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Networks of Manchester’s Tech Ecosystem

Once upon a time (2006 to 2013), Techcelerate pioneered in building the Manchester’s Tech Ecosystem, when public sector could not care less about scalable technology businesses. Today, it’s a different story. Both public as well as the private sectors have come together to build the ecosystem from where Techcelerate had left off.

Referred to as Northern Startup 2.0 in 2006, a tech gathering supported by KPMG and initiated by TechCrunch grew into a network of 2,300 tech entrepreneurs, senior managers of tech companies, investors and deal-makers over a period of 7 years. Techcelerate ran over 100+ tech entrepreneur events with Northern Tech Awards as its flagship event which celebrated tech entrepreneurship in style.

This post is sponsored by Liquid Bronze (trading as Malinko)

So, today, what are the networks in Manchester that brings tech entrepreneurs, senior managers of tech companies, investors and dealmakers together? I took a deep look to find out the answer.

1. TechNorth – Richard Gregory

TechNorth, the poster child of London-centric TechCityUK is responsible for the promotion of digital and technology businesses in the North. It is funded by the UK Government and has been headquartered in Manchester since the inception 2+ years ago. If you are involved with a tech startup, you should make an effort to get to know the charismatic leader of TechNorth, Richard Gregory.

If you can demonstrate growth, then you should aim to get nominated as one of the Northern Stars in their annual competition. Failing that, do join the Founder Network, which is now managed by Lauren Nicholson.

If you are exploring funding options, make sure to contact James Bedford, who is in the process of organising a £30 million co-investment fund. If they are hard to get in touch, then your next bet is Jazz Hanley who is responsible for building relationships in Manchester and the North West.

If you fail to get anywhere and need a bit of guidance, give me a shout and I will try my very best to connect you with the right person.

My opinion: If you want to get help, you need to work hard to get to know the team. Don’t expect miracles from the first interaction. Keep plugging/asking. Be specific with the help you need. I’ve also suggested that they take “account management” approach to helping tech startups. I’ve been assured this is now happening.

2. Manchester Tech Trust (MTT) – Peter Lusty

By combining heavy weights of Manchester into its network, Manchester Tech Trust (MTT) deserved to be recognised as one of the key emerging networks of Manchester.

Peter Lusty has worked tirelessly to create MTT with Neil McArthur from TalkTalk. It competes with other networks to become the destination site for Manchester, which was previously held by Techcelerate during it’s hay days.

In early days, I criticised MTT for lack of inclusion of current tech entrepreneurs in its Board for them to truly understand the challenges startups face. Whilst this has not yet been addressed (not even through the Advisory Board), it’s good to see inclusion of tech entrepreneurs in the Tech Trust Network. Whilst Neil and Peter were post Techcelerate, Richard Young and the venture capital firm he represented then, was very much a part of the Techcelerate Network.

Peter organises events where a handful of tech entrepreneurs have the chance to meet a handful of selected individuals from Peter’s network, ranging from tech entrepreneurs to service providers. If you are not well connected in the Manchester tech ecosystem, these introductions could help build your network. If you need an introduction to Peter, I’m happy to help.

My opinion: MTT is evolving and we should be patient. Behind the scene is a network of high net worth individuals sizing up investment opportunities.

3. Tech Manchester – Patricia Keating

The latest network to setup in Manchester is in fact called Tech Manchester, adding further confusion to the novice networker. Funded by Lawrence Jones’ UKFast, it’s launch event focused on building a mentor network for young tech entrepreneurs.

The honour of running this network falls on to the shoulders of Patricia Keating, who is new to Manchester, but quickly building new friendships in the city.

UKFast also funds Business Cloud Magazine, which provides an excellent route to promote your tech startup. It’s run by charismatic Chris Maguire.

Given how young this network is, it’s too early to judge the value.

Happy to introduce both Chris and Partricia, if you cannot get through to them direct.

