. I was always fascinated by digital design and arts and communities. So my last big project was together with my current co-founder Gin. We started the online hub for young artists, creative writers and art critics which during few years evolved into the biggest online and offline community in the Baltic states. We opened the arts centre in Kaunas, organised events and even a summer camp/festival with artists, philosophers and even quantum physicists. All discussing various topics. It was great time, but not enough for our ambitions.

When I came to London, I had to find a proper job. So I did work as a web designer in a digital agency. It was cool working with clients such as Bentley, Sky, ITN. But not my cup of tea. So I quit.

What was the attraction of launching Hype?

Well first of all, for me at least, it was being your own boss again, in the sense of being in charge of your creation.

Second was the feeling of the opportunity. We knew that the local discovery market is crowded, that many tried and failed, but at the same time we felt that we are seeing the problem differently, so the solution has to be different as well. I came to London and instantly felt how big it is, how much there is to do, almost too much to comprehend. Well that had to be sorted out.

The third thing was a love for the community. Every project – be it digital product or a physical space – has to have a great community to support it. When you feel the power and pleasure the great community gives you, you can’t stop trying to achieve it once again.

What did you want to achieve with the look and feel of Hype?

I wanted Hype to feel like a friendly face, not just the utility. Good design is mandatory. To talk about slick animations and praise the usability is vain. For me as a designer it is the same as for a cook to talk about using knife in the kitchen. Yes, maybe for a developer who created his app it is an achievement, but for a designer true achievement is beyond the basics. This is what drives me to break some of the rules. Experimenting with Hype is very exciting – and the community seems to like it.

Hype is a business, but do you still get a buzz out of finding new places?

Oh most definitely. The feeling of finding a new place, which not many people do know about, yet feels like a discovery of something special – and it happens often in London. Even when working with our established partners, we always try to show their special traits, originality. And every time it is something surprisingly delightful and new. This is why people love our tours so much.

Looking at the parts of London you cover, what three places are doing it for you right now?

I love to get my lunch at Shutterbug in Shoreditch; my coffee at Ozone, next to Old Street station; and I will always love to visit Tate Modern. It is very ‘touristy’, but I have a special connection with that place since I came to London.


Tour Guide

You’re working on a Masters, working at the Barbican Centre, working at a Pilates studio, and a Hype tour guide… Do you like being busy!?

It’s when I thrive! I tend to say yes first, then figure out how to make it happen later. Living in a city that has it all, makes you want to do it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of me time. But as soon as I have a free moment, my brain starts scheming and I start planning away.

What is about London’s art scene that fascinates you?

It’s non-stop, living and breathing. In the art scene here, everyone is neighbours, or at least knows your neighbour. I feel like years from now, I’ll open an art history book and read about Shoreditch the way I read about Greenwich Village in New York City in my courses. I feel lucky. I feel as if I am a part of something much bigger than me.

Is it the best in the world?

London is the arts capital of the world, hands down. It’s the absolute heart and soul. It’s not just a place where the best art and artists used to come, it’s where they continue to be.

What happens on a Hype tour?

It’s always changing, that’s the best part! You’re a brave soul, and you’re rewarded for your bravery. You can expect to see, try or learn the newest, coolest everything. You can also expect to make at least one new friend (I joke that we are all best friends by the end, and even if you’re a grump, you can’t deny it’s usually true). You’ll leave with a pocket full of fun facts and you’ll feel like you’ve just been told the juiciest secrets. We have fun and we go on an adventure.

Who go on these tours and what are they looking for?

Hypers come from all over! I’ve had 68-year-old Jenny from South West London, tourists from abroad, recently moved in locals to the area, young professionals and families. No matter where they come from or who they are, everyone has a natural curiosity and are willing to try something new. Hypers are looking for what is now, and they want to know it first.

How exciting a place is the Barbican Centre to work at?

Growing up in a family of architects and urban planners that blasted classical music on weekends, dragged me to symphonies and museums, and taught me etiquette on how to study and respect art, it’s a dream. I still catch myself grinning ear to ear when I walk home from work some days. I’m surrounded by the most inspiring, ambitious and ground-breaking arts programme in London and get to work with the exceptional humans that give these concrete walls life. It’s a very, very exciting time at the Barbican and so much coming up to look forward to.

What about Angel or King’s Cross?

My second flat was in Islington and I adored living there. Charming doesn’t do it justice. I couldn’t get enough of the wisteria climbing up brick walls and entrance ways. The best is stumbling in and out of the residential squares with private gardens. And Highbury Fields! With the weather warming up I’m itching to get back out on the Albion’s back garden with a bottle of wine (or two).


Curator and Photographer

How did you initially become involved with Hype?

I used the app almost everyday and loved it. About a year ago, I was looking for a new job and I tweeted at Shoreditch Hype until they invited me for an interview.

What was it that attracted you to being a part of the team?

Being part of a start up team was really exciting. Meeting the founders and hearing about their passion for company made me want to help build up Hype as much as possible.

When on the hunt for new places to write about, what do you look for?

I think undiscovered places with friendly people. I always hope to send our users to places that they hadn’t been to before with a warm atmosphere.

Are there still plenty of surprises out there?

Yes, for sure, especially in East and South London. There are lots of small hidden neighbourhoods in the city that are constantly growing.

Is Shoreditch your favourite area to investigate?

Yes! East London is so vibrant. It’s really rewarding to see the city change and grow, as well as meet local, passionate business owners.

What about Angel or King’s Cross?

I’m dying to check it out the new Dishoom in King’s Cross. I also love walking around Angel, and then by Regent’s Canal in the summer.

Hype is a business, but do you still get a buzz out of finding new places?

I think about how I used to feel as a Hype user and how excited I would be when I saw someplace new on the app. Now I get excited when I have something fresh to share with our users.

Finally, looking at the parts of London you cover, what three places are doing it for you right now?

East, North and South!

Words: Mark Kebble / Hype photos: Anton

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