While the tech industry in the North of the UK never seems to get the attention that London does, some recent successes for Northern startups show that innovation is alive and well outside of the capital.
Last night, Twile was one of 42 UK startups that attended Pitch@Palace at St. James’s Palace in London – at the invitation of Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. Pitching in front of The Queen and a room full of high profile investors and entrepreneurs, the overall winners were Drenched (first place) and Mobile Power (second) – both from Sheffield – and the People’s Choice award was won by Manchester-based OfferMoments. As a Yorkshire business, we were immensely proud to see our fellow Northerners take the top prizes!
Meanwhile, the grand final of the Northern Stars competition is about to take place in Manchester on 17 November, showcasing some of the most innovative early-stage tech startups in the North of the UK. Run by TechNorth, with finalists in a wide range of sectors – from eCommerce to finance to education – the competition is proof that the North has a lot to add to Britain’s technology economy.
In October, I was one of a small group of Northern entrepreneurs that joined TechNorth on a trip to the US west coast. We visited San Francisco and Seattle to raise awareness of our region’s tech industry and learn a little about how things are done across the pond. While San Francisco is the undisputed centre of the tech world, it was clear from this trip that the UK’s North is able to generate businesses that can compete on every level with those that spring up in Silicon Valley. The ambition, creativity and potential of the startups I travelled with were really quite inspiring – and we felt more than comfortable among the entrepreneurs and investors we met along the way.
I’ve written before about the challenges of raising investment and profile in the North of the UK, but these recent successes for the region’s tech sector should help to close the gap.