In this regular series we introduce you to members of the Tech North team, and let them tell you more about their roles and their views about tech in the North of England.
This week we hear from our Head of Investment Strategy, James Bedford.
Tell us about your role at Tech North
Raising investment finance is one of the biggest issues facing Northern tech entrepreneurs, my job is to make that easier. I’ve seen too many companies opt to start up elsewhere, entrepreneurs leave and great businesses grow too slowly – this drives me to want to make a difference.
I have a proposal in with government at the minute for a pan-Northern co-investment fund to coordinate investors and dealflow, whilst also providing investment-readiness support and angel development to help grow the ecosystem.
I am supporting the investment ecosystem with support for new tech angels and syndicates. We’re about half-way through the workshops, after which we’ll have primed angels ready to meet experienced investors and make their first investments.
I also led on the Digital Powerhouse report which focussed on all the great opportunities for tech companies on our doorstep.
What’s your background, and what attracted you to working at Tech North?
As soon as I heard about Tech North’s mission, I wanted to be part of it. I believe the North’s economy can grow through the digital revolution and supporting tech entrepreneurs to make that happen is as exciting as it is challenging!
I’ve had lots of interesting jobs in economic development for many years, with my last job managing the access-to-finance programmes at Creative England. Making equity investments, loan finance, revenue-share deals etc was fascinating and I met some really great tech entrepreneurs over those three years. One of the issues it highlighted though, was how difficult it can be to raise investment, especially outside of the London-Cambridge-Oxford triangle. This is why I wanted to try to find a solution.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about tech in the North since you joined Tech North?
The resilience of Northern tech entrepreneurs. So many succeed after getting over seemingly insurmountable challenges – sometimes I think they can’t get back up and carry on but they prove me wrong!
It removes all doubt from my mind that the tech ecosystem is thriving and will reach new heights in the coming years – what can stop it?
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Trying to tackle such a big issue can seem overwhelming but time and again our partners in the North from LEPs to investors to entrepreneurs have come through with support, ideas and connections to keep the cause alive.
To know that the work we do is so well backed keeps me on track to deliver on our mission.
If there’s one thing you’d like people to do after reading this interview, what would it be?
Don’t let the political powers forget what great opportunities we can unlock in the North if we had a better functioning investment ecosystem.
We’re trying to get the co-investment fund included in the budget next month, and need everyone to help us make the final push!