North East FinTech Ecosystem Report 2019-2020

Published in December 2019, this report analyses the North East FinTech ecosystem & finds the region to have a strong established financial & technology sector with a growing number of early stage FinTech firms.

Based on insights gained from a combination of desk-based research, focus groups & interviews conducted over several months in the latter half of 2019, the report is the first formal analysis of the FinTech ecosystem in the North East of England.

Co-authored by Julian Wells (Director & FinTech Practice Lead, Whitecap Consulting) & James Thwaites (Associate Director for the North East, Whitecap Consulting), the report is published at a time where there is an increasing focus on the role that the regions outside of London & the South East of England can play in the future growth of the UK FinTech sector.

Read the report

Click / tap on the image below to read the report.

Download the North East FinTech Ecosystem Report 2019-2020

[Video] Over Thinker – Dan Prince Podcast Ep011: Paul Lancaster

Dan Prince is one of the UK’s best photographers & visual storytellers who has created his ‘Over Thinker Podcast‘ as a way to delve deeper into some of the stories behind the images he captures & people he meets through his work.

Although I haven’t had the pleasure of being photographed by Dan yet, I was delighted to be asked to take part in this podcast interview which is available on both Apple Podcasts & as a YouTube video too (below).

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below, on YouTube or by Tweeting Dan & I @danprincephoto & @lordlancaster

Paul Lancaster (Plan Digital) wins ‘PROFILE’ category in North East Times ‘Impact Awards 2019’

The North East Times ‘Impact Awards’ highlight those people based in the North East who have made an exceptional impact across five key areas – financial, global, regional, profile & innovation.

Our Founder & Director, Paul Lancaster, won the ‘PROFILE’ category in the 2019 awards for the way he promotes the North East business community on a regional, national & international level at an awards ceremony at Wylam Brewery in Newcastle on 4th December 2019.

The following article appeared in the December issue of North East Times magazine:

‘PROFILE’ Impact Award Winner – Paul Lancaster (Founder & Director, Plan Digital UK)

While some baulk at the term ‘SuperConnector’, Paul Lancaster not only embraced the label when he first read about it in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 book, The Tipping Point, but it continues to inform his work to promote the North East and its business community.

Paul spent a career helping people start their own business, in roles for Shell LiveWIRE, Tech North, Generator and for corporates including Sage and PNE Group, before establishing his own business, Plan Digital, in 2016.

Paul Lancaster wins North East Times Impact Awards 2019

As a business owner, Paul continued to advise entrepreneurs but found that, despite there being a wealth of support and advice on starting a business, people were still struggling to find the information they required. Paul decided the North East needed an internationally significant event where a network of like- minded people could attend and be inspired and share knowledge around topics such as starting and growing a business, investment and skills retention.

Paul held his first Newcastle Startup Week in 2017. The five-day event offered a range of talks and workshops divided into five themes: inspiration, establishing a business, funding and finance, scaling, and whether to keep going or pivot.

Held annually, the event has gone from strength to strength, with 2019’s Newcastle Startup Week attracting almost 800 delegates and featuring major speakers including Steve Bartlett, founder and CEO of Social Chain. In addition, a series of fringe events took place, further boosting the knowledge sharing and support.

Paul worked with Newcastle University to analyse the impact of Newcastle Startup Week 2019. The resulting report shows 82 per cent of attendees ‘gained new knowledge or insight’, 61 per cent felt ‘more confident’, 40 per cent ‘found new collaborations or partners’ and 20 per cent found ‘new customers or markets’.

Newcastle Startup Week is also increasingly attracting people from outside of the region, with more than 60 per cent of this year’s attendees based from outside Newcastle.

“They use it as a way of finding out what’s going on in the North East” Paul says.

To continue the momentum of Newcastle Startup Week, Paul ran a one-day Scale-Up Summit in 2018 and has now added to this with his Founders’ Friday events. Held the last Friday of each month and sponsored by Sintons law firm, they provide attendees with a day of networking, workshops, panel discussions and economic insights.

Encouraging collaboration is an essential driver for Paul – who played an instrumental role in bringing the business and incubator centre, TusPArk, to Newcastle.

He has made it his mission to promote links between the North East of England and the South East of Scotland in particular.

“People are always looking South [to build business links] but I’ve been going up to Scotland for many years and Edinburgh and Newcastle are cities that have a lot in common. There are a lot of opportunities for collaboration between the two areas.”

This northern outlook doesn’t stop at Scotland as Paul is also working to promote links with Newcastle and the Nordic countries and Canada too.

In addition, Plan Digital UK’s founder has attended and spoken at a variety of tech events around the world in 2019 including Turing Fest, Edinburgh, Techfestival Copenhagen, Edinburgh Startup Summit and Lisbon Web Summit.

It seems that wherever Paul goes, whether physically or via his digital reach – he is the architect of the hugely popular #ThisIsMINE – the region’s most prolific super connector is always flying the flag for the North East.

Read about all the other Impact Awards winners & shortlisted nominees here.

Impact Awards Winners 2019

Getting started with Zoho Books

Indian tech giant Zoho Corporation has been sponsoring our monthly Founders’ Friday events since November 2018.

They’ve been doing this as a way to help raise awareness of their excellent, low-cost cloud accounting software Zoho Books in the UK which has been specifically created for micro, small & medium enterprise businesses.

