Our Startup Culture

I write an occasional ‘technotes’ column in our North East Newspaper called ‘The Journal’, below is this weeks written about our startup culture in the North East of England.

It feels like so long ago that the world went through the dotcom boom, yet it feels like yesterday when the majority of those booms went bust. I’m a geek, in a general sense so notice these things happen.

During the dotcom boom there were more startups than ever, investors were chomping at the bit to try and get a piece of the new technology pie and only a few ever made it to make a profit on their investment. Even harder times were ahead for the people with great ideas. It was them who had to find investment from those not willing to trust enough to devote their time and money away. Over recent years the startup culture has been revived, and whilst in this economic climate it may be a little more difficult to get funding, you can still make it happen with the right idea.

The United States has various ‘incubator’ type organisations like TechStars and Y Combinator which are thriving with successful companies like DailyBooth, Reddit and Dropbox. In the UK we in the past have run far short of enabling tech startups to get going. Most, if not all have been started on shoe-string budgets pulling all nighters to get an idea created into working software and only then after a long time have they been in a position to pitch funding. The UK startup culture is very different than that of the United States, in the UK you would usually see companies which have turned profitable and then been acquired. Whilst that is great and it’s fantastic to see our UK and North East companies being acquired, it takes a lot of time in comparison to America who inevitably pitch for funding at a much earlier stage, our startups have lacked the ability to secure mentoring that they undoubtably need. Until now.

The North East of England has its own tech start-up incubator, heading in to its second year the Difference Engine, based in Teesside and started by Jon Bradford was created to support startups, much in the same way as TechStars in the United States. The Difference Engine invests £20’000 (for 8% of the business) and supports them with mentoring, office accommodation plus various other types of services provided by the Difference Engine partners. It’s a full time 13 week acceleration programme to get the start-ups ready to pitch to investors.

We’ve not had this support in the North East, the United Kingdom or Europe in the past and now its sitting on the North East’s doorstep. The Startup Culture is here, at home in the North East of England.

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Head of Interaction and Service Design at DigitalDWP.

2 thoughts on “Our Startup Culture”

  1. I hadn’t heard of the Difference Engine – great that it’s in the North East too. Good article Gavin, and is a great follow-on from a related article in WIRED UK this month (more generally Europe vs US tech startups). Hopefully the beginning of a sea change

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