Look Beyond London: Running a business in Leeds

Founded in 2014, Bizdaq is a Leeds-based company delivering a marketplace that allows entrepreneurs to buy and sell companies.

Founder Sean Mallon explained the rising digital tech scene is what attracted him to do business in Leeds.

Although the city still has some way to catch up the likes of Manchester, there has been considerable progress in establishing a tech cluster in the city with the likes of Google and Sky establishing large offices in the city,” he said.

“The establishment of startup incubators in the past two years has really become the catalyst for tech innovation and knowledge-sharing in the city. Additionally, the presence of well-regarded universities offers a large of pool of high quality candidates.

Mallon noted the city’s redevelopment to include fixtures such as affordable office space has become a great way to promote business in Leeds.

“In particular, there is great office space available in the Clarence Dock, Holbeck and Calls areas of the city that would be particularly attractive to entrepreneurs,” he said.

“Investments in the leisure section in particular has made Leeds a very desirable place to live and work.

There is a strong entrepreneurial feeling locally, he believes, referencing 80,000 people working in more than 4,000 tech and digital companies many of which are high-growth.

Business in Leeds Clarence Dock
Clarence Dock is one of the areas offering affordable office space
“The presence of monthly events like Leeds Digital Drinks and Founders Fridays, regularly bring together the community. The free-flowing knowledge sharing and networking that come from these events is really invaluable to the development of our company,” Mallon said.

“The creation of hubs for entrepreneurship in the form of startup accelerators has really cemented the entrepreneurial spirit in the city in the last 18 months.

In terms of how business in Leeds versus London compares, he thinks the vibe can be compared to that of Shoreditch and Silicon Roundabout in the early days, albeit cheaper.

“The creation of a tech cluster in the city is really only in its infancy and there is considerable support for new companies looking to create jobs in the city,” Mallon said.

Needless to say, the cost of operating a business in Leeds is considerably cheaper than London. With a large amount of regenerated office space across the city, there are some great spaces to build a business at a fraction of the cost of London.

As for the changes Mallon would like to see, he’s waiting on a specific tech and digital cluster to launch, which he reckons would encourage more large firms to join Sky and Google.

Nev Ridley is the MD of PR agency Ilk. Although originally launched in Huddersfield, it was decided that business in Leeds was the way to go.

?We moved to Leeds around six years ago. Firstly, we believed Leeds was a more attractive base for most staff we would like to attract essentially young, talented and creative professionals.

“In terms of business opportunity we believed Leeds would offer greater prospects in terms of the type and size of clients we would like to attract.

Business in Leeds Town Hall
“Being in Yorkshire, many businesses are keen to keep their work local and work with agencies from the same city”
Echoing Mallon’s thoughts on price, Ridley emphasised that doing business in Leeds offers competitive costs versus Manchester and much cheaper than London.

?We have recently moved to Leeds Dock and this is becoming a bit of a hub for creative and digital businesses, which is a bonus as well. There are some sizeable companies with HQs in the area too and of course there is a thriving professional services sector,” he continued.

Ridley noted that locally there is a great deal of camaraderie among business leaders regionally, insisting the community is supportive.

“I guess being in Yorkshire, many businesses are keen to keep their work local and work with agencies from the same city which helps,” he said. We all know you don’t need to go to London with so many fantastic creative businesses based in Leeds. It’s just a shame that more companies with HQs outside the area don’t recognise that.

Ilk itself had a presence in London with a sister company that launched some seven years ago, which was sold off to make clear distinction between the two businesses.

?We were proud of what we had helped grow in London but the time was right to sell the business,” he said.

“It wasn’t a case of what Leeds had that London didn’t it was purely down to circumstance. In fact, we launched ilk London in January of this year and are currently investing in this to win over those clients in the capital that have reservations about working with agencies outside of London.

Outlining the changes he would like to see done to business in Leeds, Ridley added: “I think making ‘the north’ more joined up is something I would like to see develop as I do believe in the Northern Powerhouse concept to create a real rival to London.

“My concern is how long all of this takes in terms of transport and infrastructure for example. The M62 continues to be a nightmare (it really should be so much quicker to travel between Leeds and Manchester) and the less said about the TransPennine ‘Express’ the better!?

Do you agree with what these Leeds bosses had to say” If you want your town to be featured in a Look Beyond London feature, let us know at @Real_Business.

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