Author Archive:Roland Mortimer

ByRoland Mortimer

Media coverage: BUSINESS ROCKS 2016: How can technology tackle global homelessness

Big Issue: Business Rocks’ ‘Hackathon’ competition explores new ways to tackle homelessness. First published in the Big Issue on 22/04/2016 here written by Andrew Burns.

This week, some of the brightest young minds in tech, digital and social housing in Britain came together at Business Rocks festival in Manchester to explore ways in which the tech industry can tackle homelessness across the globe.

In the end, the judging panel – which included Big Issue journalist Andrew Burns– picked Hadil Dayri and Emile Maret as winners for their innovative LIMBO app, which will encourage, support and help find work opportunities for homeless and vulnerably housed people.

Dayri and Maret (pictured) – students at the London School of Economics – emphasised the importance of work, and the value of someone earning a legitimate income in their steps away from homelessness and poverty.

“LIMBO will help bridge the gap between someone being homeless and heir long-term goal to work and earn a living,” they said.

LIMBO is about prevention, and stopping the cycle of homelessness getting worse“It’s estimated there are one million hidden homeless in Britain – those who are sofa surfing, staying in temporary accommodation or in hostels – and LIMBO is about prevention, and stopping the cycle of homelessness getting worse.”

The competition posed the question ‘How Can Tech Solve Global Homelessness?’ and encouraged contestants to focus on mental health service solutions through social media. Participants were educated on the everyday challenges and systematic needs of the homeless and most vulnerable, in the UK and across the world.

The Big Issue was joined on the judging panel with leading developers, social housing experts, and homeless individuals from Gary Neville’s much discussed Stock Exchange project, while Big Issue founder John Bird offered expert insight into his own experience of homelessness prevention and support over the past 25 years.

Other pitches included Supportnet, a website that would connect the homeless and vulnerable with relevant support services in their area; Pleji, an app would facilitate a form of crowdfunding and donations for homeless support projects and collections; Posty, which would act as a remote postal service for those with no fixed address; and StreetBuddy, an app designed to pair up someone in need with a local, skilled volunteer.

Business Rocks is a two-day global tech conference, and this year’s keynote speaker is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. The event ;has attracted more than 100 international speakers including global social influencer Brian Fanzo, priceline co-founder Jeff Hoffman and Dr Anita Goel of Nanobiosym.

LIMBO will now be piloted in Manchester in the coming months, with a view to expand it to other cities in the UK.

ByRoland Mortimer

Media coverage: Nine UK cities where tech is thriving

Tech City Insider: In a second report for TCi, StartUp Britain explore the work of technology startups in nine more UK cities, as the national enterprise campaign takes stock of its 2015 tour. First published in Tech City Insider on 14/09/2016 here written by Kosta Mavroulakis and Josh Neicho.

birminghamThis summer’s 28-city UK tour by StartUp Britain provided free advice to thousands of aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs – but it also offered real insight into the technology startup scene in these cities.

In our first TCi report, we reported from seven of these key tech cities. Here we bring you our dispatches from the ground in nine more.

Cardiff is HQ for a digital business whose niche is the ingenious application of technology –Hello and…, set up by ex-barrister Jenny Yeo as the Interflora of baking, dispatching personalised cupcake orders to bakeries around the country. Yeo is now re-launching the company as an online sales platform for every variety of independent food shop.

Hello and… is one of a roster of tech and creative companies supported by Cardiff Start. Its co-founder, Ramp Commerce CEO Neil Cocker, hails Cardiff as Europe’s fastest-growing capital, projected to grow 42%over the next two decades, with low overheads, great quality of life and “buzzing co-working centres” such as Indycube and Welsh ICE.

Tech City UK’’s Tech Nation report picked out South Wales as a tech “force to be reckoned with”. But there are challenges – fewer opportunities to speak to relevant investors than in a larger city, meaning the Ramp team has to spend “huge amounts of time travelling,” says Cocker. Exciting startups in the city include Blurrt, Noddlepod, Nudjed, Schoop and

Bristol took our tour temporarily away from the high street for a visit to the brand new Filwood Green business park: 40,000 square foot of office space aimed particularly at green and digital enterprises in a building with a green roof and an array of photovoltaic panels.

