For the past 8 months (since August 2015) I’ve been on the most incredible journey with my Tech North colleagues but it’s now time for me to move on.
As ‘Community Engagement & Partnerships Manager’, I’ve had the enormous privilege of meeting and working with literally hundreds of amazingly talented people across the North of England – from startup founders to corporate giants – all pulling together to help grow the Northern tech community in the seven major cities of Newcastle, Sunderland, Hull, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool (and many points in between).
Despite some rather sensational headlines in the media lately, I’m leaving Tech North on positive terms and will continue to support it as best I can. My original contract simply came to an end on 31st March 2016 and so rather than sign a new one, I’ve decided the time is now right to start my own business, Plan Digital UK. (This is something I was actually on the verge of doing when I was offered the Tech North job last year).
I temporarily put this on hold as the opportunity to shine a light on all the great things that were already happening in the North whilst kick-starting something new was a huge draw and I’ve had an amazing experience with a truly awesome team.
It’s fair to say there were a few sceptics in the beginning who either saw us as a threat to what they were doing or didn’t see the need for another Government body loosely linked to the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. However, we soon won people over when they saw how genuinely committed and passionate we all were, with a grassroots approach to community building that took inspiration from Brad Feld’s ‘Boulder Thesis’.
With a broad remit but modest budget, we set about trying to inspire people to start their own tech business or community-based project, develop skills, create more jobs, improve access to finance and market the North to the rest of the UK and around the world. Our flagship ‘Northern Stars’ programme and relentlessly upbeat social media activity which you can follow and contribute to via the #TechNorth hashtag have helped turn this into a reality.
From a personal perspective, I’ve tried to use my networks and online influence to act like a ‘SuperConnector’ – bringing people and businesses together, mentoring and advising, matchmaking, making introductions, spotting opportunities to innovate and encouraging greater collaboration across the North.
I’ve also been able to sponsor and seed fund some fantastic events and initiatives that otherwise would not have happened, including some where our involvement has helped organisers unlock further sponsorship and support.
I’ve loved spending time in each of the seven amazing cities listed above every week but I love my wife and kids more and being away for one or two nights (and sometimes five nights) a week is tough when you have a young family so I’m looking forward to spending much more time with them at home.
So, from 1st April onwards I’ll continue to build connections between people and businesses but with more focus on the North East specifically. I’ll also be looking to share my knowledge, skills and expertise with individuals or organisations on a consultancy basis so please get in touch and/or Follow me on Twitter @lordlancaster if you think I can help.
The mission is much bigger than any one person so although I’m leaving the team I’ll continue to support from the sidelines and hope you will too as “We Are (All) Tech North”!