Begin Your Entrepreneurial Adventure In Birmingham!

Published on:

Birmingham, having earned the title of the most entrepreneurial city outside South East of the UK, is providing young professionals with all the support they need to realize their ideas into something more concrete and successful. Read more about how to found a startup in this city!

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution Birmingham has been at the forefront of advances in science, manufacturing, technology and economic development. It was once known as the ‘city of a thousand trades’. That entrepreneurial spirit has been reborn. Last year StartUp Britain hailed Birmingham as “the most entrepreneurial city outside the South East”.

By the year 2000, of the 4,000 inventions copyrighted in the UK, 2,800 came from within a 35-mile radius of Birmingham. Peter Colegate of the Patent Office stated that

“Every year, Birmingham amazes us by coming up with thousands of inventions. It is impossible to explain but people in the area seem to have a remarkable ability to come up with, and have the dedication to produce, ideas.”

To stay at the forefront several billions have been invested in the city’s infrastructure in recent years as part of the Birmingham’s Big City Plan. The Biohub, Bullring, Grand Central, BOM are already finished, fully occupied and attracting a annual 40 million footfall.

In March 2016 iCentrium™ will open its doors. The £8 million technology-focused building will feature a range of self-contained, highly flexible office suites for growing entrepreneurial technology companies. The first floor will be home to Innovation Birmingham’s ground-breaking ‘Serendip’ technology incubator, which will deliver a rich blend of disruptive innovation across four key sectors: Built Environment, Intelligent Mobility, the Internet of Things (IOT) and Digital Health. The ground floor and mezzanine level of iCentrum will be the place to meet, be innovative, do business, and launch your new technology startup in Birmingham – an innovation marketplace. Using the latest technology the building is designed to have an international reach from the day it opens. It will be a magnet for physical and virtual communication; the lighthouse for Birmingham’s Smart City Agenda.

In The West Midlands

Why Choose Birmingham?

  • Location, Location Location: it is in the heart of the UK with great transport links to national and international cities. Birmingham airport serves 44 airlines, with over 140 destinations worldwide.
  • With the new HS2 link it will only be a 40 minute train ride to London. This means over 90% of the UK market – consumer and business – is within a 4 hour travel time.
  • £94 billion regional economy – a major engine of UK growth.
  • Birmingham’s 4 universities in the city centre provide access to a talented, well educated employment base, with the advantage of lower labour costs than that of its Southern competitors.
    Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe, with under 25’s accounting for nearly 40 per cent of its population.
  • We boast 3 Science Parks offering not only facilities but also mentoring, research and collaboration opportunities and access to government backed startup schemes.
  • It has its own business and IP centre created in partnership with the British Library offering a wide range of resources, workshops and advice services.
  • If your technology is within the life sciences sector then the brand new £6.8m BioHub offers the first ever ‘plug and play’ laboratory and office facilities in the UK.
  • The city itself has been invested in repeatedly since 2000. With the newly opened Grand Central along with the Bullring centre the average footfall for the commercial centre is over 40 million year.
  • Property prices, rents and rates are lower than in the south.
  • Established and thriving technology, digital and creative startup hub which is gaining support from both local and national government.
  • Living in the highest ranking English regional city according to the Mercer Quality of Life Report (2014, for the second year running), being in or on the doorstep of a top 20 international destination to visit (New York Times) and always having space to relax and breathe (600 parks and one of the largest urban parks in Europe) – all combine to make setting up home in the region make complete sense.
  • More than anything despite recent press Birmingham’s culture is diverse, friendly and very welcoming. The city takes itself seriously, but no one ever takes himself or herself too seriously.

What To Watch Out For:

  • Although access to accelerators has grown a little of late, however, there are a limited number of local programmes, making access to early stage funding more challenging.
  • The startup community is still in its youth. In some respects this allows you to engage and direct more easily, however at this early stage you may be networking with a somewhat limited group.
  • You have heard it time and again but the cost of living in the UK is higher than the rest of Europe. If you are considering moving here to start up your business it’s best do some research first to see how this affects the costs of running your business.