Varun Singh (Head of Marketing, Zoho Books) took part in a live Q&A at our Founders’ Friday event in November & you can watch the Facebook Live video here.

This month, he came back to Newcastle to visit some Zoho clients & to record a short demo video / webinar with Paul Lancaster (Founder & Director, Plan Digital) plus an interview for his ‘SuperConnector Show’ podcast.

Watch the video below if you’d like to know more about why Zoho Books is such a great choice for small & micro businesses:

Listen to the podcast below if you’d like to know more about Zoho Corporation, why they decided to support business startup activities in Newcastle upon Tyne, England & the importance of taking your time when forging new partnerships & exploring new international markets. (This podcast is available on Spreaker, iTunes or Spotify).

Try Zoho Books for free

If you like the look of Zoho Books, you can sign up for a no obligation, free 14 day trial here after which it’s just £6, £12 or £18 + VAT per month if you decide to keep it (see below).

Creative Fuse: Project Report 2019

Drawing on the combined expertise of all five universities in the North East of England, Creative Fuse North East set out firstly to map the Creative, Digital & IT (CDIT) sector in the North East and then to catalyse new ways of working between businesses, freelancers & academics.

The core of the project has been to explore the concept of ‘Fusion’ – the combination of ideas & skills from creative, design & technology disciplines – to provide businesses with a potent mix that can support growth in terms of staff, products & sustainability.

Click / tap on the image below to download the final report.

Creative Fuse: Project Report 2019

#MicroBizMatters Day 2019

Established in 2015, the 5th annual #MicroBizMatters Day event was broadcast live from the the majestic Guildhall building in Hull on Friday 11th January 2019.

Taking the form of a live, continuous Google Hangout On Air which was broadcast live through YouTube between 7am-3pm, it also featured workshops, panel discussions & live performances featuring over 100 micro business owners & champions from around the UK (see schedule & video below).

Watch the Google Hangout on YouTube

Roll of Honour

Headline Stats

There were an estimated 1500 Tweets containing the #MicroBizMatters hashtag, estimated reach was 173,134 unique Twitter accounts & estimated Impressions (no. of times the Tweets were seen) is 1M+ (1,035,503).

Searching for the ‘Right Direction’?

If you’re searching for the right direction in life or in business, listen to this song & read the lyrics below carefully too:

‘Right Direction’ by Sway, DJ Turkish, Youngman & @lordlancaster

Whenever you’re trying to move too quick on the way to the top
Its only “Right” that you’re gonna get lost
Tryna “keep” up so you don’t get “left” behind
Without a penny so you don’t give a toss
Heads or tails you’re taking too many gambles
You’re on a “roundabout” and going too hard
“Then” you’re on the “road” taking too many shortcuts
Tryna “stay” in the race and now you’re going too fast
That’s not the sound that you hear *Speeding Alert*
Its more like *police siren* what’ve we found over here?
When the feds ask me I’m I moving any gear I’m like yeah
I’m, good with the six right here
I’m tryna buy “300 yards” so whenever me and ideas “cross” paths
I action it, I Bronson it, on some gangster Giggs, Mark Ronson sh@^
Ah, everybody knows that I’m in my own “Lane”
Speaking of everybody nose
I can share a Coke I ain’t watching no names
‘Cause I’ve always been the one that hopes everybody blows
Whether I “Turn left” or “right”
Speaking of everybody nose
I can share a Coke I ain’t watching no names
‘Cause I’ve always been the one that hopes everybody blows
Whether I “Turn left” or “right”
“Turn” day or night, I ain’t running to be “2nd”
I’m here to “stay” gotta keep “ahead” with every lyric I “write”
Let’s go


Clear roads no more traffic on the way
Here goes, here goes
I’ve been moving in the right direction (So clear)
Keep on moving in the right direction

“Enjoy the journey as much as the destination, There are no shortcuts, its gonna be hard” – Brad Burton

2nd Verse
Vroom, money money got you revving up your engine
But what do we have “left” when we spend it?
And “after” the debts pile up you‘ll see everybody and their Mummy running for the “Exit”
That’s “when” you start getting desperate
Some reach “the end of the road” wanna “end” it

When applying for jobs, people at the top take too long to respond
Ah, I know my flow is madness and it’s got the people screaming out Sway’s back
Every year you say that
And even when the road got Rocky I was upstairs ASAP
“Right” wake up the game ‘cause they take naps
Got a brother feeling like Sean, take that
Look “sharp” I Combs through my issues
So you can see where my waves at
Everybody knows that I’m in my own “Lane”
Speaking of everybody nose
I can share a Coke I ain’t watching no names
‘Cause I’ve always been the one that hopes everybody blows
Whether I “Turn left” or “right”
I’m tryna exceed my estimations
And googles the only time I’m hanging out ‘till she says
“You have reached your destination”


3rd Verse
Do re mi, I’ma “Keep write”-in until I turn “80”
Even though I’ve got a couple songs about speed *Speeding Alert*
Sorry, I still encourage road safety
I ain’t gonna retire, until my tyres have had it only then will I be tired and vanish Timmy Mallet
For now I wanna get played by Phil & Alice, wave bye to haters awww they feel embarrassed

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:

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).