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

Kane Fulton, May 1, 2019 3 min read

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

David Dunn, CEO, Sunderland Software City, says:

We are now starting to see wider digital adoption from traditionally non-digital sectors such as manufacturing and charities. As this continues, there is a huge opportunity for the tech sector to understand these wider digital needs and develop new products and services to meet demand. I’m proud of some of the pioneering work being done in the city and the wider North East around the creation of test-beds as ultimately this helps new users reap the benefits of technology and helps the digital companies test their new ideas.

Exposure to markets beyond the local geography is still a big challenge for small companies who have limited capacity to talk about their innovative products and services. Access to skilled people is an inevitable challenge but we are starting to see some innovative new ways of finding new talent in the industry.

Mike Rohan, CEO, Tungl, says:

Tungl helps recruiters make better technical hires and chief technical officers build stronger teams through its software platform which assesses candidates technical ability online. We raised a growth round in October 2018 through one of the UK’s most respected VC firms which has helped us scale the team. I have been able to bring in leaders for my Marketing and Client Services functions as well as strengthening the board through the addition of a new Chair who has walked in my shoes when it comes to scaling a tech company. To say the last 6 months has been transformative is an understatement.

We were founded in Sunderland in 2014, it’s proven a great place to scale a tech company for a number of reasons. First of all there’s the access to talent – we have some great Universities in the North East. All of our tech team have graduated out of Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland or Teesside and I’m passionate about retaining talent in the region. We also have a really supportive local authority and the cost base is really favourable too – our whole office probably costs the same as renting a desk out of a nice serviced office in London.

Stewart Kibby, CEO, Workcast, says:

At WorkCast, we have been helping businesses create powerful and engaging online events since 2008. WorkCast has achieved a lot over the past year, especially in streamlining our UK and US operations. Our HQ is in Sunderland but we have an office in Seattle, helping us to achieve 50% growth in the US and 13% growth overall in the past financial year. We are currently in the midst of expanding our operations base in Sunderland, with plans to add ten new roles. Being able to support the growing digital economy in the region and provide jobs is also something of which we are incredibly proud.

Sunderland is an untapped market for digital companies. There are a number of great universities in the area which are turning out sharp and ambitious graduates. There is a slight challenge in terms of finding the right experience, but being able to bring on recent graduates means we can shape their thinking about what a digital company can be. We’re finding more and more people with the digital skill set don’t necessarily want to move to the cities that are traditionally seen as the ‘digital market’, so there is an increased appetite for these sorts of roles in Sunderland.

North East