Join Birmingham’s Startup Network

Birmingham_guide_community

The city has over 40 business meet-ups per month. The quickest and easiest way to find out where to go and who to meet is to jump onto Birmingham.io. This online community will guide you to every meetup, who is hiring, who has workspace available and even the best new place to grab lunch. Whilst Brum Tech Scene shares interviews with people within the community.

The Silicon Canal aims to create a world class tech ecosystem in Birmingham. It is run by an impressive collection of successful entrepreneurs and is a fantastic resource centre. They also list all the events and meet-ups that happen in the city. Innovation Birmingham runs numerous events across a wide range of topics every week.

Regular Events & Meet-ups:

  • Fusion is an informal social gathering of industry leaders and professionals who get together once a quarter to enjoy a variety of short, thought provoking presentations and networking. The goal is to bring together an eclectic mix of people from CEO’s to developers and investors to project managers supported by a variety of short talks that aim to spark conversation and the next big idea.
  • Tech Wednesday meet on the third Wednesday of every month, networking, advice sharing, brainstorming and sharing funding information all over pizza.
  • Birmingham Entrepreneurs Meetup Group meet once a month for an informal chat over a coffee or a beer. If you are looking for specific help or support then feel free to ask one of the organisers who will gladly help or point you towards someone who can.
  • Silicon Canal holds a very informal social meetup, to get like-minded people involved with tech, tech startups & digital stuff in Birmingham together. They meet on the first Thursday of the month.
  • Female Entrepreneurs of Birmingham is unsurprisingly a group for all female entrepreneurs based in Birmingham. This group includes sole traders, business owners, and those aspiring to be either! They meet up every 6-8 weeks for networking and topical discussion groups.

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • LAUNCH – a Future Gaming & Digital Conference, is the leading industry focused conference and series of events in the Midlands.. The LAUNCH program features expert speakers and demonstrations from games studios and service providers all aimed to better equip and build the gaming community of the Midlands.
  • The Midland Expo – this one day event is aimed to attract businesses whose primary agenda is to improve and expand their business, develop key relationships through networking with other regional business leaders and increase their skill set through our free industry leading seminars / practical workshops.
  • The NEC regularly hosts international events, giving startups access to a wide range of markets without the need to travel.

Book A Spot At Co-working Office In Birmingham

Birmingham_guide_coworking

Birmingham has a significant amount amount of low cost office space readily available. However it is now starting to buzz with new co working spaces opening around the city and keeping true to the cities past they range, from your regular shared office space, to biolabs, film and photography studios, wet labs and creative workshops.

Co-working Spaces In Birmingham:

