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Tech in the North of England: The October 2017 roundup


Martin Bryant, community editor at Tech North which recently launched the beta version of its Tech North Ecosystem Map, brings you a roundup of the top tech news to come out of the North of England over the past month.

While their tech may be on par with anything the world’s largest global hubs have to offer, Northern companies can sometimes be accused of not quite matching up when it comes to marketing and planning to take on a global market from the off. A couple of developments over the past month have me optimistic that this is changing.

Firstly, the new website from data analytics subscription business Peak is truly world class. It takes a complicated offering and boils it down to a simple message with obvious return on investment, and in my opinion, the design matches anything Silicon Valley’s finest might produce. I’ll be sharing it around as the standard-bearer for quality Northern B2B tech marketing for some time to come.

Secondly, I talked to Michael Hall of Talentful recently, and he left me feeling good about recruitment in the North’s tech sector. Unlike most recruiters, who just help companies find staff, Talentful embeds recruitment consultants within tech businesses to help them hone their recruitment strategy. It can be about hiring smarter people, rather than necessarily a lot of people. Talentful then uses connections across Europe to find the right people for each role.

Hall is heading up London-based Talentful’s expansion into the North. Ever since I first met him, Hall, who calls Manchester home, has been passionate about improving tech recruitment in the North. Now he has the chance. I’ll enjoy seeing how his approach works with the region’s entrepreneurs.

Investments in the North

In the investment world, Manchester-based Hello Soda, which provides text and big data analytics for businesses around the world, this week announced a £5.5m round. It breaks down to a £4m equity deal with NVM Private Equity, and £1.5m in venture debt from Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank’s Growth Finance team.

Meanwhile, Cheshire-based e-commerce giant The Hut Group is set to get even bigger. Sky News reports it’s gearing up to extend its M&A spree in the beauty and welfare sector, having increased its borrowing capacity from £345m to more than £515m.

The Hut Group doesn’t need any encouragement to bring more brands into its, er, hut. It’s been snapping them up at a fair clip lately. Just this month, it acquired beauty brand Illamasqua for a reported £25m.

Hull-based wireless broadband provider Connexin announced plans to hire 100 extra staff and a £10m investment from Cisco. Connexin’s wireless internet services can help power smart city initiatives – something of a growth sector right now.

Newcastle and Leeds

Staying with smart cities, there was cause for celebration in Newcastle, as the city was featured in the second UK Smart Cities Index. The study assessed 20 cities, and their “strategies, key projects and overall readiness in using digital technology to improve crucial civic services from transport infrastructure to healthcare.”

Another city with a ranking to shout about was Leeds, which ranked second for coworking facilities in the UK. And there was big news in the city’s tech workspace scene. FutureLabs, something of a hub for the city’s startup scene, plans to relocate to the Platform space above Leeds train station. Both spaces recently received shares of the city’s £4.4m tech hub funding from national government, and will now be able to pool resources to offer a strong combination of community and quality office space, in a really good location, central location.

Tech North will be hosting the grand final of its Northern Stars startup competition, in Manchester, you can grab a free ticket here