Urbano - The Sustainable Business Network

Urbano is an independent business networking community that grew out of Shoreditch, London, from the early 2000’s and helps our membership of mainly small, medium and micro companies – and those that run and work for them - to connect, engage, share, learn, and together develop new business opportunities.

Urbano consists of different Communities: Build, Create, Finance, Host, Tech, UWACTE (Urbano Women In Architecture, Construction, Technology & Engineering), Work & Zero Carbon.  Like the UK economy, the majority of our member companies work in the Build community sectors, but we are well represented with members in the other sectors, too.

The mix and audience at any Urbano event is always different and unique. No event is ever the same. All are primarily designed to be catalysts to connections.

Urbano has as a long and proud record of championing issues, such as zero carbon and sustainability, diversity and inclusion, workplace wellbeing and new technology – and often way before others – as we introduce ideas that start into one sector into another.

BIM, Blockchain, Crypto, IOT, M2M, VR, AI, Digital, Data, Eco, Scopes, Electrification, WFH. Just some of the technologies that have developed in one sector and which we have introduced through our events to others.

We also know that SMEs can adapt more quickly to issues like climate change, and wider social issues around employment, and in more innovative ways, than larger companies. This gives early adopters a competitive advantage which we help to encourage.

Urbano’s mission now as a business community is two-fold. To help our members respond to the challenge of climate change whilst being the best business they can be, for their employees, clients, founders and investors. This is why we call Urbano The Sustainable Business Network and is our focus, starting with our calendar of events.

You can read more about how we are doing that and our philosophy regarding networking below. But first a note for those thinking about booking their first Urbano event as a non-member.

A note from Mark, Connector-In-Chief, Urbano
I have been at the forefront of networking since the early 2000s in Shoreditch, when a group of business founders in the area invited me to join the nascent Shoreditch Business Network and give it a shape, focus, and strategy to make it relevant to the young creative, tech and digital companies moving into the area. At the time, I had no idea what networking was and my first tastes of it almost put me off for life.

I learned that networking events didn’t have to be dull. They shouldn’t be a room full of strangers pitching to each other, or basically the same event happening every week just in a different venue.

Over time, I began to see that most if not all opportunities came attached to people and were revealed through conversation. The more contacts you meet, the more connections you make. These connections, over time, develop into relationships, and it is through relationships that business opportunities are created. Our role at Urbano was to provide events that attract a quality, relevant audience and have a website that supports every member to develop these introductions into opportunities.

But I also know that despite what most people you meet at networking event attendees tell you, the reason their company has paid for them to be there - and their primary focus at events - is to win more business. You only have to look at their job titles.

I am writing a book that will help every company understand how this narrow focus denies them the very thing they desire – new opportunities through networking. It is an attitude that prevails and ruins the potential of events for those who do want to share, learn and develop connections, not just orbit a room like a business mosquito.

Because when you first meet someone you do not know the potential value of that person to you or your company. In a fast-moving world like ours, the sales target is a false measure of how much value your business has got from an event. We know we have helped create hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of sales through networking, but the introduction that led to the opportunity was never recorded and doesn’t happen overnight.

But conversations also have the power to change. And we have to, because unless we act NOW, there will not be a planet to do business on. This is our aim at Urbano. We are not a network that believes in business as usual. You are welcome to explore the potential of Urbano to deliver value to your business by booking an event or two as a non-member, but it does really depend on how you judge value.

Till my book is written and appears sometime in 2024*, I will continue to put my own experiences as a co-owner of an SME (www.talentlab.co.uk) to make Urbano the most relevant, powerful connections machines for those entrepreneurs and others who create and run small companies.

Mark Herring
Connector-In-Chief, Urbano

* I have been changing this year every year since 2020, but in my defence I have been a) busy and b) learning and adjusting what advice I give to companies. 

Urbano -  The Sustainable Business Network: Part I

In 2002, Mark Herring was the driving force behind Shoreditch Business Network and was responsible for the strategy and engagement of the organisation, formed to bring together new media and tech companies coming into the area.

Mark as a brand and communications strategist and co-director of his own agency in the area, Talent Lab, felt a networking community should offer the following to its members:

  • Events to encourage companies and their representatives to meet and connect - these should be enjoyable and sometimes even fun
  • A website that could facilitate connections and share new business opportunities
  • Be a leader in challenging companies to act on issues such as the environment and workplace diversity
  • Offer a space for founders and entrepreneurs to share their knowledge and experiences with each other
  • Know that not everyone in business will share this vision and accept they won't join ever, even if they found new work through the only event they attended

Then, in 2011, Mark and Caroline Brock, his Co-Director at Talent Lab, formed Urbano to expand the community beyond Shoreditch. To date, Urbano has hosted and facilitated almost 1,000 networking events and connected around 25,000 business people, from speaker breakfast events to social evenings, all with one aim: to allow two people to meet and have conversation who otherwise would never have met.

You can view Urbano’s calendar here: Urbano Networking Events

Urbano, under Mark and Caroline, are also pro-active and motivated, offering a range of member services beyond events, including weekly Tenders & Opportunities Notices.

Networking through value exchange
Value exchange is what we encourage at every point of contact between our members and other networking event attendees. No-one knows what each connection can bring to each other and what is most valuable is constantly changing. It may be the need for a new contract for one, or a critical piece of advice for another. It may be finding the right talent to take a company into a new area, or the funding to turn an idea into a viable product.

Image: Urbano Networking Breakfast in the City 

At Urbano, we have witnessed how value changes over time and how the worth of something only becomes apparent over time. However, by having an open mindset – across all levels of the business – we all stand a better chance of developing opportunities, of being better informed as individuals, of making better decisions as companies, and being more welcoming and inclusive as a society. We can also make a profit without it costing us the Earth.

