Skip to content

Insider – Morning with who’s who of Manchester Corporate Sector

As Michael Taylor, Editor of the North West Insider introduced me at the yesterday’s Insider Breakfast event, “where’s Manoj, a short chap, ah there he is”. Luckily, Sean Fensom, Chairman and Digital Veteren of Manchester Digital later came to my rescue as he is shorter than me. At this point, I felt a whole lot better, having cocked up my earlier question to the panel, which Dave Carter, Head of Manchester Digital Development Agency responded by saying that if we want help, talk to the VCs. Unfortunately, there are only two VCs in town (EV Group and YFM Private Equity). They are as risk-averse as hell, unless its their ideas (sorry guys – bit unfair I know! Julian, loves your rough 2010 look!). Later, Michael tweeted the following, perhaps thinking he offended me (no chance there, Mike)

@manojranaweera #ff top chap. Loads of energy, ideas and charming eccentricity

At least, Michael has been consistent in there. This is the second time, and the only person to my knowledge to call me eccentric. As you can see from the thumbnail (first one), at least I am with good company (2nd paragraph right hand).

The North West Insider May 2009 - Editorial - A Special Plea Insider Digital Event Report 15 Jan 10 Manchester Vanguard House Brochure

Ok, those who were misfortunate enough to miss the excellent event organised by Insider Digital Team, which was well attended, here (second above) is a Twitter Report courtesy of moi!

What I also realised is that there are some hard networkers in Manchester, whom you would see attending many of the city’s key events. Here is a list in no particular order:

  • Phil Jones – UK Managing Director, Brother – a man who thinks we still need a printer (actually I own two)
  • Awan Moneeb – a man in demand – Chairman of Manchester Chamber of Commerce
  • Graham Bond – Baker Tilly – must find a way to do business with Graham as he is everywhere!
  • Steve Bennett – ex IoD – nice chap!
  • Tom Cheesewright – a man who keeps changing brands, And Digital

I would like to share some of the discussions I was part of, if that’s OK with you:

  1. Manchester Digital – has a desire to connect with all the technology based groups in the city. This aspect is currently managed by NWDC (chaired by Andrew Disley), which I am a member of. Other than NS20 and Manchester Digital all other members of NWDC run software user groups except for GeekUp (Andrew’s baby!), which is a collective of software developers (and friends).
  2. Sharp Project – I am yet to have a proper chat with Sue Webster who runs Sharp project, but question remains whether she has ambitions to open up her well-funded facilities to product-based technology companies that NS20 champions.
  3. Creatives and NS20 – This year, NS20 will put effort into building stronger relationships with other organisations. RedVision promised to give me an insight to digital media – I must follow this up!
  4. Broadband issue – This is currently a hot issue in Manchester, and it would not be right, if I do not poke my nose into this discussion. In addition, being a partner and a tenant of Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus (DSIC), I would like DSIC to be a major stakeholder in this discussion, due to DSIC hosting a Media Access Point, the forthcoming Vanguard House (third thumbnail), and current 85 or so high-tech tenants. I also believe that Northernnet and other stakeholders have not engaged with the business community in sufficient context to understand their needs. I have been promised through twitter that marketing of Media Access Points will commence next month.
  5. Insider and NS20 – There is a desire to do something together. I just wish that respective parties (one being me!) sit down and firm up what, when and where? Talk is cheap, only actions matter! (Take the hint Mr. Taylor!)

Based on some further discussions outside the Insider Breakfast (I enjoyed it, let me in next time as well Michael!), there are few other areas I need to poke my nose at (when would someone pay for all these nose poking is not clear):

  1. Building a VC culture. It seems the city has ambitions to attract VCs from elsewhere to setup base here. Did you know that NS20 brought VCs from Internet Capital (New York, USA), Advent Partners, DFJ Esprit (twice), Eden Ventures, Seedcamp, Difference Engine/North East Finance, Doughty Hanson to Manchester without any public sector spending? The responsibility for this activity seems to be given to a specific body (not sure which part of this was confidential so better not spill out the beans in case they did not know it themselves). Plus they wish to make existing VCs less risk-averse! According to Steve Livingston, most of the VCs that comes through his accountancy practice are not interested in technology companies. If Manchester wants NS20’s help, we will be happy to help in educating the VC sector.
  2. Businesses and IT. It seems that some non IT businesses are bit fedup of hearing too much about the city’s focus on creative media. And they seem to be in the dark about how to take advantage of new technologies to improve their bottom line. Sounds like an opportunity for NS20. I think there is a way we could address this whilst helping our budding tech entrepreneurs. More to come later.

As usual, drop your thoughts here please.

Published inTechcelerate
  • Manoj,
    On one level I've got to agree with your sentiment that there's a shortage of VC in the North. But, following a couple of years when most SE funds failed to raise new money, that shortage is not much different anywhere else right now. We're seeing more an more businesses from the South East seeking funding from us. Indeed, the top tier firms that do still have cash have been able to move later stage predominantly to post-revenue companies due to the lack of competition. However, you chose to describe us as “risk-averse as hell”, which isn't supported by the facts. On a simplistic basis if you looked across the UK I'd challenge you to find any other commercial VC where ten out of the last ten deals done were pre-revenue. I'm sorry that your own venture was one that didn't meet our criteria for investment, but we do monitor our rejection reasons, and therefore I can say with confidence that we reject only a very small proportion of businesses on the grounds of risk. By far the commonest causes of rejection are lack of differentiation from competition and the opportunity not being large enough to have the potential to produce a venture-scale exit. I hope that helps you understand a little better and to appreciate that whilst there is a need for more capital in this sector there will still be a large number of disappointed entrepreneurs.

  • ManojRanaweera

    Hi Ed, glad that you responded. Yes, facts are important and it would be good if you could share more statistics with us. I was merely commenting on the current sentiment within the tech entrepreneurship community.

    In terms of my business, as you very well know, I have not made a serious effort to raise venture capital, as I know very well that we do not tick most of the boxes VCs are looking for. However, we may look for external capital at a future date. So please do not think I was having a go at VC community due to lack of venture capital in my own business.

    I have been entertaining few more thought after yesterday tech CEO round table discussions, at which most of us felt that there was a need for our companies to get “investor ready”. I would be keen to discuss how this need could be addressed with participation of the venture capital community. Will be calling you next week to explore your own thoughts on this.

    More than anything, discussions could help us narrow the gap in misunderstandings. Over to you…