All eyes were on Newcastle as it hosted two big, inspiring events

Douglas Jones, May 26, 2017 3 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Last week, Newcastle celebrated the tenth annual Thinking Digital Conference as well as the first ever Newcastle Startup Week festival.

Any concerns that the city couldn’t attract enough people to stage both events vanished thanks to the nearly 1,500 delegates, 15 venues, and 80+ speakers shared between them during the week.

Thinking digital for a tenth time

Thinking Digital’s founder (and chair of Tech North’s advisory board) Herb Kim said: “The 10th Annual Thinking Digital hosted 900 people over two days with a mind-boggling 65,000 people joining us via Facebook Live from all over the world.

“With these numbers we weren’t surprised to see #TDC17 trending in the UK for over 6 hours. Thinking Digital 2017 exceeded everyone’s sky-high expectations and is being described by delegates as ‘the best ever Thinking Digital’. We’re grateful for the support we’ve received over the past decade and look forward to another 10 years of Thinking Digital.”

Thinking Digital kicked off on Tuesday with its sixth annual startup competition, led by Ignite’s Tristan Watson at Campus North. We also saw a return of John Kershaw, founder of M14 Industries and Ignite alumnus, who gave a terrific account of his startup journey so far as well as some great insights into his experience in convincing all five dragons from BBC’s Dragons Den to offer to invest in M14.

Imogen Heap

Musician Imogen Heap at Thinking Digital Conference 2017. Credit: Tynesight

The following day, the main Thinking Digital Conference was in full swing as hundreds of delegates flocked to the Sage Gateshead to see Mark Mullen (CEO, Atom Bank), Darren Jobling (CEO, Zerolight), and Imogen Heap (musician and innovator) as more. Dr. Anita Sengupta flew over from California’s Jet Propulsion Lab to give a gripping talk on NASA’s missions to Mars. And Dr. Justin Sanchez of DARPA showcased the incredible progress being made in brain/computer interfaces.

Making a week of it

The five-day Newcastle Startup Week festival began with an ‘Inspiration Day’ that took place at The Boiler Shop. This spectacular new conference venue is housed inside the world’s first locomotive steam engine factory.

First-day speakers included Chi Onwurah MP, Ammar Mirza CBE, Sage MD Alan Laing and the motivational business speaker Brad Burton paying homage to Newcastle’s industrial roots. They were followed by New York-based Amber Rae helping the audience of 400 delegates choose ‘Wonder Over Worry.’

The following day saw two Newcastle Startup Week events taking place back-to-back at Newcastle City Library and Northumbria University Business School. The theme was ‘Getting Started,’ and featured a range of North East experts sharing practical tips and advice on how people could get that idea out of their head and into the real world.

Newcastle Startup Week. Credit: Tynesight

Founder of Newcastle Startup Week, Paul Lancaster said: “As a startup founder trying to create something out of nothing there’s always the fear that it won’t work – especially an event. But by using Lean Startup principles we’ve managed to create a festival which succeeded in bringing the whole North East business community together for five days and nights to show why Newcastle is known as ‘the test bed city,’ and a truly fantastic place to start and grow your business.”

One of the biggest takeaways from last week was seeing the North East business community come together. That’s a key strength for the region, and one I have personally experienced and enjoyed during my time there.

Newcastle Startup Week and the Thinking Digital Conference are both set to return again in spring 2018. They will both provide an excellent pre-cursor to the Great Exhibition of the North, which follows in summer 2018 and is expected to welcome 1.5 million visitors.

Featured image credit: Tynesight Photographic Services

Newcastle, North East