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What Manchester Has In Store For Your Startup

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Manchester, the third biggest city in Britain, has a lot to offer to startup enthusiasts. Find out what's going on where & how to found your business there!

Don’t miss our Infographic on How To Start A Startup In Manchester!

There is a shared opinion that Manchester is a city that will skyrocket during the next couple of years, particularly with a #MCRTop5 campaign promoted by Doug Ward to make it one of the top 5 startup destinations in Europe. Called ‘a second-largest tech cluster in Britain‘ and rivalling Birmingham to be called ‘Britain’s Second City’, Manchester has benefited greatly from partial relocation of BBC headquarters in 2011, which created numerous jobs and reinforced, as well as this the discovery of the revolutionary material graphene, was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2011. Therefore, technology and science are the main areas of startup emergence in Manchester. Some love Manchester for being a ‘miniature London‘ – international, open-minded, full of opportunities, cultural – without the drawbacks of sky-high prices and crazy speed of life.

GPS Direction: Manchester

What Manchester Has To Offer:

  • Starting a private company online in UK is a a 24 hour question and costs £15, with full support and information by the UK government, furthermore, corporate income tax was reduced to 20%, one of the lowest rates worldwide (UK taxation guide).
  • Exposure to various types of startup financing, including startup loans, grants and competitions, locally, throughout the North-West and UK-wide.
  • There’s a vibrant entrepreneur-friendly culture, including various meetups, networking events, startup services, which makes it the perfect environment for collaboration and knowledge exchange. There’s also access to a diverse workforce: specialists from around the world and graduates from four local universities.
  • Manchester is situated in the middle of the country and has excellent transport links, with both Scotland and  the South-East accessible in 2 hours by train, plus Manchester Airport with direct flights to 220 destinations worldwide.
  • Manchester boasts much more affordable living than in London and at the same time offers diverse cultural experiences, excellent shopping facilities, independent designers, international cuisine and good-old British pubs.
  • Rapid development of telecom infrastructure makes fast broadband Internet available for young firms at affordable prices.
  • It’s Britain, so English is the language for all communication.

However, Be Aware:

  • Funding a startup can be challenging, as Manchester has limited access to venture capital and business angel investment, as well as business accelerators, who are still in the process of coming to the North-West.
  • Britain is 10th globally amongst countries with the highest costs of life, so relocating from continental Europe would require additional finance.
  • Many existing and emerging programmes and events are tailored to serve priority sectors (tech, digital, media, science), so startups in other industries can find it more difficult to attract attention.
  • The startup community is limited, so many emerging minor events mean that you’re likely to bump into some familiar faces.

All in all, word on the street is that Manchester is a definitely a place to be for everyone, however remotely connected to the startup community. Manchester is a centre of close attention of the government and investors, and the city is open-minded and welcoming to every member of the international community. Entrepreneurship is in the air and opportunities are endless!

First Stop: Discover Manchester’s Startup Community

Manchester_guide_community

There is always something going on in the startup scene in Manchester, including various meetups, networking, tech and digital events, new ones are organised almost every week. However, the community is limited, so it makes more sense to attend the major events, where one can meet the most influential figures in Manchester startup community and learn about latest trends.

General Info On Manchester’s Startup Movement:

  • Manchester Startup Digest – convenient calendar of events happening on startup scene (you can subscribe to receive the digest weekly).
  • SpacePortX – is a home for regular digital and business mentoring events.
  • Manchester Startups – Facebook group for everyone either involved in Manchester startup community or interested in it.
  • Business & IP Centre – located in Manchester Central Library, it runs regular events to help with founding, developing and growing a business.
  • Manchester Digital Events – mentoring sessions, workshops, professional development for tech startups.
  • Northern Soho – apart from regular networking meetings for professionals from creative industries (media, marketing and advertising) on the last Tuesday of every month, there are other events for startup development.
  • North-West Tech Community – all interested can easily learn about tech events, conferences and groups around North-West and subscribe to up-to-date calendar.

Happens Regularly (More Or Less):

  • HackerNest – events supported by international non-profit organisation to create Silicon Valley-like tech communities around the world, involving investors and business owners.
  • Ladies that UX Manchester – various meetings for female specialists in UX (user experience) area.
  • SheSaysMCR – fostering careers of women in tech and creative industries through workshops, mentoring and events with quest speakers.
  • Startup Brew – informal networking meetup over coffee or tea for entrepreneurial-minded people.
  • The Pulse – this community for business owners, founders and entrepreneurs hosts unique events for Manchester startups and small firms.
  • Silicon Drinkabout Manchester – weekly Friday night informal meeting for tech people, startups and everyone wishing to get involved.

