At Tech Nation we’re creating a national network connecting ambitious digital tech entrepreneurs across the UK.
Whether you’re a founder looking for connections or support, a stakeholder embedded in a local community or are simply interested in what’s going on in a region, our Entrepreneur Engagement Managers (or ‘EEMs’ for short) are on the ground in towns and cities and ready to help.
In this series of articles we’re telling you more about our EEMs’ roles and views about tech in the country. Here we speak to Vicky Hunter, our South West Entrepreneur Engagement Manager based in Bristol.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’ve spent eight years working with tech startups in various engagement roles. I’m from the North East and that’s where it all started; I was invited along to a Thinking Digital event in Newcastle where I met some of the founders that were part of Ignite 100’s first cohort. I got involved with Givey, one of the startups, running an event alongside my Events Management Masters degree. When I moved to London a year later it was Ignite contacts that got me a job with Central Working, based at Google Campus.
I was absorbed by the amazing community of tech founders and entrepreneurs and became a part of the ecosystem, running events, facilitating introductions and supporting people in whatever way I could. I joined 3beards, a well-loved, grassroots events and community company responsible for many of the early day hackathons and networking events that took place in and around Old Street.
What wins have you had since starting? What impact have they made?
From Rising Stars (seed) to Future Fifty (series B+), the South West boasts alumni from every Tech Nation programme. This is in large part to do with the fantastic people and organisations supporting the ecosystem from LaunchPad in Cornwall, Cynam in Cheltenham and all the SETsquared and others inbetween; it’s been amazing getting to know and working with so many of them.
Tech South West works to showcase the region as a world-leading hub for technology and innovation, and I was honoured to co-host their very successful inaugural awards night in November – there was so much talent and passion in one room. With my background in events, I’m certainly biased towards them but I also loved our Tech Nation Talks event which showcased our headline report and gave me the opportunity to chair a panel of brilliant ecosystem stakeholders.
Have you met any exciting companies?
I’m extremely privileged to have met so many exciting founders tackling all sorts of problems and it’s impossible to do justice to the variety and quality in just a few sentences. You name it and we have great companies working on it. There is ambition and intellect here, a sense of pride and a thirst for growth. I’m really excited for the future of South West tech.
What challenges are founders facing in your region?
Like everywhere, funding is a struggle but with the lure of incredibly intelligent tech coming out of the South West, I’m optimistic that that is changing.
Poor transport and infrastructure across what is a fairly rural region makes it more difficult to access events, talent and funding. It seems a small thing but to get to an event such as the recent Pitch@Palace in Exeter, when there are bus replacement rail services from Taunton, “popping down” suddenly becomes four hours of commuting and for anyone with disabilities to deal with on top, travel can become not only time-consuming but also very expensive.
Hiring relevant skills is a challenge I hear repeated again and again, and it’s a symptom of the rapid growth of tech companies competing for the best talent in pools that can’t quite keep up. There are a lot of really great universities in the South West but the concern is that graduates’ skills are too quickly outdated, and they aren’t “work-ready”, meaning that apprenticeships and high-quality work experience placements are hugely important.
To end on a positive note, some amazing organisations such Bath’s Mayden Academy and Rocket Makers provide training and support to companies in need of technical skills.