Tech Nation Talks: How our EEMs supported digital tech founders in July

Kane Fulton, August 2, 2019 5 min read

Tech Nation’s team of 11 Entrepreneur Engagement Managers (or ‘EEMs’) are based across the UK. Their mission? To build an inclusive web in which founders can learn from each other, be introduced to valuable contacts and become notified of our programmes and other initiatives. In our monthly blog, we pick out some of the main themes and ways in which they’ve helped founders.

Three months and 11 venues later, Tech Nation Talks came to an end in July. At our series of events held to support Tech Nation Report 2019 and chat about regional strengths and opportunities in digital tech, our EEMs interacted with more than 1,000 attendees, swapping business cards and connecting them with founders and stakeholders across the country.

“Our event in Cambridge was a real success with more than 100 attendees, a brilliant panel, great feedback and amazing press coverage of the event afterwards,” says our East of England EEM Thea Goodluck, who also met with “super exciting”  businesses ElekronRx and Ziphii during the month.

“It was incredible to receive such positive responses from those who attended our event in Cardiff,” adds Gino Brancazio, our Wales EEM. “I was also very grateful to Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns MP for his attendance and opening talk about supporting tech in the country.”

Cambridge News coverage of Tech Nation Talks East of England

The tour was something of a baptism of fire for our Scotland EEM Hazel Gibbens, one of two new members (the other being Elizabeth Corse, representing the South East) to join the team in July. Just one week into the role she was thrust into speaking to a packed Bayes Centre auditorium at Tech Nation Talks Edinburgh. Luckily, she wasn’t phased.

“I’ve been thrilled to receive such a positive response to the EEM role coming to Scotland, where we’ve got quality of life, lower cost living, fantastic universities and even a few days of sunshine now and then,” she told attendees. “This is the place to be!”

Hazel addresses a packed crowd at Tech Nation Talks Edinburgh

Throughout the year our EEMs notify founders of opportunities related to Tech Nation’s growth programmes. In July, they encouraged founders to apply for our second Fintech and first Applied AI sector programmes, of which the final cohorts will be announced imminently.

In London, our EEM Eoin Marsh took part in a mentorship day by the FFWD accelerator, which gave him the opportunity to speak with 10 “brilliant” startups. “Many of the founders felt our early-stage Tech Nation Programmes – from Rising Stars to Founders’ Network – would offer them excellent support on their journeys,” he says.

Diversity drive

With the tour over, it was back to normal life for our EEMs – several of whom doubled down on diversity in July. In the Midlands, local EEM Naomi Watts was invited to join the panel of a new Female Founders’ Club, launched through the B-Seen programme.

Naomi has herself been recognised for her efforts in addressing diversity in tech after being made a finalist for the Forward Ladies Midlands Regionals Finals for the Emerging Leaders award. Her reaction? “Shocked, and honoured!”

Our EEMs are always striving to meet with female founders to share their stories and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. Jamie Hardesty, our North East EEM, interviewed Aimee Muirhead who has co-founded a SaaS platform called Marketing Engine aimed at offering marketers and business owners a chance to plan, share, and measure their marketing activity in a single dashboard.

“There’s a real dearth of female-founded tech businesses in the region, so I was delighted to support a new one,” says Jamie. “Keep a lookout for the article on our North East regional page.”

Meanwhile, our North West EEM Mo Aldalou met Lydia Jones, the 20-year-old founder and CEO of Liverpool-based startup Housemates. He also met Kobi McCardle and Dr. Lucy Buckley, cofounders of Manchester’s Dr Fertility, which recently raised £1m. “Both startups have huge ambitions and a great deal of passion,” Mo says.

Heading across the Irish Sea, Belfast was banging the drum for diversity last month with the city being ranked 28th best for women in business in the 2019 Women Entrepreneur Cities Index by Dell Technologies.

“The stat shows a real desire and passion to increase diversity in the workplace throughout Belfast,” says our Northern Ireland EEM Gary Davidson, who has been meeting with investors in the city throughout July.


At the beginning of the month, Gary hosted Tech Nation Talks Northern Ireland in Belfast. There, Mark Dowds, a cofounder of the Ormeau Baths coworking space, commented that there’s a paucity of funding available for scaling founders past the $4m mark.

Belfast-based Axial 3D, winner of the Startup World Cup Northern Ireland regional heat, bucked the trend in July having secured £2.4m of funding to further its growth in the US.

In a bid to make progress, Gary set up meetings with UK investors including Dealflow, Syndicate Room, Fuel Ventures and Octopus Ventures. Locally, he met with Cordovan Capital, a syndicate manager interested in investing in NI/UK tech and acting as a bridge between the London VC landscape.

Tech Nation Talks Northern Ireland’s panel

In the North East, another region where at our Tech Nation Talks event we heard that scaleup investment is in short supply, AI and linguistics social listening company Wordnerds from Gateshead raised £650k to grow its business. Another startup based in the region, Riccochet AI, launched a B2B search engine that aims to help sales teams find and quality new business leads faster.

The investment landscape is somewhat different in Manchester, where several large funding rounds were raised in July. Included among them were interior design scaleup DigitalBridge, who Mo interviewed about raising its £3m Series A round. Elsewhere, in Maidenhead, cloud-based metering provider StemaCo closed a £5m investment round.

Boosting skills

There’s no silver bullet to solve the skills gap in tech, and our Digital Business Academy platform is just one of many aimed at helping people boost their digital capabilities. Our Yorkshire EEM Jem Henderson has ensured that more students will be using than ever before after introducing it to York St. John University, who are now including it in their curriculum.

Jem has also secured a place on the Leeds City Region LEP’s digital board, allowing her to be part of the conversation on how to support tech entrepreneurship. She also attended and judged an Industry 4.0-themed hack day hosted by Hark, an IoT-focused startup based in Leeds who formerly appeared on Tech North’s Northern Stars pitch competition.

Hark’s hack day in Leeds

On a similar note, in Plymouth, our South West EEM Vicky Hunter attended a South West LEP Digital Skills Partnership meeting, which brought together key stakeholders from across Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay to tackle the challenges of developing digital skills in the area.

To connect with our Entrepreneur Engagement Managers and stay informed of the latest news developments in your region, visit our UK Network page and click through to your location.

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