Posted on March 27, 2019 by staff

‘Why only one Northern business among Tech Nation Future Fifty?’


Prominent Northern tech leaders have been surprised by the lack of Northern representation in Tech Nation’s newly announced ‘Future Fifty’ cohort.

Twenty-four new businesses have been added to the UK-wide programme today, which is designed to help tech organisations scale.

The new cohort of 24 companies is predominantly London-based and contains no businesses from the North of England. They join 26 existing companies on the programme, with Leeds-based Big Change Apps the only firm with its head office in the North.

The criteria for inclusion set out by government-funded network is that the businesses must have gained considerable traction in their markets and have global potential. They must have £5m revenue or have raised a series B round of funding.

“I bet I could name 50 businesses, based in the North and growing rapidly, that would meet the criterion easily,” said Andy Lord of Code Nation.

“My guess is that this list was compiled way before Tech Nation started to get a foothold in the North.”

The UK-wide, 24-month ‘Future Fifty’ programme provides access to its peer network, access to senior decision makers in UK government, masterclasses and access to global talent through a visa team.

“I am very surprised to see no companies appearing from Manchester or the Isle of Man considering they are both great Northern Tech hubs,” added Matt Newing, founder of Elite Group.

“Have they simply overlooked some of [Tech Nation’s North of England competition] Northern Stars?”

Of the new businesses announced in the latest cohort, five are based outside of London in Cambridge, Bristol, Glasgow, Nottingham and Watford.

The 2019 cohorts are predominantly FinTech companies, including fast-rising challenger banks Monzo and Starling. More than 70 per cent of founders taking part in this year’s cohort are first-time entrepreneurs.

“It’s disappointing there’s no companies from the North West, but we have to recognise that the UK’s venture capital community is in London, so it’s no surprise the majority of fast-growth, VC-backed technology companies are there too,” said Simon Swan, Founder & CEO of Manchester-based Hiring Hub.

“It stands to reason that bar a few outliers, this cohort reflects this; these are all great companies deserving of their place.

“Until we have a true venture capital ecosystem – and more importantly mindset – here in the North these programmes will always be dominated by London firms.”

There are more than 100 ‘Future Fifty’ alumni which include household names Deliveroo, Farfetch, Skyscanner,, Shazam and Just Eat.

Future Fifty businesses have raised more than $8bn from venture capitalists and capital markets between 2013 and 2018, and the average revenues of the programme’s cohorts is £9m.

“London’s tech and innovation sector is world-leading, and tech is also flourishing in other cities across the UK,” said Peter Estlin, Lord Mayor of the City of London as part of the announcement.

“The important thing now is to give our tech companies the best possible chance of sustained success – and the Future Fifty programme is playing a key role in that.”

Elizabeth Clark, co-founder, Dream Agility, asked: “Should Tech Nation be renamed Tech London and leave Tech Nation for the rest of the country?

“I did mourn the loss of Tech North when it met its demise, it had such an impact when a key bunch of people overcame the inertia of a lack of tech ‘presence’ and actually got some traction going in the North.

Dream Agility

“Tech in the North West is not what it was four years ago. Back then it was digital with a bit of tech. Tech companies had to head to London. Then it got legs on its own accord, but it was to be relatively short-lived.

“Tech Nation had a national launch (starting in London) which promised to bring tech from around the country under one umbrella. I was assured from the powers that be after I’d voiced my concern that Tech North had gathered enough momentum and that would be carried on under Tech Nation and the love spread to other areas. I can’t vouch for the other areas, but if you look at the Future Fifty, it doesn’t represent that promise.

“Should they just be honest about the fact that all the funding Tech Nation is getting from government seems to be having a more favourable impact on tech in London, or just admit that Tech North wasn’t as far on as they said it was?

“It sends the message loud and clear to entrepreneur and potential employees alike, if you want to be where the noise is at you need to be in London.

“One glimmer of hope is that the departure of Liz Scott from EY  (to Tech Nation) and the tech movement she’s build around herself there, is going transfer into a Tech North revival under the Tech Nation banner in her new role as head of Entrepreneur Engagement at Tech Nation.”