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

Kane Fulton, May 1, 2019 2 min read

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

Tom Wolfenden (pictured), Centre Manager at Sheffield Technology parks, says:

I feel like Sheffield is genuinely turning a corner in that we’re starting to see a lot of people not only found businesses but keep them here too. For a long time, we lost talent and businesses to Leeds or Manchester. At Sheffield Technology Parks we do a lot of work around ecosystem support, hosting meetups, workshops, events and socials aimed to drive people’s confidence to start and develop a viable and successful business.

There’s still a cultural reticence to shout about success. A lot of people, including me, generally like this modesty. It’s what makes Sheffield, Sheffield. But it also has a huge impact on people’s confidence to start something up. We’re working to address this cultural shift which will ultimately help the economic development we’re here to achieve.

Jonathan Seaton, CEO at Twinkl, says:

Twinkl started out in Sheffield as an ‘after-work’ business operated by my wife Susie and I. Now it has over 480 team members worldwide, including 290 at our head office in the city. We are proud that Twinkl was born in Sheffield and our growth is a testament to the amazing talents of people based or moving here, particularly in the digital and education sectors.

As Twinkl is a digital business, our resources have always been available to people anywhere. Although we have always created a range of resources, we initially targeted England by including materials specifically tailored to the National Curriculum – the company grew as schools embraced our resources. We have now adapted to suit different curricula and cultures and have been translated into 15 languages.

Laura Smith, cofounder at Slanted Theory, says:

Slanted Theory is an innovative data visualisation and analytics company that utilises virtual, augmented and mixed reality to disrupt the way data is analysed. Our focus is on international markets such as the USA, where our clientele is predominantly based. As an emerging market, there is greater involvement and experimentation in mixed reality.

We are also looking for national companies with interesting use cases for large-scale data analysis, and we currently looking for investment. Sheffield is continuously evolving and is a city with a vibrant community of creative and ambitious individuals. It’s a place where you can set up and experiment with your ideas, drawing from a fresh talent pool from the two universities here.