Friday, 13 March 2015

Why Birmingham needs more Tech Co-working Hubs

Having spent a lot of time in London recently, one of the things that has struck me is the number of co-working spaces and hubs that exist and that got me wondering, does this have an impact on their startup community.

It is definitely the case that co-working spaces have been awesome for the startup community, both the network effect of putting together communities of highly skilled entrepreneurs, able to advise, share and collaborate on problems has led to some great success stories. It enables investors to easily communicate to groups of startups, gives opportunities for entrepreneurs to feel comfortable and safe in a community of like-minded people, places for training,meetups and very often mentors in the same space.

Having more than one community space for tech entrepreneurs generates a number of interesting effects, both collaborative and competitive for both investors and entrepreneurs. Finding the space that effectively meets your needs is a lot easier when there is more than one.

A truism is that work expands to fill the space available and I believe this to be true of coworking spaces, having more spaces leads to more startups, more chances of success which leads to greater reinvestment in the community itself.

More than one space means that different approaches can exist, both from an investment strategy and how startups are supported leading to a greater number of startups within the community overall.

Looking at Birmingham, while there are a lot of co-working spaces, from BOM, Impact hub, BizzInn,  there seems to be only e4f that seems to fit the definition of a tech working space rather than a general space and I think that while it does a fantastic job of both providing support and opportunities for tech startups that perhaps we also need some more spaces to achieve that which we see in London.

Manchester has at least 4 spaces, Leeds has a couple, is it not time for Birmingham to do better.

Having more spaces would give us more startups, meaning that Birmingham could capitalise on the recent publicity on its status as a top 10 city to work in by giving specific space to those that have the greatest opportunity to create high growth companies.

I look forward to the enterprising people that take the challenge up and help create the next tech co-working space.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Why Birmingham should be top of every founders list when considering location!

In January 2015 it was reported that Birmingham, UK, will be receiving a new incubator that would come in handy in support of start-ups in the city known as iCentrum and would be operational by March 2016. In the process, it would create over 400 jobs and give back to the Birmingham community about £25 million annually. While such great news might not be very unique to Birmingham only, it is already official that Birmingham is great for start-up tech companies, especially if iCentrum and other key tech developments in Birmingham are anything to go by.
In 2013 alone, the city of Birmingham was top of the new list of start-ups outside London with 16,281 companies having been launched in the city more than in any other city in the UK apart from London.
Birmingham is famous as the home of heavy metal and tennis but the most significant of all these is that of any 4,000 inventions taking place annually in the United Kingdom, over 2,800 come from this famous city in the UK and Europe. Here are a number of reasons why Birmingham is great for start-up tech companies today.
  Home of great talent
Birmingham back in the 18th century was heralded as the first world manufacturing town and led in the global advances in economic development, technology and science. As we speak, Birmingham is a major UK digital hub with over 38,000 people employed in about 6,000 technological firms. In the city are thousands of business and computer science students driven by the 5 universities here . Hiring top talent is very easy considering the cutthroat competition manifested in London by such corporations as Facebook and Google is not there.
Birmingham as a city with great talent is not a secret anymore. For example, BufferApp, which allows users to schedule Facebook posts and Tweets and post them later is a Birmingham creation with other immense start-ups having come out of the city already such as for crafters and hobbyists, Soshi Games, WHISK that allows users to purchase entire supermarket recipes, CrowdControl that appealed to the Leeds' City Council and others with dozens of social media accounts that need management. Others include Poikos, among others that are in the works currently. The Innovation Birmingham Campus is a flourishing technology community with open work spaces of 38,000 sq ft promoting mobile operations for start-ups.
Cost of living is low
The low cost of living in Birmingham improves the quality of life while making wages low in a very unique balance. For instance, while renting a flat with two bedrooms is about £1,500 in London, with just £670 you can get the same in Birmingham, if not better. This is why ASOS among others have opened new offices in the city after claiming that tech talent costs in Birmingham are 50 percent lower in contrast with the English Capital's.
Tech ecosystem
Without a doubt there is some tech event taking place in Birmingham almost everyday, making the city to have one of the most vibrant ecosystems in the world of tech. There are all kinds of investors, office spaces, large companies and diverse start-ups in the city at any given time with top companies claiming that Birmingham has the vision, talent and space every tech talent is looking for with the city's unique tech culture and its great potential to be a top e-commerce hub making it irresistible.
A good example is the Silicon Canal, a major tech community that seeks to create an international tech ecosystem right in Birmingham by helping tech companies, events and people find one another, communicate globally about the great tech stuff taking place in the city and attracting top talent from elsewhere, run events and projects where there are opportunities to lend a hand and events and projects to support and run. 
Location and transport
Birmingham is also in a central location while the High Speed Rail 2 project that will reduce the Birmingham-London train journey from 74 minutes to just 43 minutes would be operational by 2026.
Research and development
Investment in the region have made the city a top hub for research and development in tech and science, such as the biomedical hub worth £6.8m and opened in 2014, offering office and lab space to the science sector in the city and hundreds of jobs.
Liveable city

Birmingham is also a very liveable city with some of the most affordable food prices. Outside London the city has four restaurants that are Michelin starred and lots of farmers markets and independent restaurants particularly outside the city centre such as Moseley, Kings Heath and Harbourne. The property price average by July 2014 stood at £114, 713 with 69 crimes reported per a thousand people in the city and a stable average broadband speed of 20.7 mbps.