In this weekly 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 Community Engagement Manager for Yorkshire and Humber, Kane Fulton.
Tell us about your role at Tech North
Community management is a fascinating and multifaceted role. On the one hand it’s a listening exercise: what challenges are tech startup founders in the region facing, and how could I help? The latter could involve anything from pointing them in the direction of a Tech North programme – such as Northern Stars or Founders’ Network – to writing an article about their startup or connecting them with somebody in the sector.
Several of my own initiatives complement my role at Tech North. At the end of 2016 I created the Yorkshire Startups Facebook group as a place for people to connect, share stories and advertise. And, while the bulk of my writing features here on Tech North, I blog about events on LinkedIn.
What’s your background, and what attracted you to working at Tech North?
My background is in IT and consumer tech journalism having previously held roles at Information Age magazine and TechRadar. I’d been interested in Tech North since the press release announcing its inception landed in my inbox back in 2015. That led me to attend its official opening event at the Carriageworks in Leeds, in addition to the first Northern Stars Grand Final. I kept an eye on Tech North’s progress over the next year.
During that time I joined the Futurelabs co-working space and began writing articles on Leeds’ startup scene, interviewing companies such as [Northern Stars 2016 finalist] Synap, and JigTalk, on top of my existing job at the time. When the opportunity arose to work with Yorkshire’s startups full-time and help them on a more intimate level, I grabbed it with both hands.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about tech in the North since you joined Tech North?
That startup founders don’t always gravitate toward city (or town) centres, or even coworking spaces for that matter. The vast majority that I speak to bootstrap their businesses – and, as a result – many operate from home, out of coffee shops or from the offices they work in as part of their full-time jobs.
Described as ‘Network Effects,’ the advantages of working in the company of other startup founders is documented by Brad Feld in ‘Startup Communities.’ But in reality, factors such as the cost of coworking and office space, poor travel infrastructure, and a lack of time, means this isn’t always a realistic option. For me, removing the various barriers to startups colocating is one of the most exciting aspects of the job.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Connecting people who had never met is always rewarding – especially if a new business opportunity arises on the back of it. Another is giving coverage to startup founders who have never had an article written about them before. A lack of focus on the North’s tech scene from the mainstream press means that founders here tend to really appreciate that.
Additionally, seeing a local startup successfully raise a funding round, get featured in regional or national press, or achieve success in one of Tech North’s programmes is always rewarding. If it comes as a result of something I’ve done, then even moreso.
If there’s one thing you’d like people to do after reading this interview, what would it be?
Pick an event from Tech Nation’s Events page to attend. Go to it, enjoy a few drinks and make some new connections!