Startup Heatmap 2018 – Rise of the Interconnected Startup

63% of all founders from London participating in the Startup Heatmap surveys from 2016- 2018 were born abroad.

In Berlin the number is 53%. 60% of startups in the 2018 survey state they have employees, investors or entities abroad. European founders have bred a completely new form of entrepreneurship: The interconnected or distributed startup company.

Click / tap on the image below the find out more:

Live Q&A with Peter Davison (PayPal / Fishburners) on 16th October 2018

Peter Davison, first seed investor in PayPal, key adviser to Peter Thiel & founder of Australia’s largest co-working space ‘Fishburners’ (also now in Shanghai) did a Fireside Chat and live Q&A with us at the Tuspark Eagle Lab co-working space in Newcastle on Tuesday 16th October.

Peter Davison (PayPal / Fishburners)

Peter’s ancestors emanate from the Newcastle area so his team emailed us after reading about Newcastle Startup Week as he was keen to get to know the local startup scene and share with them his personal learnings from his lengthy career within the startup industry in Silicon Valley, Australia and China.

Whether you work for a startup, scaleup or enterprise level business, are an investor, adviser or just keen supporter of the North East business community, this was a chance to hear first hand what Silicon Valley is really like and what it takes to grow a successful tech community in your town or city!

We were delighted to see over 100 people at the event and whether you were or not, it’s worth listening to Peter’s words of wisdom again via the Facebook Live video below:

Is Local Tribalism holding the North East back?

In May we ran another successful 5-day Newcastle Startup Week festival for over 600 people for the 2nd year in a row. This year, I was delighted to see we attracted more people from outside the region including Scotland, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Wales, London and the South Coast plus a handful from Germany, Switzerland and the USA. This shows that our ongoing social media marketing and PR is working and helping to spread the word about what a great place the North East is to start and grow a business.

However, when I dig a bit deeper into where people are coming from within our region, the breakdown is disappointing. Of the 610 delegates, 373 were from Newcastle upon Tyne but only 28 were from Gateshead (33 came from Manchester). Worse still, only 11 came from North Shields, 9 from South Shields and just 6 from Sunderland (the same number that travelled all the way from London)! Go further North and South of the region and the number falls to just 5 from Durham and 1 each from Darlington and Cramlington, with the same number from other towns and villages in rural parts of the region.

Newcastle Startup Week 2018 analytics

Clearly we need to do more to get the message out that despite the name, Newcastle Startup Week is all about celebrating local success stories from across the North East and encouraging more people in our region to be more entrepreneurial and bring their business ideas to life. The reason we call it ‘Newcastle’ Startup Week and not ‘North East’ Startup Week is because all our daytime and night time events have so far taken place within Newcastle city centre to make everything within easy walking distance. And from an inward investment point of view, when we’re trying to attract businesses and people from outside the region, Newcastle is the brand everyone has heard of. (If you say ‘North East’ to some people, they think you mean North East London, North East Scotland or the North East of their own country).

Even so, I’m concerned that deep-rooted local tribalism (linked to football teams and rivalries borne during the heavy industry era) may be preventing some people in the North East from making the most of opportunities on their doorstep just a 20-30min drive or short Metro ride away. Meanwhile, people from other parts of the UK (and other countries) are willing to spend hours travelling to Newcastle to get the knowledge, contacts and sometimes funding they need to start their business back home. As someone at Newcastle University recently said to me, “Where are all the Geordie and Mackem entrepreneurs?”

If you live outside Newcastle and dream of starting your own business, I hope to see you at Newcastle Startup Week next year and if it makes it more palatable, I’m pleased to say we will be running some of our events on the Gateshead side of the river too. Likewise, if you know someone thinking of starting a business, please encourage them to attend so they don’t miss out on next year’s event. Find out more at

Creative Fuse Conference 2018: Thinking Nationally – Learnings, Insights & Challenges in Innovation

Thanks to the Creative Fuse team for inviting me to take part in a panel discussion on ‘Thinking Nationally: Learnings, Insights and Challenges in Innovation’ with Solomon Nwabueze (Chief Content Officer, Creative England) and Professor Eric Cross (Principal Investigator, Creative Fuse North East) at the Creative Fuse Conference on 11th July 2018.