My opinion: The man behind UKFast is on a mission to become the first tech billionaire of Manchester, having already self-claimed a net worth of £300m. UKFast sells hosting solutions and has recently expanded into other services such as security. All tech companies need hosting and UKFast is in a good position to try to divert them from using the likes of AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. As Lawrence expands into other areas, some of the companies coming through Tech Manchester will no doubt provide investment as well as acquisition opportunities. In addition to this, Lawrence is the best PR machine in Manchester, and the network will no doubt provide ample content to increase his popularity beyond the city limits.

4. Northern Tech Awards by GP Bullhound – Hugh Campbell

Northern Tech Awards (NTA), acquired from Techcelerate, thanks to an introduction by Garry Partington of Apadmi, provided the catalyst for Hugh Campbell of GP Bullhound to build its network in Manchester and the North.

Today, the event has become the major event in the whole of the North. In addition to running NTA, Hugh also runs a number of tech events in Manchester, which are all worth attending. These events are used as a way to share the findings from their tech research.

GP Bullhound now has offices in the USA, Asia and Europe to help companies grow through investment and acquisitions as well as explore exits.

However, they will rarely work with very early stage businesses without sufficient traction. As soon as you have traction, you should aim to get in their Tech 100 list and apply for their annual awards. Applications for 2018 will open in Jan with Awards in Edinburgh in March.

My opinion: My technology services company, Venture 9 has a formal relationship with GP Bullhound. If you are an early stage company, do attend their Manchester events. As soon as you have decent revenues, apply for Awards and the recognition. By all means, first have a chat with me, given my formal relationship with them.

5. Manchester Digital – Katie Gallagher

Founded in 2001, Manchester Digital (MD) is the longest surviving network in Manchester, now led by no-nonsense, Katie Gallagher. It was founded as a voice for digital agencies in Manchester and they remain true to their original premise.

In early years, I criticised Manchester Digital for not supporting technology companies. As the Manchester tech ecosystem grew, MD has started a series of events where they showcase young startups, especially those who have made inroads from running an agency to founding a startup.

Unfortunately, as Katie likes to wake up early, these events are run too early for the likes of me to attend.

MD has also understood the importance of skills, which applies to both agencies and tech companies equally. Among the activities supporting skills is the annual Skills Summit.

My opinion: MD is good for Manchester. Their focus on skills is commendable. Events are useful for networking. Given that they are the only member funded organisation, its worth supporting them (I’m a Member). Members directory and weekly newsletter are good ways to spread news about your company.

6. Manchester Science Park – Anne Dornan

Manchester Science Park (MSP) founded well over 25 years ago has achieved significant traction since the acquisition by Bruntwood.

It’s assets now extend to Alderley Park and beyond. With the new Bright Building at MSP where Cisco has setup Mi-Idea innovation hub and BioHub at Alderley Park, and all the associated events, MSP’s importance as a network should not be underestimated.

Techcelerate Member, Anne Dornan who heads innovation at MSP is perhaps the best person to get in touch if you wish to tap into their network.

My opinion: MSPs importance in Manchester is growing. Due to their extensive network (public and hidden), it is difficult for the novice networker to understand how they could help. Perhaps easiest way to know what’s going on is to subscribe to their newsletter. Plus due to popularity and importance, it’s hard to get through to Anne these days.

7. Sci-Tech Daresbury – John Leake and Paul Treloar

Setup in 2005, Sci-Tech Daresbury (STD) has become a key landmark in the world of innovation. It’s run by super connector duo, John Leake and Paul Treloar, members of Techcelerate.

Located in Daresbury, STD is somewhat away from the buzz of a cosmopolitan city like Manchester, yet it’s ability to connect with people and funding for growth should not be underestimated.

My opinion: Over the years, the campus has grown significantly including the number of other networks which operate from there. Unknown to many, it also has access to its own grant and equity funding. Definitely worth checking out.