  • The Moseley Exchange used to be a telephone exchange but in 2009 it was converted into a modern open plan office where members can meet, work, learn, exchange ideas and be inspired. It’s a place where collaboration & innovation go hand in hand.
  • The Loft Workspace is based in South Birmingham and offers hot desking, meeting rooms and event space. It’s day rate for a desk is less than your average take away coffee! They also offer support, admin and commercial printing facilities.
  • Founded in May 2013 by local actress Chandeep Uppal The Space offers individuals and organizations somewhere to collaborate and ideate. Initially offering room hire only The Space has developed an intimate coworking space offering monthly, weekday and weekend membership.
  • Part innovation lab, part business incubator, and part community centre, ImpactHub offers its members a unique ecosystem of resources, inspiration, and collaboration opportunities to grow impact. Their aim is to build a diverse community of members and collaborators to inspire and connect.
  • Birmingham Open Media (BOM) is just 60 metres from the new Grand Central, BOM is the most centrally located coworking space in Birmingham and the only collaborative workspace exploring creative technologies in the West Midlands. People using the coworking space also have access to BOM’s four flexible open studios for large-scale production and workshops, and the wet lab for experiments in darkroom innovation and open science.
  • SpeedyDesk opened in 2014, offering settled and productive workspaces for Birmingham’s entrepreneurs. Based in Stechford, one stop from Birmingham New Street, and 15 mins drive from Birmingham International Airport.
  • The BioHub Birmingham is a brand new, fully serviced biomedical research laboratory specifically designed to provide entrepreneurs and innovative startups with access to affordable laboratory facilities and equipment. You can take a desk in a vibrant innovation office and a workstation in the fully serviced laboratory and as part of the package they will provide you with full support in developing your innovative technology.
  • The previously mentioned Innovation Birmingham offers very flexible membership based workspaces at Faraday Wharf. The packages allow you to take advantage of the Campus’ many facilities such as its onsite Cafe Resource, the Test Lab, Meeting Rooms, free Wi-Fi, onsite car parking, community and networking events.
  • Described as the garden shed workshop of your dreams, fizzPOP is Birmingham’s ‘Makerspace’ and is where the Birmingham maker community shares knowledge, tools and creativity. Whether you’re interested in crafting, electronics, woodwork, metalwork, knitting, sewing, programming, prototyping, gadget modification, robotics, or nearly anything else, they have kind of tools you don’t generally have room or finances for at home.
  • Boxxed offers work space to businesses that are interested in a co-working environment, they have superheats wifi, dedicated meeting space, printing and free flowing tea and coffee. They are based a stone’s throw from Custard Factory in Birmingham’s creative quarter.
  • The Talent Navigation Hub located just down the road in Walsall provides a great layout for networking opportunities and offers all that’s needed for a buzzing, positive and creative atmosphere.

Increase Your Startup Budget In Birmingham

Birmingham_guide_financing.

Birmingham was the main home to Oxygen Investors and Angel Den. Although both organizations still have operations in Birmingham their relocations to the capital have left a large gap in access to support and funding. This unfortunately leaves new business owners having to look to London or Europe for investment with all the necessary travel involved.

A good source of access to early stage funding is through many of the co-working spaces which provide access to VC’s and Angels, as does the startup community which regularly organizes networking or pitching events.

Birmingham City Council provides access to grants, loans and funding for local entrepreneurs along with incubator hubs. The objective for the city is to attract VC’s and Angels, following the city’s own investment in itself.

Incubators:

  • The BizzInn is an initiative hosted by the University of Birmingham which has been set up to help new innovative businesses. In particular, the BizzInn will provide a number of free services to individuals or teams of entrepreneurs in the Birmingham region with technology based commercial concepts, whether or not they have yet to incorporate a company.
  • Brain-Box.org.uk offers a new approach for young entrepreneurs to raise finance for their startup and give them access to experienced business mentoring and a large network of high net worth investors.
  • Founded by Danny Fisher, Boxxed is a new business incubator based in Digbeth. Boxxed has succeeded in accelerating a number of different businesses to become self sustaining and profitable, they typically takes equity in return for financial and business support. They offer a business home to budding businesses with a large office environment where high speed internet, printing, accounting, PR and a wide variety of support services are on tap for Incubatees.
  • Entrepreneurs for the Future (e4f) is an incubator program dedicated to supporting the growth of technology companies in the West Midlands. It’s based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, e4f helps startups that use technology in innovative ways to launch, develop and grow their business. They provide incubation for a period of up to 6 months, which includes access to their Entrepreneurs in Residence, who can help build a robust action plan and accelerate the development of your business into a commercial enterprise.
  • SPARK Business Incubation Centre is based on the Wolverhampton Science Park. The facilities are specifically tailored to the needs of startup or early stage businesses in the creative, ICT and technology sectors.

Accelerators:

  • Oxygen Accelerator is one of Europe’s most established tech accelerators. They look for startups working on big, world-changing, continent-shifting ideas. They run an intensive 13 week programme, in Birmingham and London.
  • Climate-KIC is Europe’s largest public-private partnership on climate change. They fund and run accelerators focused towards identifying and developing the market potential for emerging products and services. Its work is delivered using eight themes covering a range of climate change specific topics. Meanwhile, the entrepreneurship strand focuses on supporting individuals and organizations to develop their own products and services to meet the requirements of a low carbon economy.
  • Entrepreneurial Spark claims to be the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures. They take applications once every year and have what they call a ‘Hatchery’ in locations across the country. They provide mentors, ambassadors and supporters, workshops, pitch practice and a full time ‘entrepreneurial enabler’ with the focus on the individual.

