The North’s digital sector is on the cusp of a global take-off as it continues to attract growing interest and investment from overseas.
That’s the view of Nick Horrocks, who has just launched his own corporate finance boutique X.O Advisory in Manchester after previously working at GP Bullhound and Clearwater International.
Horrocks says he’s focusing on aspiring scale-up technology and digital businesses in the region to access crucial funding and investment.
During his time at GP Bullhound, Horrocks was involved in a string of high-profile deals including the sale of North West games firm Playdemic to Warner Bros and a reported £20m investment from NorthEdge into Manchester-based Cubic Motion.
The veteran corporate financier identified a gap in the market for exciting technology companies after the start-up stage seeking to raise between £1-£5m.
“Over the last five years, we’ve seen the north’s digital and technology scene grow phenomenally, as has interest from investors, particularly from China, the Middle East and North America,” he said.
“There have been a number of very high-profile business success stories and we are keen to build on the momentum that is growing in the region.
“I think the infrastructure in the north is here and I think the communications with the outside world are all there. The university network, especially in Manchester, is extremely strong so there’s a huge talent pool that’s coming into the market. Manchester, and the areas around, are good places to live and the cost of living is not extortionate.”
Horrocks said the perception in London of the north was changing and predicted that would only grow further.
“I think the people in London that spend time in Manchester realise there’s a huge range of opportunities up here,” he said. “People who haven’t spent that time in the north are more sceptical until they do.
“I think you genuinely get a buzz, especially when you come to Manchester, about what’s going on. There’s lots of incubators, shared office spaces, there’s some very good companies who’ve shown us the way such as boohoo and UKFast. There’s an awful lot of good stuff happening.”
Horrocks said that other companies which have impressed him for their technology are Sykes Cottages and Manchester-based FinTech Planixs and predicted more companies would move to the north.
“I would be very surprised if that didn’t happen,” he said. “I think we’re going to be increasingly creating a centre, when seeing emerging industries in digital and media are interlocked one way or another. We weren’t five years ago. Those skill-sets can be used in marketing, gaming, software development.”
Over the last three months Horrocks has been interviewing prominent businesspeople from the Northern tech community for a new podcast series called My Digital Journey.
The series explores how entrepreneurs have set up and grown their businesses, examines their fundraising experiences and how they have dealt with the challenges of a fast-changing market.
“Ambitious technology businesses across the north of England and Scotland need to be given better access to funding,” he said. “We must work together to make sure that growth becomes a reality and that companies achieve their full potential.”