People we met there included Justin Ricks of the Knowle West Media Centre, which helps communities engage with digital technologies. Filwood Green is consciously seeking to reproduce the success of collaborative innovation hub Engine Shed next to Bristol’s Temple Meads station, in which sits the SETsquared incubator.

filwood greenNick Sturge, Engine Shed and SETsquared centre director, says Bristol’s appeal to tech entrepreneurs lies in the mixture of companies in various fields and third-sector organisations headquartered there and a “really diverse” talent pool. “We’re one of the stickiest cities for graduates coming and staying,” he told us. “We’re the only cool city in the UK with a decreasing average age”.

Tech startups located at SETsquared include Fundsurfer, YellowDog, BOXARR, CameraForensics and Wriggle.

There’s been plenty of publicity for Bournemouth’s vibrant startup scene – the UK’s fastest-growing digital economy, according to Tech Nation, claiming more than 400 creative and digital businesses in south-east Dorset – that’s one for every 1,000 people.

Notable agencies include Redweb and Thinking Juice, there are developers such asAmuzo, 3 Sided Cube, Base and Nourish, and among initiatives supporting tech areMeetdraw and She Says Bournemouth. Silicon Beach, a two-day conference staged in Bournemouth for the last five years, brings together leading strategic thinkers, digital innovators and brand experts.

Organiser Matt Desmier headed a 21-strong delegation to the equivalent gathering in Santa Monica and there’s a mission to Australia later this year. George Beverley, who is launching an innovation consultancy with Desmier and Giles Vincent that will take over the reins of local jobs website Think Create Do, told us “we have two great universities, a relatively small but ambitious creative community, and good access to London – so the talent pool is transient. This almost forced the collaboration between academia, local government and industry which has been a critical factor in the area’s success.”

Olly Whittle of SWARM Marketing, who has just launched a new App called BudiPay, said “it is great to see the area being recognised as a centre to start a business”.

brighton pier2014 StartUp Britain figures found Brighton punched far above its weight for business incorporations, trailing only cities with much larger populations. Some 84% of Brighton tech businesses polled for Tech Nation said they felt part of a cluster, a sense of community that Tech City UK suggests is reinforced by the number of tech conferences held in the area and the wealth of co-working spaces.

Ian Elwick and Martin Bouette, CEO and chief creative officer of one of the latter, The Werks Group, are building a basement suite of editing and sound studios. They have grown to five sites in Brighton & Hove, containing firms across the tech and creative spectrum.

The tech-oriented startups they house include a project to measure colour using mobile phone technology, and Buzz Tech, which has developed a next-generation 3D printer to include assembly after printing.

Sarah James, of design and brand agency 05creative Ltd, based at The Werks, said: “Brighton is a great place to live, and more and more people are finding it’s also an excellent place to run their business”.

Among those we met on our visit were two ex-colleagues from American Express’s European HQ in Brighton selected to join the city’s new Entrepreneurial Spark hatchery – Charlie Newman of collaborative organisational change platform Pinipa, and Ryk Waters of TeamPro, which makes professional-looking online team-sheets for amateur football teams.

Kings College Chapel WestAlong with an explosion of high-growth companies such as Red Gate Software and Raspberry Pi, 14 $1 billion+ tech businesses and two $10 billion+ ones, and the accolade of “Britain’s most successful city” from The Economist, Cambridge has a strong investment community, including Cambridge Angels and Cambridge Capital Group, and many experienced, highly connected individuals in and around its universities who mentor entrepreneurs.

These include Alan Barrell at Judge Business School’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning,Stewart McTavish at ideaSpace, Tim Minshall, senior lecturer at Cambridge University’sInstitute for Manufacturing, David Gill at St John’s Innovation Centre and Lester-Lloyd Reason at Anglia Ruskin.

Further support for Cambridge tech entrepreneurship comes from the likes of Future Business Centre, Cambridge Network, Cambridge Enterprise, student enterprise societies (CUE, CUTEC, Beyond Profit & VCPEC) and Silicon Valley Comes to Cambridge.

“The Cambridge area makes it very easy to take your idea and start to explore it,” said Steve Hales, founder and MD of Sapien Innovations, which helps startups build up from initial concept to commercialisation. “There’s some great entities around like ideaSpace and great networking groups: if you are part of the university there’s Enterprise Tuesdays, if you’re part of the wider scene there’s Cambridge Pitch & Mix on Thursday mornings”.

Notable Cambridge tech startups include Voyage Manager, Fonleap, Synbiota andMosaic3DX.

Reading is the site of the UK HQs of Oracle, Microsoft, Huawei and more than 54,500 jobs in digital industries – but the environment for disruptive tech startups is relatively undeveloped.Connect TVT’s co-founders Louize Clarke and Adam Clark have set up GROW@GreenParkas a co-working and collaborative space, “building a mini-eco system” and meeting the challenge that the area is so close to London it can be overlooked as a distinct cluster.

