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

Kane Fulton, May 1, 2019 3 min read

What do Newcastle and Gateshead have to offer ambitious digital tech entrepreneurs? We asked the following stakeholders and business leaders to find out. For granular data on digital tech ecosystems – including companies (and founders), accelerators, and workspaces – see Data Commons.

Paul Smith, cofounder and CEO, Ricochet Technologies, says:

North of Tyne and Gateshead continue to offer huge potential. Key highlights in 2018 include the likes of Northstar Ventures and ADV actively investing at seed stage, and Gateshead Council delivering on its long-term strategy to support tech SMEs. Nurturing early-stage founders and teams is critical if we want more scaleups flourishing in the region.

However, there’s a critical lack of expertise; too few A-players with operational experience of high-growth technology businesses, which leads to a lack of informed advice and understanding of the early-stage sector, of the nuances of investment and business models. Above all, too few agendas are aligned with the needs of the community, and there’s too little tolerance for activities or solutions that deviate from these agendas, meaning best practise isn’t being sought or shared to help inform broader policy; differences of opinion are often treated as a threat, not a strength.

Pete Daykin, CEO, Wordnerds, says:

Wordnerds makes sense of the millions of tweets, emails, web chats, online reviews, CRM-entries and survey results written by and about big brands that are currently invisible to them. We’re just closing our first round of investment, which has seen us close down the agency that gave us life, an agency that was established, profitable and enjoyed a great reputation. Nevertheless, going all in on Wordnerds was a no-brainer.

The size of the brands we’re winning, the calibre of the people we’re working with and for and the track records of the people investing in us are intoxicating and exceed anything we could have achieved. We’ve only been going a couple of years and already we can tell this is a special opportunity and one that doesn’t come around too often.

Gateshead Council have been innovators since the days of the Team Valley and the Metro Centre. With Proto, the Council continue to be innovators today. When we spoke to different people about where to locate, they wanted us the most and gave us more and better help. Moreover, the NE tech community is that of a rare breed, a group of people that help each other and come together in the face of bigger and better-funded national and international competitors. It’s a wonderful place to grow a tech business. We’re the UK’s tiger economy.

Jonny Grubin, founder and CEO, SoPost, says:

SoPost helps brands run the most powerful product sampling campaigns online, with a focus on relevance, data and analytics. Our platform allows brands to integrate sampling into a range of digital activations, such as media buys, influencer partnerships, and from within content. We do this across 7 markets and we power the entire experience including data handling, fulfillment, and collection of feedback once someone has received their sample (as well as everything else that you wouldn’t even think of!).

The last year has been a bit of a whirlwind – we’ve been growing incredibly quickly, to the point where Deloitte recognised us as the UK’s 13th fastest growing tech company. I’m so proud of the team we’re building here, and all the work that has gone in – on the product and commercially – to get us to a place where we’re humbled to see others try to mimic what we do. It’s an extraordinary feeling to know that we’re the best at what we do, and that fills me with a lot of pride and motivation to keep getting better.

Why Newcastle? Why not! Being based in Newcastle gives us a massive competitive advantage: we can hire the best people and we can build a great working environment. Costs are also so much lower here which means that we’ve been able to build a real, fast-growing business, without having to load up on tonnes of venture capital money. I’m convinced that our structure of headquartering programming, design and operations in Newcastle, with commercial bases in London and New York, is a key reason why we’re seeing the success that we are.

North East