We concluded 2017 by taking Ambition Nation to Manchester for an event that shone the spotlight on the North West’s brass tacks attitude. This disposition is having a tangible effect on innovation, particularly on growth in its tech sector. That’s why this week finnCap returned to Manchester to follow up with some of the key players we met in late November.
This week, we wanted to dive a little deeper into why Manchester seems to foster this can-do character, what’s standing in the way of innovative regional companies from accessing capital and scaling up, and how finnCap Ambition Nation can help this dynamic ecosystem accelerate its growth.
At the table
Joining us at the table for finnCap’s return to Manchester were Tim Newns, CEO of MIDAS, Sameer Kothari, CEO of Zilico, Tom New, Founder and CEO of Formisimo, Simon Swan, Founder and CEO of Hiring Hub, Helen Fish, Co-founder and CMO of Beatstream, Stuart Logan, Founder and CEO of Twine, Tom Bloxham MBE, Chairman and Co-founder of Urban Splash, Alekzander Binder, CEO of Legista, and Andrew Orchard, Director of Hawthorn Advisors.
What we learned
We covered remarkable ground during the course of our roundtable discussion, on the themes of innovation, talent and funding.
Over coming weeks we’ll be dissecting the subjects raised, but for now, here’s a rundown of what we’ve learned.
- North West-based entrepreneurs tend to be the most optimistic in the UK. Brexit was barely mentioned the first time we came to Manchester and this time, again, we focused on the graft and the ‘sense of the possible’ that Manchester harbours. While there are plenty of doors to knock on for funding in London, the doors that people knock on to eagerly elicit cross-sector collaboration are very much in the North West.
- Our discussion found that there is an inertia with operating capital centred in London. This can have the effect of London being an undeserving investment landscape – essentially good money going to not great companies – the silver lining is this has a Darwinian effect on ex-London businesses, with strong, investible companies winning their own survival of the fittest. Pointedly, these include those company owners that can ably navigate from start-up through scale-up and beyond. We say that enabling more of these kinds of entrepreneurs is imperative.
- More business gets done in Manchester and more funding sources are found in London. But our table asked – is the underlying problem that we need better allocation of capital nationwide, or does allocation actually matter? Is the real issue about creating a better support and advisory network in Manchester, one that demonstrates to hungry founders how they can access the right capital, wherever it might be found? Ultimately, money follows good ideas, and talented people have good ideas.
- With that in mind, we discussed how talent and innovation can be thought of as one and the same – insomuch as talented people that are put in an incubating environment will innovate, they just have to be immersed in the right culture to do so. One need look no further than Silicon Valley to evidence this. Of course, London is a great place to find funding and it’s a great talent pool, but it’s not ideal for innovation. Manchester meanwhile harbours community – the innovators know each other; they work next to each other – and we should be promoting Manchester as a place where an innovation culture is inherently possible.
- Finally, we looked at the talent shortage. Talent is not a Manchester issue. It’s not a London or even a UK issue. It’s global. Companies that ignore the convergence of marketing and recruitment, of brand and culture, and that fail to adopt more non-traditional methods of recruiting and employee engagement, will struggle to attract the right people to help them grow. This is further compounded by the fact that if a company cannot attract the right talent, it will have difficulty in discovering the right culture to nurture that talent. Without talent, there’s no innovation, and without innovation, there’s no funding.
Stay tuned here at finnCap Ambition Nation over coming weeks as we explore these subjects and more in further detail.
To watch some of the interviews we conducted with some of the North West's most dynamic business leaders, click here.
To share your stories of growth or to find out how you can be involved in Ambition Nation, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org