Reading startups include Workabode, PollPic, Gooseberry Planet and Around Then. Startups from across the Thames Valley who visited us included Wokingham-registered Enswarm and Windsor-based creative marketing agency Salamandra.

Piers Rudgard-Redsell of Airbyte, a Reading University graduate, has developed trvlRDG app providing public transport data for the city. “The Reading tech sector needs more centralised, “cool” places to work” he told us. “Reading definitely isn’t seen as cool yet, but if London gets any more expensive then with time and the right investment in keeping entrepreneurial grads around, Reading will be just as strong as Oxford”.

Green park ReadingEarlier this year, The Scotsman revealed research that found Scotland was not far behind London for tech startup growth since 2009. Edinburgh tech firms are strengthened by incubators such as TechCube andCodeBase; angel syndicates including Archangel, Par Equity,Equity Gap, TRI Cap and Kelvin Capital; Edinburgh University’s success with commercialisation and spin-outs; the EIE annual investor showcase; collaborative business spaces such as The Creative Exchange; accelerator UP; and the Entrepreneurial Spark hatchery.

Jim Duffy, ESpark’s founder and CEO, heralds the £2.5m funding secured by fashion appMallzee and the hatchery’s move to a “truly world-class, purpose-built facility” in RBS’s HQ at Gogarburn next year.

Oliver Littlejohn from CodeBase which incubated billion-dollar startup FanDuel and has 60 companies under its roof, suggests we “keep eyes out for Administrate, RelayMed,TVSquared” for the next great Edinburgh success stories.

In Glasgow this year, RookieOven meet-up opened a co-working space in Fairfield Shipyard Offices, Govan and the city has just hosted the first CodeCraft software craftsmanship conference. Tracey Eker is seeking to transform the online jobs listings sector with the next stage of development of flexible working site Flexiworkforce. On starting up a business in the city, she told us: “It’s the first place to try anything new. It’s not like London or Edinburgh – there’s no talking people down”.

It’s a similar story in Dundee, according to James Buchan of web designers Zudu – “a lot of businesses even in the same sector have offered us advice on strategy”.

In the city we met Louise Hood and Ashley Blake from web design company Delle Digital, who double up as digital educators, and Alistair Neil, whose Scottish product ecommerce accepts bitcoin.

Important Dundee tech players include accelerator IDEAScotland – a collaboration between two universities, publishers DC Thomson and data centre/cloud hosting provider brightsolid – and local app developers Waracle who have generated their own spin-off, Kumulos.

StartUp Britain toured the UK this summer. TechCityinsider’s own tour, profiling 200 businesses in 21 cities UK-wide, continues.

ByRoland Mortimer

Media coverage: Bus tour finds tech enterprise thriving

Tech City Insider: National enterprise campaign StartUp Britain hit the road again this summer for its bus tour, as part of an effort to boost the nation’s startup rate to 600,000 in 2015. First published in Tech City Insider on 24/08/2015 here written by Kosta Mavroulakis and Josh Neicho.

Across 2015, TechCityinsider has been on tour, visiting 21 key tech business clusters across the country, meeting 200 people who are helping to redefine digital Britain on the way.

This summer, StartUp Britain set out on its own tour of the UK, its fourth since 2011, in board an iconic 1966 Routemaster bus.

After a prime ministerial launch from Downing Street, StartUp Britain had experts on hand at 28 city locations across the country, looking to support many thousands of aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs with free mentoring, workshops and guidance on starting or growing a business.

As Tech City UK’s Tech Nation report demonstrated so clearly back in February, the technology startup phenomenon is truly UK-wide. TechCityinsider’s tour has set out to pursue the detailed stories inside the regional business clusters.

It’s by the nature of the sector that the map is changing rapidly and the strength of any one ecosystem is a matter for hot debate. What that should hopefully signal to policymakers and investors is the extent of opportunities, and the diversity of ways to skin the cyber cat of Britain’s tech entrepreneurial infrastructure.

At StartUp Britain we worked hard to set up dozens of local partnerships, including with tech organisations like Bournemouth Silicon Beach, while tech entrepreneurs like Oliver Mochizuki of Bristol-based acted as mentors on the bus.

The opportunities for the local partner organisations and the entrepreneurs supporting the campaign to meet and network with each other proved as important a part of the tour as the delivery of free business mentoring.

