Flexible workspace and access to a business network are critical for tech start-ups wanting to grow.
They were among the main conclusions of a series of entrepreneurs at a business event organised by workspace provider International Workplace Group (IWG) entitled ‘Using flexible workspace to grow your business’.
Michal Wisniewski, managing director at tech start-up Flock, told the 60-strong audience at Regus-Manchester in Trafford Park, that they had six staff spread across two sites at The Landing, in MediaCity, and Manchester Technology Centre.
The entrepreneur predicted that companies will have to have multiple sites across the same city to attract staff and connect into local networks.
He said two offices should be the ‘bare minimum’. “You should go for as many as you want,” he explained, “and really treat an office as an investment.”
Wisniewski said their location at Manchester Technology Centre had helped them attract interest from interns at Manchester Metropolitan University looking to work there.
“Recently, with The Landing, we also started to work on a relationship with the University of Salford,” he said.
Liz Whiteley is the business development director at Methods, which works closely with the public sector. The London-based digital transformation specialists opened up a Manchester office in 2016, originally at Barclays’ Rise building before moving to Spaces, in Oxford Street.
“Networking is key,” she said. “When it comes to moving into a new city make sure you surround yourself by a network first. You’re really not sure of where it’s going to bring you in terms of the connections you may need when you’re further along on your journey. For myself, I’ve actually ended up being an angel investor as part of the network.”
Sarah Novotny is an advisor with Greater Manchester Business Growth Hub and works closely with the digital sector.
“Companies want flexibility in their workspace and a community that they can plug into straight away,” she said. “Having the right environment will attract the right sort of people into your business, especially because the competition might have the right work environment. Ziferblat is the extreme example of where you can buy a workspace by the minute.”
Shailen Mistry is a data and analytics consultant at Slalom, which employs 7,500 staff worldwide with two offices in London and more latterly in Manchester. The company has grown from one member of staff to 16 at Spaces in Manchester and plans to grow to 200 staff by 2021.
He said: “It feels like Manchester is having a digital renaissance,” he said. “From the kind of image of an industrial Manchester it’s now becoming very, very prominent in terms of digital and tech. We spoke to someone from Manchester City Council at our launch event and they’ve got this desire to be number one in Europe for a digital hub.
“Moving to Manchester was a natural progress step. We’ve used this cookie cutter approach in the States and in Canada previously, as we’ve grown out. We’ve scaled up and we’ve moved to different markets along the way. Manchester stood out for many reasons.”
John Readman, founder of start-up Modo25, said the key criteria for choosing a base was finding a dog-friendly office. In the end the company, which specialises in helping people in-house their digital marketing, opted for an office in Leeds.
One of Modo25’s backers is Skyscanner co-founder Bonamy Grimes and Readman said they can take advantage of people who want flexibility in their work.
“We don’t want to be bigger than 50 people but we believe we’ll have an associate network of hundreds of people all over the world who could work from home,” he said. “Leeds is booming. You’ve got Channel 4 moving in. It’s pulling in a lot of talent similar to what the BBC probably did in Manchester several years ago (with MediaCity).”
Santino Colaluca, sales director of IWG, said the move towards flexible working would lead to an explosion in choice in both city centre and rural locations.
The other speakers were Martin Keelagher, CEO of Agile Automations and Graham Bowcock, managing director of Oakwood Valuation Surveyors.