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Thoughts from #TechNorth launch in #Leeds today

The Launch

Until 8:00 am this morning, I couldn’t justify a reason to attend the launch of much hyped TechNorth in Leeds. By 8:15 am, I regretted my decision, and by 10:15 I was listening to TechCity CEO launching the event. Yes in Leeds!


In 2006, except for few of us, tech entrepreneurship was not fashionable like today. Those naysayers then have become champions of the sector today. And it has been a pleasure for me to watch the transition.

In early days, the effort of building the tech ecosystem rested with number of passionate individuals. In Sheffield you had Lee Stafford and in Leeds you had Imran Ali. And in the North West, you had me. But there were others trying to do their best. The regional agencies and the government of UK, were not interested in the sector, until one day, David Cameron realised how important the sector was.

And today, we experienced the launched of TechNorth, as a result of the success achieved by TechCity. Its a great initiative. A public body accountable to develop the already established tech ecosystem. With significant funding behind, they should be able to achieve what others could not.

So what might the tech ecosystem under TechNorth looks like in 3 years? It ought to have:

  1. Increased the number of individuals starting up
  2. Increased the number of companies getting funded
  3. Increased the number of investors in the region, both venture capital as well as angel investment
  4. Helped entrepreneurs find mentors who did not charge for their advice. If you charge for mentoring, you are not a mentor, but an advisor.
  5. Helped create few more unicorns and house hold names.
  6. Established a direct flight to San Francisco.
  7. Stopped the brain drain.

I’m bullish about all of the above. If I could bring tier 1 VCs to Manchester over and over during Techcelerate days, there is no reason why TechNorth could not attract more investors.

We have GP Bullhound. Others in the City have noticed them. We have tech entrepreneurs such as Garry Partington crawling through the Sandhill Road looking for the next £10m (its on FT, so I am not breaching any privacy). We now have a post box called TechNorth in Manchester that anyone interested in tech entrepreneurship can be pointed to. Before that you had the excellent efforts of Doug Ward and his colleagues. Before that there was me and our tech community of 2,300 (yes it’s true!).

I was saddened by the fact, no tech entrepreneur was on the stage. It was nice to see Matt Grest, who in fact tried his hand at starting and running a tech startup. At one point, he managed my outsource tech team in India. Lot of fond memories. A question worthy of asking from Matt would have been about the struggles he had, the lessons learned and the relevance to today.

The Networking

These days, I question about the ROI of event attendance. This usually come through during the networking. It was a good opportunity to catch up with some old friends.

  • Ceri B – my old MBA buddy who goes by Healthcare Innovator.
  • Imran A – Key proponent of tech in Leeds.  These days, he has seen it all. Very hard to impress him.
  • Stewart T – The man who bought pizza and beer from Manchester to London and the Silicon Valley. He was the first IT multinational in the UK to bet on tech startups. Ever heard of Sun Startup Essentials? Now running the global partner channel for Zendesk.
  • Paul R – the man who got straightened by the first real accelerator. Now toying with food delivery. I love Paul’s gruelling of my know-how. Show me the real value proposition – not the BS.
  • Coral and Paul from TechNorth – who invited me to attend
  • And I met a chap from Microsoft, who happened to live in Manchester and manages partners. Ideal chap for us to help build our relationship with Microsoft.
  • Tom – who I gave a lift back. He is in the middle of raising a seed round. I got so interested in what he was doing and ended up going round M60.

Catching up with Paul and Stewart along was sufficient to justify my ROI. Now, I cannot wait for the next reunion – CANDDi’s party. Now that’s another story worth sharing – on another day.

Published inKnowledgeNorthern Tech NewsTechcelerate
  • Imran

    Lol, it’s true I’m not easily impressed but I’m very easily humbled 🙂

  • Nice round up of an event I knew nothing about.

    No link to explain what this Tech North thing actually is then?

    Luckily Google helped out and suggested

  • Katie G summarised why I made the dash to Leeds. FOMO – Fear of Missing Out! Perhaps she was right! At least, its a new buzzword for me.

  • Thanks again for taking the time & making the effort to attend our event Manoj. It meant a lot to me & the rest of the Tech North team to see you there because of the important role you’ve played in getting the Manchester/North West startup scene where it is today. I know you were skeptical about the value of attending in terms of ROI but from reading the above, it sounds like it was worth it. Looking forward to continuing the conversation with you & learning from your insight & expertise. Thanks again,

    Community Engagement & Partnerships Manager
    Tech North (part of Tech City UK)

  • coralgrainger

    Darn! I really shouldn’t have dashed back to manc & missed that photo op!

    Anyway, I just wanted to add a note of thanks and recognition for those early days of community support. When I was ‘Innovation Activist’ at Manchester: Knowledge Capital (seems a long time ago now!) it was at your Open Coffee in Urbis that I first met Dave Mee and Hwa Young Jung – and they told me about their idea for a ‘community tech education space’ inspired by Imran Ali & the Leeds Hack space. I added my name (& M:KC’s) to their funding bid, and am pleased that MadLab still goes even stronger today. I remember also meeting Tim Dempsey there who’s still on the scene, and the techcelerate pitch events at Portland St & UMIC.

    I guess my point is, sometimes things take a long time to come around and get their moment, and whilst that ground work and those connections often feel unrecognised and unrewarded, they are essential and hopefully pay dividends in the long term. But I would also add that while Manchester is really picking up now, we can still think bigger, and continue to benefit from external connections and partnerships (as MadLab guys did from meeting Imran in Leeds) and I hope that Tech North will support and inspire all the northern cities and entrepreneurs to look beyond old boundaries and habits for new partnerships and scale, and think – right, what can we do now…