The City of London’s financial district is a global hub where interest in the tech sector is continuing to rise. With most of their focus being on the capital, today’s event was a chance for investors in London to gain a broader awareness into what can be achieved in the Northern tech cluster.
Bloomberg is one the largest media companies in the world. Based in the heart of the City it wasn’t a surprise to see that their London offices have been built with this image in mind. Amongst glass walled news rooms and live financial displays, the familiar faces of our Northern Stars assembled for their final pitching event together.
As the guests arrived it became apparent from conversations and live tweets that VCs, angels and other interested parties from nearby financial organisations made up the majority of those in attendance. Regular pitch events are held in London every week so expectations for something new became evident as the stage was set for the last round of Northern Stars.
Herb Kim and Matt Jeffs-Watts from Tech North introduced Northern Stars and then handed over to Bloomberg’s Christopher Lowe who brought the audience up to speed with their interactive platform Glisser. Attendees were able to use their devices to send questions onto a large screen on stage for the contestants to answer.
With the formalities done and the audience patched in to ask questions and vote, each Northern Star then gave a five minute pitch followed by the audience’s questions asked by Chris to each contestant. As I’d already had the privilege of seeing our contestants pitching at the final in December I could see they were now delivering on many of the points that the previous judges had picked up on.
The Northern Stars contestants:
EvaluAgent: Director Jonny Bradshaw.
Formisimo: Founders Tom New and Al Mackin.
Geek Talent: Founder Dominic Murphy.
Gnatta: CEO Jack Barmby.
IN-PART: Founder Patrick Speedie and Dr. Robin Knight.
Leaf.fm: CEO Gilbert Corrales.
M14 Industries, Bristlr: Founder John Kershaw.
Peak: Director Richard Potter.
My own impression was that every pitch and founder was a company worth investing in. The entire Northern Stars process (which started in September) had worked. With some companies clearing a million in revenue during their first year, all the startups had the figures to clearly demonstrate they had gained serious traction from their early days and were continuing to grow. What was equally as impressive was that many had succeeded independently, which in itself signified the extraordinary ability of the founders as well as their proven innovations.
By the end of the pitching rounds an audience vote was cast which went up live on screen. As the votes came in a couple of hopefuls peaked on the voting display with Formisimo overtaking and hitting the high point of the evening with a win. With some of the newer startups following up closely behind I couldn’t help feeling a sense of genuine achievement for the entire Northern Stars team.
At the end of the pitching rounds the first comments from the Bloomberg guests at my table were about the high standard of companies they had just seen. A positive sign for the networking to come.
I managed to speak with attendees from banks, angel investor groups and VCs with some great feedback from Joseph Knowles of Smedvig Capital, “I absolutely believe that investors in London could and should be more aware of opportunities in the North. We have been to a number of events focused on the Northern Tech scene and have always been impressed by the quality of businesses we see, with some of our most exciting companies based in the North. In particular, I have been very impressed by the capital efficiency of the start-ups I have seen today, possibly because finance has not been as abundantly available as in London.
This was evident at this event where we have seen so many start-ups with excellent traction who are completely self-funded. This is a great trait which can hopefully be matched to more smart capital as awareness grows. Projects such as Tech North are definitely raising awareness, but investors should also be proactively looking for businesses in the North.”
Enthusiasm was high with both investors and founders and it was great to see that the day’s events had met the expectations of all those who had come along. Questions about how London could get more exposure to the North’s burgeoning tech scene were being raised so I asked our Bloomberg host Christopher Lowe about his thoughts on this subject, “Yes I think this is a great idea and we’ll continue to act as a conduit to this”.
After originally setting off to this early evening event in the afternoon, and returning back to Manchester Piccadilly Train Station the same day, the divide between the North and the South seemed once again to become a little less. With new contacts made over the course of the Northern Stars tour I’ve managed to witness first-hand the ability of our entrepreneurs to make it regardless of outside support. With more now on offer to these incredibly resilient self-starters I predict interesting times ahead.
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