The idea started out as a disruptive marketing campaign for my tech recruitment business. I was frustrated by the lack of fresh, relevant skills coming into the marketplace. Yes, our location in the M4 corridor enterprise belt, with traditional tech and telco headquarters, means one in five businesses are tech firms. Oracle, Microsoft, Symantec are all headquartered here. But heritage is not future-focused. In terms of attracting new talent, the Thames Valley pretty much fell off the map.We’re starting from a position of strength. Tech City UK’s first Tech Nation report placed Reading as fourth in terms of digital employment. It is also the UK’s number one local authority digital cluster, with a proportion of tech enterprises three times the national average. We’ve had real success stories, most recently, DataSift, the pioneering Big Data start-up based at the University of Reading’s enterprise centre announced a partnership with Facebook, to bring Facebook topic data to marketers. The university itself is home to a range of science-led initiatives and recently received funding for a multi-million pound big data centre. What does this mean for ConnectTVT? We wanted to re-energise the region as a truly innovative tech hub. The opportunity for startups and smaller businesses lies in tapping into the eco-system created by our established tech giants. What’s more, driving entrepreneurialism is very much back on the agenda for the major tech players. One just has to look at the Dell for Entrepreneurs programme at Dell’s UK headquarters in Bracknell to see the role it’s playing within the organisation.
True change needs more than a message, however compelling. To create a real movement we quickly realised we needed to bring people together, in a space. Taking our vision to the next level, we set up GROW@Green Park, in Reading, bringing together like-minded businesses to meet, network, and collaborate. With the launch of The Lab last week, GROW@Green Park has evolved to become the first fusion space of its kind, offering co-working and lab facilities within a startup accelerator hub. We’re gradually building a community of startups, innovators, creatives, freelancers and developers; it’s a mini ecosystem of businesses tapping into each other’s experiences, sharing learnings and collaborating, ultimately, helping each other’s businesses grow. Early indications show that big data, open data and internet of things are set to be areas of specialism within the Thames Valley, with a focus on business tech innovation. We’re supporting this through special interest meet-ups and hang-outs right here at GROW. As a bootstrapped startup ourselves, none of this would have been possible on our own. Collaboration has been critical to our strategy. We’ve worked hard to build meaningful partnerships with like-minded organisations also invested in the startup agenda. Knocking on a few doors and biting our tongues as we battled past a prevailing “what’s in it for me?” culture was a steep learning curve. Read more on UK startups:
- Chuka Umunna: London risks losing out on best businesses if we don’t get our house in order
- Support for 1,000 UK entrepreneurs with Accelerator Network, Natwest and more
- UK startups need to tap into “perk hacks” to inspire creativity and loyalty among staff
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