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • Leanconf is Europe’s lean conference for entrepreneurs and innovators. The 3 day event will next be help from April 21st-23rd 2016.
  • HackManchester – coding competition 24-hours-long, will take place in Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. Manchester-based student hackathons as Great Uni Hack and StudentHack are worth checking out as well.
  • Business Rocks – major annual event for leaders in tech media aimed to channel investments and create innovative tech cluster in the North-West.
  • Startup Britain Bus Tour – pop-up workshops for startups travels around UK and provides useful insights for everyone interested (in Manchester on 3rd July, 2015 in Piccadilly Gardens).
  • Venturefest Manchester – conference with opportunities to listen to influential speakers, attend workshops and network with region’s business leaders (in Manchester 22nd September, 2015).

Second Stop: Choose A Co-working Space In Manchester

manchester_guide_coworking

Manchester is home to high knowledge-value added firms due to the rapid development of information technology and easy access to research centres at major universities. So, Manchester offers a variety of co-working spaces, ranging from general to science parks, tech-oriented hubs and creative communities.

In addition, UK government has allocated £4m of funding to create a new tech accelerator, which would be located in Federation House (Northern Quarter), following the success of London’s Tech CityUK and established after the Google Campus model.

Co-working Spaces In Manchester:

  • Manchester Escalator (Central Working) – sponsored by Barclays (though accelerator exists only in London), the place can boast good location, community of like-minded people, meeting rooms and lecture theatre for 150 people.
  • Hello Work – startup-friendly environment not limited to any particular industry with flexible pricing (£150 per month for residents) and regular socialising events.
  • The Assembly – desk costs £160 a month with access to meeting rooms, fast internet and collaboration opportunities.
  • The Sharp Project – hub with office spaces created especially for convenience of businesses producing digital content, TV and film-making, offers working spaces of various sizes as well as studios, stages and event rooms.
  • The Hive – this home for creative and innovative companies is located in the Northern Quarter known for independent and unique shops, design studios, pubs, coffee-shops and of course creative spirit.
  • MadLab (Manchester Digital Laboratory ) – non-profit organisation, assisting collaboration in science, technology, arts and culture. Coworking spaces coming soon (currently under construction).
  • Empress Business Centre£150 a month or pay-as-you-go for desks in coworking space, however not dedicated solely to startups and freelancers, offering office spaces as well, so there is space to move into, when the company grows big enough.
  • Open Space Co-operative – located in Hulme (outside city centre), this self-managed project offers number of facilities (meeting rooms, Internet, parking, etc.) for £105 and £147 per month for members and non-members respectively.
  • Together Manchester – with £195 per month for a desk, broadband Internet, conference spaces, free coffee and community of creative and digital-minded people are on offer.
  • MediaCityUK – variety of properties for small creative companies and freelancers, reflecting specifics of BBC media-oriented business, for example The Landing.
  • SpaceportX – well-known place for tech startups, a home for many drivers of local startup community, this space also runs mentoring sessions, workshops and regular events, including occasional Silicon Drinkabouts.

Science Parks:

  • Manchester Science Partnerships – home to many science-based spin-offs with headquarters in the heart of Manchester University and spaces around Greater Manchester.
  • University of Manchester Innovation Centre – owned by Manchester University, this incubator was created to support scientific spin-offs and has office, lab, meeting and conference facilities for tenants.
  • MedTECH Centre Incubator – joint venture between NHS and Manchester Science Parks for fostering small healthcare ventures.

Third Stop: Tank Your Finances In Manchester

Manchester_guide_financing.

Despite the lively startup community, Manchester is still falling behind in terms of startup financing. Access to local venture capitalists (VC) and business angels (BA) is quite limited and startup owners often spend a lot of time (and money!) rushing between Manchester and London, where the majority of Britain’s VCs locate. Moreover, London-based financing cannot satisfy demands even of local startups, making them seek funding overseas.

Business incubators and accelerators are also not very well developed in the region. The good news is, in the near future, Manchester will be home to several accelerators. Also, the government effort in reinforcing entrepreneurial power in North-West is most likely to attract VCs and BAs to Manchester in the next couple of years. Moreover, co-working spaces put their residents in touch with VCs through personal networking. So, startups currently better rely on UK-wide and local grants and new venture loans as well as crowdfunding platforms. This section on Venture Central website summarises various types of financing with useful links.

Incubators:

  • Innospace – Manchester Metropolitan University-based business incubator with support stretching far beyond offering coworking space, which includes mentoring, HR, legal, accounting advice, events and many more.
  • Manchester International Innovation Centre – flexible and affordable solutions for international innovation companies, who want to relocate to Manchester; based in Manchester Science Park.