A lack of visibility to decision-makers based in London can be a problem for the North East so it was great to hear from Solomon about all the good work Creative England are doing to find and support creative individuals and businesses in the regions. (Read the Creative England Investment Programme 2012-2017 Impact Report).

We also discussed some interesting themes relating to the importance of geography, network and population size and whether local tribalism was potentially holding the North East of England back.

I also explained a bit about the work I’ve been doing around the forthcoming North of Tyne devolution and UK Industrial Strategy and suggested adopting ‘Greater Newcastle’ as a new way of marketing, promoting and thinking about the Primary Urban Area (PUA) around Newcastle to a national and international audience.

For those of you who couldn’t be there (and even if you were), you can watch our discussion and the full livestream of Day 2 by clicking / tapping on the image below:

Creative Fuse Conference 2018

Northern Powerhouse Railcard?

As someone who previously worked as ‘Community Engagement & Partnerships Manager’ for Tech North (part of Tech City UK & recently rebranded as Tech Nation) I recognise the value of encouraging entrepreneurs, startups & SMEs to travel between the major Northern cities of Newcastle, Sunderland, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield & Hull plus of course London & Edinburgh.

However, most don’t because of the perceived high cost (it can be unnecessarily expensive), perceived poor infrastructure (I don’t think it’s THAT bad) & the deep-rooted city rivalries & local tribalism.

Rightly or wrongly, most people in the UK simply don’t travel regularly between cities unless it’s for a holiday/city break, especially not startups & micro business owners (0-9 employees) which is stifling innovation, creativity & productivity & holding our economy back.

We ‘Northerners’ are at a disadvantage because the amount of money spent on Northern transport infrastructure is ridiculously low when compared to London, yet we are also often expected to travel to London for meetings & work opportunities & rarely the other way around which is like an extra tax on the North.

It will cost millions/billions over many years to fix/upgrade transport infrastructure in the North. In the short term, to help encourage greater movement of talent, business networking & knowledge exchange, I’d REALLY like to see Transport for the North do the following:

Introduce a new ‘Northern Powerhouse Railcard’ giving 1/3 off all rail fare for entrepreneurs & founders of businesses in their first 3yrs of trading, based in the North East, North West & Yorkshire.

We already have 1/3 off Railcards for 16-25yr olds, 26-30yr olds, Family & Friends, Senior Railcards & Disabled at so why not entrepreneurs/new businesses?

I’m sure it would be a big hit & would certainly use it. Would you? (Please Share &/or Comment below if you like the idea).

How will Brexit affect London’s tech startup scene & how does it compare to Newcastle / the North East of England, Paris & Lisbon?

How will Brexit affect London’s tech startup scene and how does London compare to Newcastle / the North East of England, Paris and Lisbon?

IPPR (The Institute for Public Policy Research)’s latest report, ‘Charting a course for the future: How London’s startup scene can survive and thrive in the age of Brexit‘ provides an excellent insight into London’s tech startup scene in June 2018, rebalancing the economy through devolution, the challenges that lie ahead for the UK and also some great case studies on the tech startup scenes in Newcastle / North East of England, Paris and Portugal.

(Click / tap on the image below to download).

IPPR Charting a Course for the Future: How London's startup scene can survive & thrive in the age of Brexit

About IPPR

IPPR is the UK’s leading progressive think tank and an independent charitable organisation with our main offices in London. IPPR North, IPPR’s dedicated think tank for the North of England, operates out of offices in Manchester and Newcastle, and IPPR Scotland, their dedicated think tank for Scotland, is based in Edinburgh.

