Posts Tagged ‘UK Tech Community’

Loving the Underdog! PART2 – City of creation

April 8, 2011

This is my follow-up post to Loving the Underdog! PART1 – The 800lb gorilla

My startup, Aware Monitoring, was recently invited to a local business club event as an example of a innovative and entrepreneurial company. At the event I was blown away by the growth and leading market positions of the other companies presenting!!

It occurred to me that a strong local business and startup eco-system is absolutely vital to nurture young ‘underdog’ startup companies like ours. Success breeds success. We must all invest in our local eco-system and everyone in the city will reap the rewards.

In this Invest in Nottingham Club video I talk about my underdog
startup and the potential of Nottingham

My startup is based in the provincial city of Nottingham. Our city is the centre of business within our region. Nottingham is well known for its creativity, innovation and of course, Robin Hood. We have some big great companies here including Boots, Experian, Raleigh and Capital One. The city has a world leading biotech cluster and is a UK centre of gaming which hosts GameCity, an annual global videogames festival.

The city has a strong tech community, with social groups such as Nott Tuesday and Geekup bringing developers, designers, bloggers and online entrepreneurs together to share ideas. And we have some great tech companies including Esendex, Prime Principle and Outso.

However the City has a long way to go before becoming a leading cluster for web tech on the scale of BioCity, a Nottingham based biotech cluster. I’ve been extremely impressed by BioCity and the eco-system of companies and people working around it. Several of the companies at the event were based at BioCity. This type of light touch commercial eco-system with small and large niche companies working together seems to work incredibly well.

The ingredients which go to make a city of creativity that forms clusters such as BioCity, Silicon Valley or TechHub include:

  1. Startup facilities – Low cost, industry specific incubators which are commercially supported and run.
  2. Second generation founders – Industry specific founders who become investors and mentors in startups.
  3. UniversitiesThat attract and develop talent from across the nation who then settle locally.
  4. Larger companies – Who’s staff leave the corporate world to branch out their own.
  5. Institutional investors – These are needed to help continue to grow successful companies.

I was blown away and inspired by capability and growth of local companies presenting. This is both the companies that are part of BioCity and the ones who have done it own their own. These events show what can be done locally in a provincial city like Nottingham. The companies demonstrate the resourcefulness, commitment and innovation that founders are capabile of.

In some way its better to be a in city fighting to create something new. It brings people together to focus their efforts on creating something of meaning and value.

My next ‘Loving the Underdog’ post will be Loving the Underdog! PART3 – Why we Love ’em

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Starting-up: Community not just location

May 19, 2010

There’s no doubt that location is an extremely important factor for startups. But what if you’re not based in one of the great startup tech hubs e.g. Silicon Valley or Boston – do you move to one or make the most of where you are? The benefit of any location is the local supporting community and locality of your target customers. To be a success focus on the nearest and best resources to your location.This even applies being in the greatest startup hubs. There are no guarantees of success!!

Paul Graham said, when referring to great startup locations:

“…that’s where the experts are. Standards are higher; people are more sympathetic to what you’re doing; the kind of people you want to hire want to live there; supporting industries are there; the people you run into in chance meetings are in the same business.”

No matter where your startup is, you  are competing on a global playing field. Your product has to be world-class to survive! This means startups can start anywhere, if you are committed to competing with the best. However startups aren’t easy and they need lots of friendly help and support. This can be derived from a good location, strong local support and a willingness to travel.

Two friends of mine – Adam Bird (CTO, co-founder of Esendex) & Andy McLoughlin (Strategy Director, co-founder of Huddle) recently packed their bags for Silicon Valley. Their two successful companies are proof that tech companies can make it outside the valley. But why are they heading for the USA? The US is a very big market and customers there expect a local presents, preferably a founder and The Valley is the centre of tech in the US. Esendex and Huddle made the most of their local community eco-system and local customers before branching out to the States.

At this years SXSW Ross Kimbarovsky and Mike Samson, the founders of crowdSPRING based in Chicago said if you want to succeed as a startup outside the existing ecosystems in Silicon Valley, etc., then you have to invest in your local ecosystem.” Both Adam and Andy have made significant efforts and impact on their local communities. Andy/Ali setup DrinkTank and Adam started Nott Tuesday. They were focused on their local startup eco-system. These guys have also been very supportive to other startups, like ours.

Just because you are located in a startup hub like Silicon Valley or Boston it does not mean your startup will be successful. What really matters is attitude, just look at Skype from Luxembourg,  MySQL from Helsinki and Bebo from London. Startups have to make things happen wherever they are and they need to help create a support network around them – this is what really matters.

Geek n’ Rolla: Community, community, community

April 24, 2009

Mike Butcher of TechCrunch UK set a brisk pace at this weeks inaugural Geek n’ Rolla in London. The one day conference was packed with top Tech UK speakers including Inma Martinez, Andy McLoughlin and William Reeve. The Rock n’ Rolla gangsta theme was celebrating the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit. After all there are  very similar traits between entrepreneurs and criminals. They are both highly inventive, enterprising and resourceful. I and others felt the event created a real sense of community (a law abiding one that is).

rocknrolla-movie1

The event was supporting and building the UK Tech startup community for startups like ours (Aware Monitoring). Lashings of helpful and informative advice was given out throughout the day from: Andy McLouglin on building a strong team; bootstrapping from William Reeve; Lesley Eccles on launching big in the USA; and working with VC’s /Angels from Fred Destin / Nick HalsteadDaniel Tenner has a write-up of the talks in more detail. Some of the advice from the panel judging the 10 startup pitches at the event was brutally honest. I was really impressed with the standard of pitch. They were all very professional. Not a stutter or ummm amongst them. My money’s on the Booking Bug or Swiffen startups.

The networking was cosy with 250 people in a small space but it worked. I felt a real sense of community from the startups at the event and applaud Ian Hogarth for setting up community resources like startuptools. Mike Butcher did a really good job bringing everyone together. Well done, Arrington (Mike’s boss) would be proud ;). And I applaud any one who helps bring the UK Tech community together including the DrinkTank, OpenSoho and the Nott Tuesday organisers.

palo-alto

The Americans really get their Tech community efforts right in The Valley. Yes, I know the UK doesn’t have the funding or the close ties with Tech focused Universities like in The Valley but that’s the point. Guy Richie can make hit films and we can make hit apps. People keep reminding me the odds are against our website monitoring startup succeeding as we are located in the wrong city and the wrong county i.e. as a Tech startup we should be in London, UK or better still in the USA. I say that doesn’t mean we won’t succeed! Loads of great Tech startups and businesses have come out of the UK including Last FM, BeboMessageLabs, Sage, etc.

I think the UK Tech scene is going from strength to strength. The community brings so many benefits: Sharing of ideas; sharing of problems; sharing of resources; sharing positivity and sharing ambition. After all, together we are stronger 🙂