What are the opportunities and challenges for digital tech founders in Birmingham?

Kane Fulton, May 10, 2019 3 min read

What does Birmingham have to offer ambitious digital tech entrepreneurs? We asked the following stakeholders and business leaders to find out. For granular data on Birmingham’s digital tech ecosystem – including its companies (and founders), accelerators, and workspaces – see Data Commons.

Jo Salmon, Head of Estates, Oval Real Estate, says:

Birmingham is often ranked as the place for tech entrepreneurs in the UK outside the capital. There are numerous reasons for the sky-high popularity of Brum in the tech community, but I personally think that this is due to Brum being jam-packed with fantastic workspaces, restaurants, shops, great transport links, and having three top universities (providing the next generation of talent) right on our doorstep, which has ultimately led to the increasing number of tech businesses calling our city “home”.

Brummies are also renowned for being warm, friendly, and welcoming – never underestimate this when picking a location for a start-up! The cost of workspaces in the West Midlands are, of course, much more cost-effective than London. Plus, we boast regular tech meet-ups for making friends and/or collaborating on projects in the city.

Challenges in Birmingham are the same as any major city in the UK, most sectors are highly competitive, so you need to be a disruptor or ensure that you have a unique enough voice to set yourself apart from the competition in Birmingham (and across the UK). Of course, Digbeth is renowned for its workspaces.

Our unique area, recently named as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the UK by The Sunday Times, has former industrial buildings like the iconic Custard Factory (the hotbed of the startup scene in Birmingham), Fazeley Studios, and The Bond Company – all of which have workspaces of various shapes and sizes that are perfect for startups and scaling up.

David Hardman, MD, Innovation Birmingham, says:

The largest city in the UK after London has woken up. Inward investment and huge infrastructure projects (including the two HS2 sites in the region) – set alongside projects like the 5G testbeds and the Commonwealth Games, and the fact that Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe, with under 25s accounting for nearly 40% of the citizenship – means that with a new dose of confidence the city is thriving.

A major current challenge is one of perception. The quality of life in Birmingham is high, disposable income is higher than in most cities in the UK and the cultural scene in the city is booming. But we need this not to come as a surprise to those arriving at New Street Station or driving into the city from Spaghetti Junction.

Yiannis Moas, cofounder and CMO, Hyve, says:

Hyve is a Customer Advocacy Platform (using a SaaS model) that turns happy customers into advocates that spread positive word of mouth, generate ideas, help with marketing and deliver support to other customers. Birmingham is a fantastic and diverse city full of incredible talent, which has made it the ideal location to start a business. Its burgeoning tech scene allows us to collaborate with likeminded businesses and people who share our vision. I believe that Birmingham will be seen as the tech capital of the UK and we want to be a big part of that when it happens.

Our aspirations are to have offices around the world, specifically in Europe, the US and APAC where we see a huge opportunity for growth. We are already building partnerships in these regions so that when we are ready we can quickly build on these foundations. We are also looking to expand in the UK and would ideally have people operating in London, Manchester and Scotland.

Chris Woods, founder and director, CyberQ Group, says:

The CyberQ Group is a UK-based cyber innovator delivering world-class cyber innovation, services, and consultancy. Birmingham has become fertile ground for more than iron and steel. It is a powerhouse of innovation and is currently the most robust economy outside London. Birmingham has begun to establish itself as a thriving technology hub known as ‘Silicon Canal’ or ‘TechBrum’ among the city’s technology entrepreneurs. Its variety of tech-friendly workspaces, a rich mix of investors and tech specialists make the city the UK’s top region for innovation.

CyberQ Group is a global cybersecurity innovator with capabilities in the UK, Australia, India, South Africa, and the Philippines. Locally, we partner with Birmingham-based businesses such as Birmingham Hospital Saturday Fund (BHSF) and Probrand. Nationally, we partner with Logicalis as well as tap into the US market through partners such as CenterGrid.