8. Barclays and Rise – Kat Martin

Thanks to Rise located at Deansgate, Barclays has been interacting with tech startups now for a number of years in Manchester.

I used to drop into Rise quite often, but cannot remember the last time I visited them. With staff changes and few companies moving out from Rise including TechNorth, it’s importance perhaps is bit lesser than it was 12 months ago.

Many events are run from Rise, both by Barclays and others. The previous lead, Matt Elliott ended up founding a startup incubated by one of the Barclays programmes, so perhaps Kat is the best person to interact with these days.

My opinionWhilst I have made good friends with a number of Barclays team, as a business, I have quite a number of disappointments with them, so it’s difficult to ignore the negatives and pretend everything is honky dory! On positives, one of my introductions resulted in Barclays lending £1m to a technology startup in Manchester.

9. KPMG – Guy Weaver

As you know, Techcelerate probably would not have started without the support and sponsorship of KPMG in the first 2 years of its 7 year life.

Whilst the old team has moved on, the new face of KPMG is led by Guy is much more friendlier and approachable.

In addition, just like what happened at Rise, even Guy has caught the startup bug. Do check out his baby, IntroStream. If you are into B2B, I suggest you discuss with Guy to get your company listed.

My opinion: Whilst the KPMG team wants to sell their services to you, they are one of the best connected and startup friendly teams in Manchester. Make sure you get to their half annual events.

10. SpacePortX – Shaun and Doug

Shaun Gibson and Doug Ward have worked tirelessly to help Manchester tech ecosystem achieve a step change. They came to the ecosystem as Techcelerate was winding down.

Initially, working with Mike Butcher‘s Tech Hub, Shaun and Doug achieved rapid stardom in Manchester, extending relationship to Cabinet Office and elsewhere.

Their recent startup, Telcom has achieved significant traction.

My opinionAs they have moved to San Francisco, best to contact Sophie Ashcroft who manages the day-to-day operations. Whilst I admire what Shaun and Doug have achieved, I was never really a part of their network, except attending couple of events at SpacePortX.

11. In the City – Louis-James Davis

Rockstar turned tech entrepreneur, Louis-James of VST Enterprises is the brains behind In the City events.

Whilst the website claims “In 2014, our exclusive members network turned over in excess of £235 Billion worldwide”, the reality on the ground is quite different.

But 20 something Louis-James is a breath of fresh air to Manchester tech ecosystem, and given the attention his company is getting from around the world, he would no doubt become a great brand ambassador for Manchester.

My opinion: Events are themed and fun to attend. I had a chance to pitch my company at one of the early events.

12. Founder Insights by Webantic – Luke Grimes

Latest event series to be introduced to Manchester is organised by the Founder of Webantic, Luke Grimes. Supported by Brabners, Luke interviews Founders.

Next in line for the grilling is Scott Fletcher, another member of the Techcelerate network.

My opinion: I’ve met with Luke, but yet to attend any of the events. I’ve signed up to attend the grilling of Scott.

12. Startup2SME

Founded by Ashley Wright, Startup2SME is helping to bring the community together similar to the early days of Techcelerate. Unlike many other initiatives, it’s focused on a tech entrepreneur’s own needs. This was why Techcelerate was successful and lasted 7 years. As Ashley come across challenges as he builds his tech startup, he solves these through his events, whether it’s sales or IPR.

He is now supported by Berg Legal.

13. Others

There are many other events organised by Recruitment Agencies, Pro-Manchester, Big technology companies such as Auto Trader and others. Manchester today is certainly a thriving ecosystem for tech.

Also worth mentioning (don’t really know who the point of contact for these businesses/locations are):

  • The Landing
  • Federation House by Co-Op Digital
  • MadLab

I’ve shared some of my personal experiences and opinions, both positive and negative. Love to hear your thoughts through comments section, including what networks I missed.

Published inAnalysisEventsNorthern Tech NewsTechcelerate