"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." Our first 6 months in Manchester.

Posted 2019-12-18 by Alex Lennon
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As our first 6 months in sunny Manchester draws to a close, I’ve been planning for 2020 and reflecting on what has been a huge milestone in our own journey as a company, as we continue to support startups globally.

Support for early stage startups is available, but is there enough depth?

If you’re a first time founder, there’s no shortage of accelerators, incubators and mentor programmes available, all with a different focus and feel. These are doing some great work, but are only productive if the follow-on and post programme support is well-planned, well connected and with a track record of outcomes and alumni. The wider and deeper this network, the better.

I’m pleased to say Black Nova are creating mutually beneficial partnerships with a number of these, and will continue to provide an outlet for startups to explore when they’re ready as a vehicle to become stable and grow long-term. I’ve said it before that Manchester is incredibly collaborative, and if it can continue to maximise these partnerships it will improve these programmes effectiveness, and the Founder's experience of using them.

Corporates playing catch up

Whilst Manchester’s startup community is scaling, there’s a noticeable feeling that corporates are rushing to align themselves with startups, or position themselves as partners. Whether it’s the host of accelerators and co-working spaces launched by banks, Mediacity and The Landing, or the wealth of corporate programmes that assist startups.

This is no doubt positive. Any healthy tech ecosystem needs a blend of grass-roots startups, scaleups, SME’s and established corporates. But in the future it would be fantastic to see the startup community support itself under its own momentum of programmes, events and networks that feed into the larger picture, rather than depending on them somewhat.

Founders need to be bolder

There are some powerful ideas being forged in Manchester, and these raise the bar for other startups. Typically it’s the Founders that are tackling big problems on a big scale that grab the headlines. But every startup should always ask the question: “If people/businesses here are experiencing this problem, does it exist elsewhere?”

I love it when I meet a Founder who’s determined to think big. It could be that Manchester is still forming its long-term, mature ecosystem and lacks a system to consistently develop these companies on to the global stage. Or it could be that Founders need to be bolder and challenge themselves to look at Europe, the US or APAC as viable markets. Local startups are great (and necessary), but if they all limit themselves to purely Manchester and the North-West, they limit the community as well. Let’s champion excellence and go global. Manchester will benefit as a result.

The tipping point is there… nearly

Manchester is on the verge of something special. The amount of investment and development in the area is phenomenal, and a sign of things to come. With continued collaboration and the nurturing of programmes to support early stage startups, the positive impact of this down the line to the economy locally, nationally and internationally will be massive. In 2019 alone, tech startups in Manchester raised £528million from investors, and turned over £3.2billion*.

We should celebrate the fact that in the past 2 years, 86 tech startups launched** (that’s nearly 4 a month) in Manchester taking us to a grand total of 4,203 startups in total***. It can take years for a startup ecosystem to reach maturity, Silicon Valley for instance originated in the 1970s, arguably earlier. Just how far along this journey Manchester is, is hard to say. But building long-term, value driven relationships is at the core of this, and we’re excited to see what 2020 has in store.

And finally, let’s not try to be Silicon Valley. This is Manchester after all. Sunny, sunny Manchester...

*Tech Nation report

**Statistics from Dealroom

*** MIDAS

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