Sage CTO Stuart Lynn says the North East has a heritage of reinventing itself as the tech sector energises the post-industrial landscape.
Lynn, who once worked for the National Coal Board and has seen the area suffer following the demise of the mammoth mining and shipbuilding industries, is optimistic for the future.
“The North East went from coal mining to data mining!” he jokes before turning serious.
“What the North East has always done well is to reinvent itself. From heavy engineering to software engineering – there is no choice, you have to transform or do nothing.
“It was good for the area to spot opportunity in software engineering.
“It’s one of the country’s best-kept secrets though. We’re very modest and don’t shout from the rooftops about how good we are.”
Accounting software giant Sage is one of the UK’s tech success stories and continues to drive employment and innovation in the area.
“Sage started way back in the early Eighties in the software industry by responding to a business need, developing the first accounting software for one of the local companies and saw an opportunity in the market to take that to other people,” Lynn, speaking to BusinessCloud at the recent Dynamo tech conference, continues.
“But things have to come together, such as Alan Sugar with the Amstrad CPC, when for the first time people could afford computing.
“We had the software which allowed them to automate business and make it more successful.”
The unicorn is credited with dragging the digital sector in the North East up by its bootstraps, spawning innovative tech start-ups and attracting fellow giants such as Accenture and HP Enterprise through the presence of its talent.
But Lynn believes the region would boast a strong tech offering without the unicorn.
“Sage are the poster child but British Airways had one of their big tech centres here,” he points out.
“There were big R&D centres here for the likes of Procter and Gamble… long before the Accentures and HP Enterprises moved in, things were starting to happen here anyway.
“A lot of business start-ups were coming from the universities – we had our own Silicon Valley before Silicon Valley existed!
“The North East could be successful without Sage, although it has certainly helped with the success story here.”
One example of that can be seen with exciting tech firm Performance Horizon, the global leader in ‘digital partner marketing’ which is looking to double its workforce this year.
“Performance Horizon was looking to get funding and the fact we were here helped with that,” says Lynn.
“Sage has helped many companies sell the story to investors elsewhere about the North East of England.
“We’re the only FTSE 100 company in Newcastle, which we’re very proud of.”