Grants & Subventions:

  • Finance Birmingham is a public – private partnership which brings together the industry experience of private sector experts with the public sec drive to support businesses. They provide up to £2million in flexible finance for companies through a range of funds and managed programs.
  • Originally set up in Aston, ART (Aston Reinvestment Trust) was a pioneer CDFI (Community Development Finance Institution) in the UK. Raising finance from member investors from the public and private sectors, as well as individuals, to lend to businesses in a specific area – has since been replicated around the UK. They lend when the banks either haven’t lent at all, or have already lent all they can. In fact they often lend alongside the banks and other financiers as part of a package.
  • BES (Business Enterprise Support) are partners for The Virgin StartUp scheme. Support is aimed at people with just an idea up to those who have already started a business less than a year old. Businesses without a fully-formed business plan will receive help and support from BES to get their business plan written. Those already with business plans will be able to get them double-checked by BES business experts to maximise their chances of success.
  • Innovation Networks have a funding round every year for new products or services, as long as you are already collaborating with 2 or more other businesses in the area.
  • Startup Direct is a delivery partner of the Government’s Start Up Loans Scheme that provides up to £25K in startup funding for entrepreneurs wanting to start a business. They have offices in Faraday Wharf.

Crowd Investing Platforms:

Angel Investors:

  • Advantage Business Angels provide a service, delivered by a partner, designed to help UK businesses at all stages, and in all sectors, to find an investor with the money, contacts and experience to enable them to grow and succeed. Typically the investments range between £50,000 and £500,000 but their largest single fundraising to date is £1.2m.

Venture Capital Investors:

  • Midven is an owner managed, entrepreneurial, venture capital company located in the heart of Birmingham. They started in 1990 when six Midlands based entrepreneurs established the business and invest in dynamic, small and medium sized businesses.
  • Catapult Ventures are among the most experienced venture capital investors in the UK. They span range of sectors from healthcare and pharmaceuticals to luxury consumer brands, manufacturing and software, as well as all stages: from startups and pre-revenue IP developers to company floatation and billions of pounds in revenue.
  • Mercia Fund Management is one of the leading technology investors in the UK. They provide both financial support and expertise, to help accelerate future growth. Mercia provides early stage, development and growth capital which makes them strategically positioned to allocate follow-on capital to stars in their portfolio.

Get Useful Information From Birmingham’s Mentors

Birmingham_mentors

Free Or Low Cost Advice:

  • Business Birmimgham can help you with all you need to know about the city.
  • Birmingham City Council offers a lot of support and advice for new business ideas and owners.
  • Blue Orchid offers free startup advice and have offices in Solihull.
  • Birmingham Chamber of Commerce has a business venture team to help you explore the idea of setting up in business, understand all of the steps involved and provide advice and guidance as you develop your idea and business plan.
  • Birmingham Library offers an exceptional free business information, advice and planning service. Their experienced and trained advisors are on hand to support you whether you want to start a business, develop your business ideas or need help with intellectual property issues. All you need to be is a library member.

Consultants & Professionals:

Birmingham is going through a complete transition from its industrial manufacturing past to a new technological driven future. For the last 2 years in succession the city has been home to over 1.600 new startups. Despite all the investment it has attracted it remains an affordable location with fantastic access to support networks and skilled graduates. With our industrious culture there will be little stopping the growth of the startup scene in this city.

 

_______________

Last updated: July 31st, 2016

The guides are like startup communities – they contstantly change and grow. Make sure to check for updates and if you have something to add to one of them or want to publish one for your city, get in touch right away! And don’t forget to enrich the startup ecosystem by creating your company profile at StartUs!

Sharing is caring, so please share this post. Thank you!