IPPR’s purpose is to conduct and promote research into, and the education of the public in, the economic, social and political sciences, science and technology, the voluntary sector and social enterprise, public services, and industry and commerce.

[Event] Barclays £500M Northern Powerhouse Fund Launch @ Tuspark Newcastle (Tuesday 3rd July 2018)

Barclays has just launched a new £500m growth fund for small & medium-sized businesses across the North of England as a part of their commitment to support the Government’s Northern Powerhouse Initiative.

The new fund is available now and enables Barclays to offer the following business lending services for the first time:

  • Fee free lending up to £25,000
  • Up to £100,000 lending without the need for tangible security
  • Up to £250,000 overdraft without the need for property security for transport & logistics, business services, wholesalers & manufacturing companies
  • Cash flow funding for businesses to invest in acquisitions & organic business growth

The fund adds half a billion pounds of available funding and sits alongside the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) and North East Fund – both of which can be combined with the Barclays Fund meaning even more growth support for the economy of the North of England.

Attend the North East launch event

The event on Tuesday 3rd July is an opportunity to find out more about the Barclays fund & to meet representatives of the four fund management companies managing the additional £120m North East Fund.

Barclays’ £500m Northern Powerhouse Fund Launch
Tuesday 3rd July (8am-10am)
Tuspark Newcastle, Maybrook House,
27 Grainger Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5JE

To register your place, please RSVP to

Barclays announces £500M Northern Powerhouse Fund

Community Work

One of my favourite business / economic development books is ‘Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City‘ by Brad Feld (Co-Founder of TechStars, VC & Managing Director of Foundry Group based in Boulder, Colorado).

In it, he compares the old, industrial era way of working under a hierarchy to the modern, information age where early stage entrepreneurship flourishes without one. He says if the hierarchy tries to drive the startup community it essentially stifles it. Instead of a hierarchy, many aspects of what we do today are working as a network.

When Brad talks about his ‘Boulder Thesis’ comprising 4 parts which he says are ‘essential to a sustainable, vibrant startup community’, I believe we already have a lot of this in Newcastle & the wider North East of England.

Watch the video and read my comments below to see if you feel the same….

  1. ‘The community must be led by entrepreneurs’ – The entrepreneurs are the leaders whilst the Government, Universities, VC’s, lawyers, etc are the feeders. The latter are important but they can’t and shouldn’t be the leaders determining how the community will grow and evolve. This is the role of the entrepreneurs who are anyone that is being creative, inventing and making things happen. I particularly like this idea and am excited by the fact that there are many different people doing interesting and exiting things in the North East right now simply because they want to, not because it’s their job or they are getting paid to do it. The opposite is when events and activities are controlled and dictated by a select few, which then has a negative impact on the wider community as it doesn’t allow people to experiment, learn and grow together. As Brad says at the very end of the video, ‘It’s the network chaos of entrepreneurs doing what entrepreneurs do to create things – that force to build something bigger than themselves and their company which is so incredibly powerful’.
  2. ‘Entrepreneurs have to take a very long-term view’ – It may take 20yrs+ before the startup community benefits from the work that they do. (According to this Tech North article we’re about 14yrs into the journey). Over time there ‘will be some extraordinary successes but also some really huge failures’. Even when someone is extremely successful they should still remain part of that community. Likewise, when someone is a failure, don’t cast them out of the community. Help them dust themselves off and welcome them back into the fold, reinforcing the idea that it’s ok to fail – it’s just part of the process. This is one thing that I think we could do better at in the North East. There are some, but at present I don’t see enough successful entrepreneurs reinvesting their own wealth into new startups and sharing their expertise, nor big businesses using them as suppliers, partners and innovation hubs.
  3. ‘You have to have a philosophy of inclusiveness’ – It’s not just other entrepreneurs but anyone who is interested in being part of the startup ecosystem should be ‘allowed in’ without any special handshakes, having the right credentials or ‘being in with the in crowd’. If everyone contributes energy to the startup community, it’ll get bigger and grow faster, be more successful and more fun. From my experience, the developers in the North East in particular are extremely welcoming and supportive of each other, always willing to help each other out and share knowledge and expertise. There are some natural leaders amongst them but it’s not forced and there is no set agenda other than doing things for the greater good of the community, having fun and growing as an individual. Regular collaboration & a sense of community are real strengths of the North East tech & digital sector.
  4. ‘You have to have activities and events that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack’ – These need to be content rich and full of useful content rather than simply a networking event or award dinner. The weekly developer meetups, monthly digital showcases & educational events previously hosted at the Campus North co-working & event space & now held at places like Tuspark Eagle Lab in Newcastle have been a major boost to the local startup community. My own 5-day ‘Newcastle Startup Week‘ festival was created to help engage the wider business community, attracting 600+ delegates from the North East, across the UK, Europe, USA and Asia. Our free monthly Founders’ Friday events also provide a useful platform for new, existing & potential business startup founders to come together with members of the wider business community to share knowledge, insights & support.

