Posted on August 9, 2017 by staff

Bristol talent attracting London tech firms to South West


The Bristol tech scene is attracting companies from London as it continues to raise its profile.

That is the view of Kay Drury, head of the UK technology sector, transaction services, for KPMG.

Drury, who cut her teeth doing tech deals for the likes of IBM, thinks firms outside of Bristol and the South West are increasingly able to see beyond the ‘combine harvester’ stereotype.

“I don’t have to explain myself quite so much. My business card says KPMG Bristol. It used to be: ‘Bristol? Why are you in Bristol?’ And now I don’t really get that question,” she told BusinessCloud.

“I spend quite a lot of time in London, and one of the things we’re trying to work hard with – the likes of which are going on at Engine Shed and TechSPARK – is trying to bring that angel network and that investor profile up for Bristol, so it doesn’t really have to go to London. But invariably, you do spend a lot of time in London talking to investors.

“Bristol is now seen as a much more culturally diverse city. You’re seeing a lot more companies that are based in London coming out this way: JustEat brought a lot of their back office development guys down and they landed in the Engine Shed before finding their own space.

“People are recognising that there’s a really good talent pool down here, it costs a fraction of what it does in London, and it’s a great place to live.

“I think the profile is getting there and that’s largely down to the efforts of the people in the region, raising that profile collectively.”

She added: “We’re trying to make regular trips [to the US] because you’ve got some really well-established VC and private equity funds who have realised the UK is producing exciting tech companies.

“And a lot of them don’t have offices over here so they’re hunting in the UK. We’re going to them to try and build those relationships and talk about the really interesting companies that we’re seeing.”

Run by around six staff, non-membership organisation TechSPARK is an info hub for all things tech in the west of England. On a monthly basis it connects with roughly a third – 20,000 – of the region’s tech sector. Drury praised its role in prompting innovation and collaboration in the region.

Ben Shorrock is MD of TechSPARK. He said although there is “loads of stuff happening”, the region’s traditional affluence means it lacks the Government-backed voice of the Northern Powerhouse cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle.

“One of the things about Bristol compared with all of the Northern cities is that traditionally it’s a fairly prosperous city. There’s a lot less public engagement and public sector support than you would get in Wales or the North,” he said.

“So part of the reason TechSPARK exists is that it has had some support from the public sector down here, but there isn’t a traditional competitor to what we are doing.

“What I would say is the sector as a whole has competitors and that’s more on things like attracting talent. Like every other UK city we lose some of our talent going out to London and other places like that.”

He added: “There are some amazing businesses and traditionally we’ve not shouted about it as much as we could have. We should be shouting about it much more. Even to the point where we’re just telling each other what we’re doing, and we can network and get benefit from that.”