Patrick Smith says Manchester entrepreneurs must be “bolder and braver” when it comes to shouting about the city region’s tech credentials.

Smith’s confidence came across in spades at the launch of our ‘GM 125 Rising Stars of Business’ list, held at KPMG’s office in St Peter’s Square on Friday in conjunction with GM Business Growth Hub.

Sporting a pink jacket and Nike Hi Tops to match his company Zally’s branding, Smith told the 100-strong audience that he intends to build a business “bigger than a unicorn”, get rid of passwords and help put Manchester on the map.

Cybersecurity startup Zally, which has raised £1.3 million towards its target of £1.6m, was only founded in 2022 but has attracted heavyweights to its board including 6point6 founder David Webb as chairman.

“We need to have more ambition,” he tells me afterwards. “With Zally, we have a global opportunity.

“It’s all about being bold and brave. And we can do that while putting Manchester on the map.”

Manchester hailed as perfect home for growing businesses

Smith says he is a born entrepreneur who has run several businesses including full stack development, digital marketing, events and 15 years as a DJ.

“It’s a journey to be an entrepreneur: you need to try, to fail fast, learn – and get to a point where you can build something like Zally with an incredible team,” he says. “I’ve managed to find people that are smarter than myself to help me grow as a founder and as a CEO. And that will help build a better business.

“Every experience brings you knowledge and know-how about doing things differently. I look at things in a different way and that helps me every single day to approach challenges as part of the journey – because there are ups and downs in a business and that makes me excited that something positive will happen.”

Explaining that he has received “a lot of ‘no’s’ alongside the ‘yeses’,” Smith sees positives in all feedback. “We are creating a novel technology – there is no book on how this should be done.

“We have to find a way to tell our story in the best way, without listening to ‘you need to take this out, and you need to put this in’… we have just done it our way. 

“When somebody tells us something can’t be done, that’s when we know we’re onto something. Saying ‘no’ to us just puts gasoline on that fire!”

In an interview several years ago, Dragons’ Den star Steve Bartlett told my colleague Chris Maguire – who hosted Friday’s event – that he chose to wear all black outfits every day to reduce the number of decisions he has to make.

Meet Social Chain CEO Steve Bartlett (& take off the wrap)

Like Bartlett, Smith is clearly image-conscious. However his outlook is very different. “It’s all about having an identity: I’m a creative individual so I need to showcase that in some capacity. I do it for myself – I want to feel good about what I wear.

“I have a massive sneakers collection and I’m obsessed with matching my outfits… I believe that those small breaks in the day, where I think about something else other than work, are also healthy.”

GM 125 Rising Stars of Business 2024

On being included in the GM 125 main list, Smith added: “It’s an honour to feature alongside so many impressive businesses and to sit on one of the panels this morning. 

“Manchester has so much going for it – I think we just need to be bolder and braver about shouting about it on a global scale. 

“Outside of this room – and LinkedIn – we need to be the ambassadors that rave about Manchester everywhere we go.”