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Bristol - The UK’s Creative Startup Hub

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by Startacus Admin

Mark Paney is the Marketing Director and Co-Founder of Simpleweb, a passionate web and mobile product development company based in Bristol. Here he shares all his knowledge and experience to pass on the key places, meetups, startups and events synonymous with the startup scene in Bristol.Simpleweb

"When I was first starting out, the startup scene in Bristol was virtually non-existent. The only startup support around (that I knew of) was the formal South West Angel and Investor Network and perhaps the most prominent startup was the online music distribution company, OD2, which was later acquired by Loudeye and eventually Nokia…

These days, Bristol is one of (if not the) fast growing startup hubs in the UK outside of London. In fact, there are so many tech companies and startups in Bristol and the surrounding areas, we’ve been dubbed by some as the ‘Silicon Gorge’.

So why do we attract so much startup talent?

Bristol has a reputation for being a creative city, with a renowned music and art scene. We play host to a number of popular, world class festivals including Love Saves The Day,Brisfest,Upfest, the citywide Harbour Festival…the list goes on.

With a culture so supportive of creatives, is it any wonder that so many entrepreneurs are setting up camp here?

As the startup scene began to grow in Bristol, so did the amount of support available to budding entrepreneurs…

Bristol and Bath make up the biggest proportion of the country’s 5 SETsquared Centres,  who have helped over 1,000 companies over the last ten years, with a way-above-average survival rate of 90%.

According to Nick Sturge, Director of the Bristol SETsquared Centre, diversity is key to Bristol’s thriving startup scene...

“The biggest reason why Bristol is so good for startups is that, with its close partner Bath and surrounding areas that make up the Bristol & Bath city-region, it has the greatest diversity of industry sectors, public/private/third sector split, culture, demographics and geography, which lead to a long history of innovation, exploration and, above all, ambition.”

Nick believes that the success of local startups in recent years is helping to put Bristol on the map, with a knock on effect of attracting more attention for newer startups...

“There is a huge can-do attitude – which makes it so much easier for businesses to start-up and grow. The city is fast becoming an incubator itself. This is having a knock on effect – not least nationally and internationally, raising the profile of the city which makes it that much easier to attract investment, media and political attention, customers and senior talent to this area – all things which have historically been difficult for Bristol-based startups and SMEs.”

Local “internet incubator” WebStart Bristol is an amazing programme, providing up to 30 early stage startups per year with a home, some money and 10 weeks of intensive expert mentoring to help them get their startups off the ground.

Not only is Bristol full of creatives, but there’s an amazing sense of community. Whether you’re a designer, inventor, tech genius, experienced entrepreneur or just a person with an idea, you’ll find a whole community full of people just like you who want to help and support you however they can.

There are dozens of meetups for techies including Bristol JSPHPSWBristol Web Folk and the Bristol Ruby User Group, to name a few! Budding and experienced entrepreneurs alike can find partners, validate ideas or just make friends at South West Founders.

The quality of startups coming out of Bristol in recent years is exceptional. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing dozens of Bristol companies grow from tiny startups to national and international businesses.

Our friends over at Coull have developed an innovative way to make video advertising useful and national t-shirt treasure Truffle Shuffle, was born in Bristol. Bristol based Brightpearl offer cloud-based retail management software and have recently opened a second office in San Francisco to help them meet demand. W2 Global Data Solutions are on track to become one of the leading providers of financial screening services. Contactzilla is a simple contact management system I started with my Simpleweb partner as a solution to a contact management problem we were having in the office.

Bristol has been an amazing place to grow as an entrepreneur and I honestly couldn’t think of another city that could match it.

Bristol has been so good to me over the years and that’s why I make sure my company, Simpleweb, does what it can to give back. We encourage our developers to get involved in the tech community and two of them help organise tech meetups Bristol JS and PHPSW.

We organise and sponsor the Bristol leg of Rails Girls, an initiative encouraging women and girls to learn more about computer programming and we sponsor South West Founders to help entrepreneurs get the support they need. I’ve recently started mentoring a young startup as part of WebStart Bristol.

We’ve even launched #GetStarted2014, a startup competition offering £50k worth of web development, marketing and hosting to turn the best startup idea into a working product.

Bristol has one of the best startup and creative scenes I’ve ever known with a community that welcomes anyone and everyone with open arms and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it."

Bristol- The UK's Creative Startup HubRe Mark Panay
Mark Panay is the Marketing Director and Co-Founder of 
Simpleweb, a passionate web and mobile product development company based in Bristol. In addition to his love for emerging technology, Mark is also a trustee of Deki, a very cool microfinance charity that helps entrepreneurs in developing countries generate sustainable incomes. Say hi onTwitter or Google+.

Why not take a look at some of the other Bristol startup stuff we have featured so far this month

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Published on: 21st June 2014

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