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Startups and Technology in Manchester

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by Startacus Admin

A rambling article for Startacus by Ian Moss of 196 Destinations

I’ve run Startup Digest Manchester for the last 2 & a half years with my co-curator, Coral. Before that I ran the tyoc hack days and was a founder of Manchester’s first tech-orientated co-working space that started when Madlab opened. Madlab still remains a great community space, for users groups to meet. TechHub Manchester has been a good event space for the last couple of years, and has dedicated desk space for startups in the Northern Quarter. More recently TiE have opened Founders’ Dock, and there’s been an entry level coworking space called Classroom, and a space for graduates from their called Assembly Manchester, as well as a post-university incubator called Innospace run by Manchester Metropolitan University.

There’s a variety of regular tech meetups for whatever flavour you desire to code in from Ruby to PHP, JavaScript, and Android. As well more applied meetups for XP, and LeanStartup, and a very successful Mobile Monday. Founders’ Assembly is a fortnightly session to progress your startup is, which I co-founded with Alan Ward of Besteno.

Manchester City SkylineManchester is renowned for it’s 90s indie music, but still has a thriving collection of small gig venues across town with the latest up & coming bands, from the University district, to the ever popular Northern Quarter, and out to Islington Mill (Salford). It’s also renowned for a very large student population, which we hope to further engage with to retain in the Manchester area at start-ups in the city. There’s some extremely nice areas in the suburbs such as Chorlton and West Didsbury that remain strong growth areas in the city & places for a fun night out. I believe there’s something called football too though I’ll let someone else tell you about that! There’s plenty of green space, with The Peak district to the east, and the Lake District is within a 2 hour drive as well.

Start-up wise there’s been a lot of publicity lately, and in recent years a lot more VC interest due to the efforts of TechHub Manchester & before this Techcelerate, but we’re still struggling at attracting very early stage seed investors, despite being surrounded by wealthy areas in Cheshire such as Alderley Edge and Hale, and very good SEIS and Angel Co-investment schemes from the government. There’s interest in running accelerators in the city, and that area is likely to change in the near future. I’m sure that other cities outside of London have this problem also. My dream would be for it to be much easier for start-ups here to get seed capital of around £50,000 to validate their idea, with no ties or match funding. This would dramatically change the number of start-ups in the city that can give their project their full and undivided attention.

Manchester has good links with Sheffield, Liverpool and Leeds and to some degree there’s great regional interaction. It’s something we can build upon to form a strong regional hub for start-ups.

Start-ups such as rormixCanddi, Malinko CareFatsomaCapsuleCRMSwirrlNifty (post-Collider accelerator), ShareMyStorage and SurveyMe count the city as their home. Other embryonic bootstrappers exist such as my own 196Destinations Besteno.

Tom Cheesewright has also mentioned ResponseTap ($0.5m round recently), Wakelet and Republic of Things. Additionally he’s running a consultancy to help give large companies access to those with the startup spirit, in order to help founders gain much needed bootstrapping finance at Bootstrappers.

Malinko, Fatsoma and RoRMix were all in part financed by AXM through the NW Fund for Creative & Digital, which has provided some stimulus to those companies with some traction already. CapsuleCRM and Swirrl have been financed through a mix of consulting & bootstrapping. SurveyMe from a previous exit. The lack of understanding of the potential of early stage technology companies prevents many Angels in the region getting involved in very early stage companies pre-traction, and in time hopefully they can grow to trust us with their well earned money & they’ll get a great ROI. However, a strong story telling capability can help with crowd funding wherever you are though, and NiftyDrive did well on Kickstarter, whilst WEDG are currently progressing nicely with their campaign on Kickstarter.

There’s a lot of potential in the city. We have a lot of supporting resources. I firmly believe that with the right degree of collaboration between the various start-up support organisations, and startups, we can be much greater than the sum of our parts and learn from each others experiences.

With 196 Destinations, whilst I’ve recently got a marketing guy on board, I’ve found it far from easy to get others involved? Ideally I’d find another ruby developer & a JavaScript/UI front-ender to come on board in exchange for equity. The job market is pretty buoyant at the moment so this seems to be an extra challenge to overcome. And perhaps people in Manchester haven't got as much savings as in other cities to allow for bootstrapping.    196 Descriptions

We need to encourage people to start-up all year round, make it easier for people to find co-founders, and further grow the support & mentorship networks that are starting to take shape. We need everyone in the city to support embryonic ideas with a strong vision, and help them capture their 1st thousand users.

196 Destinations     

At 196 Destinations we’re turning the world of travel on it’s head, and helping people live their travel dreams, by enabling them to collect together all the places they’d like to go in the future, and providing them with regular price updates from our partners, which include SkyScanner, to get them there. You can sign up now 

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Published on: 21st August 2014

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