Newcastle and the wider North East of England is a fantastic place to start or grow a business, especially a tech / digital / creative one but the work is never done & we mustn’t get complacent or take things for granted. It’s important to take regular (probably annual) & honest reviews of where we are, how far we’ve come & where things can be improved but we’re in good shape & there’s nowhere I’d rather be!

#MicroBizMatters Day 2018 (12th January)

The 4th #MicroBizMatters Day event took place on Friday 12th January and this year not only did we help run it as usual, we sponsored the breakfast for our fellow ‘Head Roadies’ and guests!

The annual event is all about ‘micro businesses’ (0-9 employees) coming together with their friends and supporters to celebrate the unique and vital contribution they make to the UK economy and in countries all around the world.

We do this by using ‘Google Hangouts On Air’ to broadcast a 7hr+ livestream of micro business owners sharing tips & advice from a temporary studio and various locations around the UK (& other countries too).

Watch the Hangout

To see who else was involved, download the event programme by clicking on the image below.

Download the #MicroBizMatters Day 2018 Souvenir Programme

‘The Experience Bank’ helps SMEs connect with Non–Executive Directors

The Experience Bank‘ has launched in the North East to forge better connections between Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) and entrepreneurs.

The not-for-profit, business-led initiative will help facilitate introductions between small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to reap the benefits of working with an experienced NED.

The benefits of bringing a NED into a business include a fresh perspective, additional sector knowledge, better business decisions, and support with overcoming challenges. A good NED can also bring new skills, networks and open doors.

Geoff Hodgson, Chair of The Experience Bank Advisory Board, explained: “There’s a need for an initiative to act as a kind of ‘dating agency’ between Non Executive Directors and companies here in the North East, helping businesses to access talented people who can support them as they grow. While not a commercial match-maker, The Experience Bank does just that”.

The Advisory Board at The Experience Bank manages a high quality network of NEDs and helps make appropriate introductions to businesses, depending on their specific needs. A NED may be identified because they have skills in a specific area needed by the team, such as marketing, law or financial planning.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, added: “Access to talented Non-Executive Directors is key to helping businesses in the region to scale and that’s why the North East LEP is supporting the launch of The Experience Bank, which will be a real asset to the North East.”

Neil Warwick, Head of EU and Competition law at commercial law firm Square One Law, said: “The Experience Bank is driven by a passion for the region, a passion to do something different and to make a difference. It’s all about getting talented people to help growing companies.”

Chris Reed, Founder of ProxiSmart Ltd, attended The Experience Bank’s launch event and said: “Non-Executive Directors bring a wealth of knowledge and experience, and it’s leaning on that know-how that really can help your business in particular areas where you might not have the expertise yourself.”

The Experience Bank is now accepting applications from experience business leaders who want to work as NEDs in the North East and also from business owners who would like to work with NEDs.

More information about The Experience Bank is available on the North East Growth Hub here.