Birmingham has always been a city known for making things but can it make a new name for itself as a tech hotspot? Some of the city’s top tech entrepreneurs explain how it’s doing just that…
Birmingham has long been recognised as a leading European business destination. Once dubbed the 'City of a Thousand Trades', the second city has a rich industrial heritage stretching back thousands of years.
From pens to buckles, buttons, jewellery, guns and cars, the city has always had a solid reputation for making things. Over the last 30 years however, the city’s focus has shifted from being predominantly a manufacturing hub to an economy catering for all.
At the heart of this is Birmingham’s tech sector, which is fast becoming a key contributor to its £94bn a year economy. The sector is growing at a rapid pace and is helping drive record amounts of inward investment not only into the city but also into the wider Midland region.
The city is home to a burgeoning digital and creative sector, with web, software and games development, cutting edge film and TV production, media, and high-end technology companies calling Birmingham home.
But why Birmingham? BQ caught up with 10 members of Silicon Canal, the non-profit organisation helping build a bigger, stronger tech ecosystem for Greater Birmingham, to find out why it is becoming such a melting pot for tech success…
Birmingham is booming because it has an extremely effective eco-system that supports start-ups with everything from funding and social media to slightly dull, but important things like legals and contracts. It's also now seeing the benefits of the well-established phenomenon of “clustering” - specifically in relation to tech.
- Richard Paterson, theCommercialFD
It’s booming because we don’t have the valuation inflation that places like London have seen. We have investors visiting from all over the world. Last week we had a delegation from Canada that met with 5 tech start-ups with a view to making investments. They see solid start-ups with sensible valuations that they can work with.
- Simon Jenner, Silicon Canal
In Birmingham, we are providing a focal point for start-ups and early stage businesses by orchestrating communities where people with ideas, expertise and experience and money can come together to help deliver commercial aspirations based on digital technologies. Birmingham’s digital enterprise ecology is thriving but there is still a need to promote what is going on in the city, a task that we continue to address.
- Dr David Hardman MBE, Innovation Birmingham
Although growing rapidly, the tech and business community in Birmingham is still a great size to easily access everyone. The friendly and collaborative nature means people are always happy to help others succeed. This creates both an amazing social and a powerful professional atmosphere. Through these relationships we've built trusting friendships with talented people that later form the foundations of great business relationships.
- Mike Bandar, Hopper.
It’s all about accessibility. Birmingham is in the heart of the UK with world-class transport links making it perfect to build a team, meet prospects and find investors. It’s also accessible to diverse groups because individuality and cultural differences are part of the fabric of the city. Everyone can get here and everyone is welcome!
- Jodie Cook, JC Social Media
Birmingham is finally celebrating itself and making a mark on the UK’s tech scene. It’s been a sleeping giant for years, but people are finally realising how much talent there is here and how many great businesses are born in the Midlands. We’re shouting about it and that’s attracting even more talent and investment.
- Andrew Ward, MODL App
Birmingham is booming for tech start-ups because of the fantastic spirit of the community - Brummies are happy to work together and share skills without necessarily expecting anything in return
- Ria Blagburn, GrowBeyond
Birmingham is booming for tech start-ups because: it’s a city that has such strong connections across it, fuelled by passionate organisations and people that encourage both would-be entrepreneurs to start up, and start-ups to grow. It's full of support, from specialist tech facilities and co-working spaces, to well-connected experienced mentors and advisors who can help access clients, suppliers, investors, and professional services. It's a collaborative city, in which organisations work together to help - for example Pitchfest, which not only helps start-ups become investor ready, but gets them in front of investors.
- David Coleman, Bizz Inn.
Birmingham is booming for tech start-ups because it makes great talent accessible. We can hire smart people and make use of a network of brilliant professional advisors here at about 50% of what it would cost us in the capital. The fact that we all enjoy living in Birmingham so much and that it has great transport links across the UK and world makes Birmingham a loved and appreciated home. I feel privileged to be part of this city at this excited time.
- Nick Holzherr, Air HR Software & Whisk.com
Birmingham is booming for tech start-ups because of a combination of ‘near-perfect’ factors that create an 'optimal’ ecosystem for companies to establish themselves within. Incredible talent and innovation from numerous, reputable universities and other educational institutions produce some of the best educated individuals; an optimal location, with many parts of the country within a couple of hours by train and car; an international airport just fifteen minutes away from the city, breaking down the borders to further investment and talent; far more affordable housing, and cheaper labour costs than London; a brilliant tech scene that encourages networking, getting together, collaboration, idea generation and even the support to help people who want to ‘start up’; and finally, the quality of life that the city offers, in terms of a balanced, varied life, cultural opportunities, entertainment, high life expectancy and more (see here). All of this brings the best of the best to Birmingham, and encourages companies to harness and invest in our incredible city!
- Matt Chan, stickee