Urbano – The Sustainable Business Network: Part II
Mark hosted his first event to explore sustainability with the architects Theis & Khan on their work on the White Cube Gallery, Hoxton, in 2004. The speakers were knowledgeable and the audience engaged. Mark hosted and encouraged questions. This stripped down event on a theme with a diverse set of companies in attendance and a format that allowed plenty of time for conversations became the Urbano template.

Since then, Urbano has hosted a over 100 speakers on a variety of themes. View our speaker list here. Urbano Speakers.

‘Green construction’, as the above event was known, has now grown and been replaced with a raft of different terms – sustainability, environmental, ESG, climate change/action etc etc – and driven by a new set of different organisations.

But the truth is terms like ESG, sustainability etc have no force in law and lack the bite of regulation, all while the planet continues to heat up ahead of UN and other scientific predictions. The time has come to act.

Image: Urbano Speaker & Networking Breakfast featuring Katie Wood at Arup focusing on healthcare, health and wellbeing

‘You can never step in the same river twice’
Taking our cue from the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus – who features in Mark’s Networking Masterclasses – Urbano’s events programme now focuses on connecting member companies to help them develop new business relationships from which opportunities flow, and find the necessary knowledge and tools to become better companies.

Urbano Events
In response to changing work habits post lockdown and the ways different companies approach networking, and because we want to make everyone one of our events worthwhile and relevant for participants, we have now adapted our events calendar. to focus on the following strands. Indicated number of events per year in brackets.

Urbano Top Tables
Urbano Top Tables are networking lunches exclusively for Urbano Member Companies' founders, owners, and senior directors, hosted at specially selected restaurants. Numbers limited to one or two people per event. (10)

Urbano Speaker Panels
Urbano Speaker Panel networking events look at major issues facing all businesses, from reducing our impact on the environment and delivering on Net Zero Carbon legislation to encouraging SMEs into the supply chains of larger organisations or exploring changes to HR and employment laws. Speakers are drawn from Urbano members with relevant experiences. (4)

Networking breakfasts and lunches Bringing together representatives from companies from a range of sectors to meet and connect with others at some of London’s best restaurants and hotels. You can view recent hosts here (8)

Urbano networking evenings
Held at bars and other venues, Urbano evenings are lively, fun and friendly. We encourage members to send any of their employees to these events as they are great way to meet  people at different levels of companies. Some - MIPIM and Clerkenwell Design Week - are designed to bring those with common sector interests together, but they are open to any type of business to book. (6)

Image: Urbano Speaker & Networking Breakfast featuring (left) George Clarke - TV Architect & Founder of MOBI.

The Urbano Leadership Team

Mark Herring - Connector-In-Chief, Urbano
Mark originally trained as a theatre director and still uses the disciplines of theatre in his work as a creative consultant in all his projects and help clients deliver bottom-line growth.  His principle is to understand the goals of a project, then who the audience is, and work backward.

As a director of Talent Lab, Mark has worked with a variety of clients, from PLCs to SMEs, on a variety of branding, marketing and communications projects since the mid-90s. This was after he created and ran an art gallery in Spitalfields, which presented and sold art somewhere between the YBAs and Stuckists. You can view Art East’s office in this early Prodigy video. It is now the market’s toilets.

Mark became the voice for the new Spitalfields, this new creative and retail centre, and was chosen to represent this vibrant collective of small business owners, including retail, food, hospitality and artisans, on television, radio and print. He learned that this would now called branding, marketing, place-making and community building.

He travelled north to Shoreditch in the early 2000s and quickly became the strategist and engagement lead for the nascent Shoreditch Business Network using the skills he had learned in Spitalfields. Here he added online, web and digital to his CV.

Building on the growth of this active networking community, he went on to create and lead Urbano Network, alongside his client work for Talent Lab.

Image: Tendering Workshop delivered by Caroline Brock, Urbano Network, hosted by Accelerator London 

Caroline Brock - Director, Urbano Network
Caroline is a Director at Talent Lab and leads the memberships, sponsorship, marketing at Urbano alongside tender and related activities strategic consultancy and support for companies across all sectors.

Caroline prepares the weekly tender digest at Urbano giving members access to relevant open public tenders and opportunities within the network with supporting advice and facilitation for consortia/partnering. This builds on her previous marketing and work winning lead experience with roles held in the build/engineering sectors (more recently AECOM). She runs regular open tendering workshops and provides tender support consultancy to SMEs.

Caroline is also the lead for our dedicated community and events programme for UWACTE (Urbano Women in Architecture, Construction, Technology & Engineering) and hosts the Women in Business/UWACTE events.

She is also a Social Value Practitioner and Member of Social Value UK, supporting the aims of the Social Value Act to help companies improve their social, economic and environmental wellbeing in the communities they serve. 


Urbano Network is a Talent Lab Production
Talent Lab Limited is registered in the UK. Company number: 04149198
Registered Office: Shackleton Court, 2 Maritime Quay London E14 3QF

Urbano Communities

  • Urbano Business

    Urbano is a connected business community, dedicated to helping our member companies build sustainable futures.

  • Urbano Build

    Networking community for those in architecture, construction, design, engineering, property, proptech, etc

  • Urbano Create

    A networking community for those in branding, marketing, communications, digital, TV, film, and related media and creative sectors.

  • Urbano Finance

    For companies offering investment and other professional advisory services to help companies develop.

  • Urbano Tech

    For those who offer services and solutions across the tech, telecoms, digital, networking, software & IT sectors

  • Urbano Work

    Companies shaping the future of work and the workplace, from office design to leadership development, employee training, and ED&I.

  • Urbano UWACTE

    Urbano Women in Architecture, Construction, Technology & Engineering

  • Urbano Videos

    View our library of event videos of previous speaker and panel events here. Email the office for password.