I am spending more and more time networking in the North West tech industry at the moment, and there is a real buzz building. The ingredients are all there for a potentially explosive period of growth.
The first ingredient is the talent, and the universities of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield seem to be both attracting that and shaping it in to some very high quality — and creative — graduates.
The second ingredient is entrepreneurship, something I am pleased to see very much in evidence. While many of the people I meet at the various networking events may be stronger on the technological aspects of their creations than the business potential, they are rarely short of ambition.
The third ingredient is finance, and the number of angel investors and venture capital people appearing at tech networking events around the North is significant. There is cash out there for the right ideas.
Once you have these ingredients, you need to create the right environment for combustion, before you apply the igniting spark. I think both the environment and the spark might come from Lee Strafford’s Project Sahara — now known as theNetStart.
This idea has developed massively between the time I first heard Lee discussing it at one of Manoj Ranaweera’s startup events last month, and last week’s Mashup Manchester. It is designed to be a physical space supported by skills and infrastructure, in which software entrepreneurs can congregate and build their ideas in a collaborative environment. There will be three centres across the North of England, probably linked to University campus locations.
The spark that might ignite it all is Lee himself. He didn’t seem too thrilled by the suggestion that a few people have made to post a YouTube video of him delivering his manifesto for the project, but that might be the only way to convey his enthusiasm.
I really hope this project reaches fruition, and all the signs are that it will. This might be the start of an ‘In-digital Revolution’ on a scale to match the industrial revolution that fuelled the growth and prosperity of the North two hundred years ago.