Right across the country, we met entrepreneurs and other leading figures on the tech business scene, from Nick Sturge of the SETsquared incubator, based at the Engine Shed in Bristol, to Rick Messitt, client director of Dundee-based digital agency Zudu.

Bus Tour tech highlights

manchesterColin Tan started RentLord inManchester because “the North is a great place to live and work” and because for business in the digital age, “geography is less important, but community [still] is.” Andrew Jervis, co-founder and CEO of, which started life in Manchester, calls it “the ideal place for any tech startup to get going. It’s got some great programmes and networks ranging from the Masters of Enterprise at the University to the SpaceportX space in the Northern Quarter…an abundance of talent, a close network and very affordable house and office rentals helping you keep that all important burn level down!” Young tech founder Tony Xu visited the bus. With Perfocal he has created a peer-to-peer platform to connect photographers and their clients, and he wants to give back to aspiring entrepreneurs. Other tech players and activities include UP Accelerator, Accelerate ME,Drinkabout Manchester and Manchester Inward Investment. An Entrepreneurial Sparkhatchery and a fintech accelerator are soon to land.

Sheffield was a special bus stop to help launch the fifth annual MADE Festival to educate and inspire thousands of entrepreneurs, taking place in October at Sheffield City Hall. We had a regional partner in the Dotforge impact accelerator for social tech ventures, which works in partnership with Yorkshire-based Key Fund, the UK’s largest social investor by number of deals and part of the Cabinet Office’s Social Incubator Fund. The Dotforge programme is now expanding into Manchester, based in Central Working and the Barclays Escalator. Other players in the tech scene include Sheffield Digital Campus and Electric Works. Tech startups coming out of Sheffield include The Floow, Deliverd,,PiP Payments and Mobile Power. Meanwhile down the motorway in “data city” Leeds, Dotforge is soon to open an accelerator to create tech companies to address the needs of the health sector. The launch of Google’s Digital Garage project at Leeds Dock earlier this year, as part of its multi-million pound initiative to help 200,000 British businesses learn digital skills, will soon be followed by the opening of Sky’s digital hub. RoundFoundry, Duke Studios, Leeds Data Mill, Leeds Hack and Open Data Institute Node are all further evidence of a rising cluster in the city.

Newcastle, where the bus looked like a toy vehicle parked under Grey’s Monument, is home to a blooming software development and gaming industry, support organisations such asCampus North, North Star Ventures and the DIBI Conference, and one of our tour’s sponsors, Sage. With a £1.3bn turnover, employing 13,000 people worldwide and delivering its software to 800,000 UK companies 34 years after it was founded, it has blazed a trail for today’s Newcastle-based tech startups. Down the road in Middlesbrough, Digital City is expanding its network of attractive work and live-work spaces for digital and creative entrepreneurs with incubation, project and informal space in Boho Five in the Middlehaven regeneration area.

liverpoolLiverpool has had one of the lowest rates of business formation in the UK until now, but for the tech sector that is starting to change, thanks to organisations such as Baltic Creative, the Santander incubator, Liverpool Vision and Liverpool Chamber of Commerce’s SparkUp Accelerator. Latest addition to the ecosystem is the Launch22 Liverpool co-working space, which recently opened in the city centre, offering a large hot-desking area, a rooftop garden overlooking the city, indoor swings and beds for those wanting a nap. Among the startups based in Launch22 are Innovators Hub – which works with leading digital companies to create paid internships for young talent – New Collective and World Merit.

At the other end of the scale, Birmingham saw 18,337 new businesses registered in 2014 according to the StartUp Britain tracker – an increase of 2,000 on the previous year and more than any other UK city outside London. Initiatives like Innovation Birmingham,Entrepreneurs for the Future (E4F) and BSEEN and Oxygen Enterprise partners drive the process onwards. One recent Brum export is Joel Gascoigne, who after being aided through early business steps as a University of Warwick student by Warwick Entrepreneurs Society, built the popular social media management tool, Buffer, and is a vocal promoter of the lean startup movement. Gascoigne has moved Buffer to the US, where he employs a distributed global team of 35 people and has achieved $6.8 million annual revenue, but enthuses that Birmingham is a great place to start out and grow. “There’s so much happening now. There’s everything you need right here to be able to create a startup and get customers, there’s a big market here and you test things out and make things happen”. A more recent Warwick graduate, Henry Jinman, says Birmingham is “fast becoming the home” of his crowdfunding and support organisation CrowdFund Campus, thanks to free office space provided byEntrepreneurial Spark. Startups seeking to be the next big thing to emerge from Birmingham include Droplet, Hopper, Whisk and Virtalent.