Accelerators:

  • Accelerate ME – marries student-founded startups with financing, networking, necessary resources and entrepreneurial scene inside and outside Greater Manchester.
  • Idea Alive – part-time programme built to help Manchester and Liverpool startups to develop ideas, commercialize them and scale up, no shares demanded.
  • UP Accelerator – located in MediaCityUK, this accelerator’s aim is to maximise media tech companies value through rapid customer acquisition and introducing startups to global partner network.
  • WebFWD – online accelerator run by Mozilla to share knowledge and expertise within Mozilla community worldwide, including localising them in different languages.
  • Growth Accelerator – part of the programme backed by UK government, empowers growth of England-based SMEs with access to finance, mentoring and managerial support.
  • Ignite Accelerator – programme for digital startups offering financing, coaching and mentoring is to open in Manchester in the beginning of 2016.
  • Entrepreneurial Spark – biggest free accelerator empowering business establishing and growth; launch in Manchester is to be announced.
  • Dotforge – a tech accelerator for social impact, provides 13 week programme, launches in Manchester In September 2015.
  • Barclays Rise – accelerator programme sponsored by Barclays and currently launched in London and New York is to come to Manchester in September 2015 with reshaping of Manchester Escalator taking place in November 2015.

Crowd Investing & Peer-To-Peer Platforms:

CrowdfundIn would help a startup to search for the most suitable crowdfunding solution in UK, P2P money would do the same for peer-to-peer offers. Also, such UK p2p platforms as Founding CircleRateSetter, Wellesley & Co, Zopa; and crowdfunding options at Crowdcube, Crowdfunder, IndiegogoKickstarter, RocketHub, VentureFounders, Seedrs, GoGetFunding, FundRazr,

Venture Capital & Angel Investors:

As mentioned, the majority of VCs and BAs reside in London and South-East and operate UK-wide, so such infrastructure is to be developed in Manchester. Startups searching for BA financing can look at the list of available options for North-West, or various financing types (asset, equity, overdrafts, etc.).

  • Co Angel Investment – North-West-based partnership, whose aim is to close a funding gap together with investors and other startup helping organisations.
  • Northwest Business Angels – between £20k and £500k financing for companies located in North-West and meeting certain criteria.
  • Epiphany Capital – tech and life sciences-oriented investment house based in Manchester.
  • Enterprise Ventures – located in Manchester, offers financing (VC, loans and growth funding) for English and Welsh companies of various sectors and stages of development.
  • Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme – help in finding seed-stage investment in UK in exchange for part of your shares of course.

Startup Loans, Grants & Programs:

  • Greater Manchester Investment Fund – loans from £0.5m to £5m for Greater Manchester companies, who are struggling to attract traditional forms of investment.
  • Start Up Loan – investment option established by UK government and provided through trusted partners throughout UK, including Manchester.
  • The North West Fund – independent non-profit organisation offering North-West SMEs different types of funding, including micro-loans, venture capital, mezzanine and sector-specific programs.
  • Business Finance Solutions – in partnership with several local organisations offers borrowing decisions between £500 and £2,000,000 in Greater Manchester.
  • Greater Manchester Loan Fund – loans from £100,000 up to £500,000, however, business should be already operating in the region and possess trading history.
  • j4bGrants – search engine for grants to grow and develop a business (need to register).
  • Greater Manchester Grants – list of (mostly UK-wide) grant options available for Greater Manchester-based small businesses.
  • Venture out / Venture Further – and other entrepreneurial competitions held by Manchester Enterprise Centre offer prizes for 1st and 2nd places for business growth.
  • Creative Industry Finance – another England-wide scheme for small businesses operating in creative industries.
  • Envestors – with one of the HQ in London, the team offers corporate finance advisory and matching with funders from expanse global network.

Fourth Stop: Seek Further Expert Advice In Manchester

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Most of co-working spaces and accelerators offer regular mentoring events, workshops and courses, which are free for residents and include various topics for overall business development. Startups can also benefit from organizations, which work with businesses of all sizes and stages. Manchester is all about knowledge sharing, so startups won’t experience lack of useful advice. A good place to start your quest is Central Library.

Mentoring & Support:

  • Business Growth Hub – offers the variety of business services (digital, innovation, development, etc.) available for startups and established companies.
  • Manchester Enterprise Centre – apart from organizing business competitions, MEC offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs in entrepreneurship as well as mentoring,
  • Manchester City Council – provides information support and access to different databases for Manchester residents in starting and running a new business.
  • Tech City UK – special support programs for digital businesses, plus access to information resources and free digital business courses.
  • MIDAS – financed by Greater Manchester’s local authorities, provides services such as property solutions, recruitment, relocation and others for free.
  • Fab Lab – assists for product designers to prototype and test their products by offering equipment, such as 3D-printers, also runs courses and workshops.
  • Manchester Digital – connects digital businesses with student workforce, also helps firms navigate in local business community.
  • Blue Orchid – Manchester branch of free business support and advice provider for starting and running business in UK.
  • Founders Dock – North-West division of world’s biggest entrepreneur network Tie, it offers mentoring, networking and education to members.

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Special thanks to Vimla Appadoo, who provided directions for search around Manchester’s startup scene.

Last updated: August 25th, 2016

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