A leading tech entrepreneur says the move to merge Tech North with Tech City UK could be a bad one for the North.
The government announced the consolidation of the two organisations into a new national body, Tech Nation, late last year.
Tech Nation recently launched with an event in London while it is holding a series of ‘tour’ events around the UK.
Dream Agility CEO Elizabeth Clark described the move as a “potentially backward step” to BusinessCloud.
“Tech North has been swallowed up by Tech Nation [but] the North and South are different beasts,” she said. “Instead of everywhere in the North being the poor relation to Manchester, I worry that the North will now become the poor relation to the South.
“I appreciate that they want to share the success of Tech North into other provinces around the UK, but to scale it without proper investment behind it is a big ask and risks jeopardising the advances made thus far.
“It’s potentially a backward step, especially as there’s not a ton more money going into it.
“Having seen how hard the old Tech North team worked I really hope it’s a success – but the amount of investment going into it, particularly in light of Brexit and all the other scientific communities we may be excluded from, is not going to cut it for UK tech on a global scene.
“Just this month the Korean Government announced a $2 billion investment into artificial intelligence alone. The amount of money other countries like Korea and France put into it absolutely dwarfs what’s going on over here.”
Clark’s Google shopping platform, based in the Lancashire town of Ramsbottom, has built a presence in Australia, Atlanta, France and now South Korea. She says almost half of its business is now international.
The company’s cloud-based machine learning software sits between a retailer and Google and does the equivalent work of an army of PPC (pay-per-click) professionals.
Dream Agility was one of Tech North’s Northern Stars in 2016 and included on BusinessCloud’s ‘101 tech disrupters’ list last year.
Clark says there is more help available to start-ups in general than when she founded Dream Agility with partner Glyn Powditch in 2015.
“It’s a lot better signposted too,” she elaborated. “In the past, you couldn’t get investment in tech unless [you were doing something that] had been done before.
“Even on the angel co-funded stuff you had to have a lead investor with experience of what you do; if it hadn’t been done before, then you didn’t stand a chance.”
Clark is not worried about the impact of Brexit on her business and says her biggest challenge is the language barrier, “particularly Korean”.
She said being based in the Lancashire countryside can be a help to the business.
“We have a niche offering in a niche location which attracts a certain type of person. It helps to have a differentiator,” she said.