On 23rd Nov 2006, a group of tech entrepreneurs from London to Dublin and their friends met at Institute of Directors (IoD) Lounge at Oxford Road, Manchester to share their startup stories. Over the next 7 years, we built a thriving community from San Francisco to Shanghai with Manchester as our base. Some of these friends came together on 23rd Nov 2017 to catch up four years after we stopped bringing the community together at Crowe Clark Whitehill offices to learn what they have been working on over the period.

Techcelerate 11 Year Reunion

Left to Right: Blal Choudhri, Sam Sethi, Stewart Townsend and Manoj Ranaweera

Among the attendees was the legendary Sam Sethi who initiated the idea for Northern Startup 2.0 (before we rebranded as Techcelerate), then as the Editor of TechCrunch. Sam attended the very first event 11 years ago with other notable figures from the UK’s tech ecosystem at the time, Ivan Pope, Paul Walsh and David Terrar.

After the short and crisp welcome by Michael Jayson (Managing Partner of Crowe Clark Whitehill Manchester), Stewart Townsend (B2B SaaS Consultant and previously head of Startup Essentials Programme for Sun Microsystems in EMEA) and Sam Sethi (portfolio), we sat down to discuss the investment landscape, exits and Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) with panelists Damian Hanson, Malcolm Evans, Donald McIntosh and Paul Rawlings.

Damian joined Techcelerate community after he left 2ergo, then the darling of mobile apps company to setup One Iota, which in 2013 he exited from. He recently raised £1.5m for his new tech startup, Circle Loop from friends and High Net Worth (HNW) Individuals, some of whom he worked with in the past. The credibility of his past achievements has de-risked the investment (now proven), resulting in an easier fund raise.

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Left to Right: Donald McIntosh, Malcolm Evans and Damian Hanson

Malcolm has been a corporate financier and investor for a number of years. Reconfigure.io, one of the companies he chairs and founded by another Techcelerate community member, Rob Taylor raised investment this month, but Malcolm remains sceptical as always about the investment landscape of Mancheter and the North West, as well as the quality of technology companies. He also bounced the idea whether Manchester has grown enough for a room full of people to easily raise £10k investment by simply passing around a hat.

Donald, as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), works with a portfolio of tech companies, especially in the financial services industry. He steps in to help at growth stages and recently negotiated sale of Manchester’s Plan B to Germany’s Raisin in addition to negotiating investment for Funding Options. Donald shared some of his experiences of raising investments. Personally without Donald’s help, I may not have taken the steps leading to creating the Second Coming of Techcelerate. Thank you Donald. You have earned the right to have a good bollocking at me any time!

Lastly, Paul Rawlings shared how he has helped FootAsylum transforms it’s business through technology and achieve a significant exit for early shareholders through an IPO raising £171 million. I remember having a number of discussions with Paul when he switched from being a tech entrepreneur to becoming the CTO of FootAsylum. Perhaps everyone should take a break just like Paul in joining an established company, share and relearn before coming back to build another startup. Even in my career, I have done two short stints but not to the same extent as Paul. One of his key talents is the speed at which he could build technology solutions. He and his team have completely rebuilt the retail technology stack for FootAsylum, from warehousing to in-store management at a lightening speed.

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Left to Right: Paul Rawlings and Donald McIntosh

Then I took the podium to share my thoughts on the SECOND COMING. First era of Techcelerate focused on building the tech ecosystem of Manchester by bringing tech entrepreneurs, investors, deal makers and service providers together. We never got in the middle of conversations other than making the necessary introductions. This time it has to be different. The landscape has changed drastically. Companies of all sizes have challenges, mostly around access to capital. Whilst there is more capital available, the efficiency of raising capital and the quality of tech deals have not drastically improved for the under £10 million market. And the Second Coming of Techcelerate wishes to fix this, whilst uniting all the key players of Manchester.

 

After my short pitch, we had the pleasure to learn from four tech entrepreneurs, John Ridd from Eviid, Tony Bray from Intuitive Business Intelligence, Rhys Jones from Wavebox and Andrew Threlfall from Malinko, each building their tech companies differently.

I met Andrew long before Techcelerate at Tiger Tiger in Printworks when Mike Southon ran his Beermat Events. Started as a software company, Liquid Bronze (trading as Malinko) operated with a small team until striking gold recently. But they had to work damn hard to get where they are now, and whilst the end of the tunnel is bright, there are key challenges to get through over the coming years. In short, they pivoted successfully from a software house into a B2B Software-as-a-Sevice (SaaS) product company in scheduling. Then they spent two years preparing for the UK National Health Service (NHS), i.e. SaaS serving micro and small companies to large enterprises. Having won couple of contracts in NHS, the next phase of the journey is to dominate the NHS whilst continuing with the SaaS proposition for SMBs. Malinko is certainly a tech company to watch in Manchester. And I have been privileged to work with Andrew through Venture 9 and his team over the last 11 months. In addition, they remain a key customer of my own tech endeavour, UnifiedVU.

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Left to Right: John Ridd, Tony Bray, Rhys Jones and Andrew Threlfall

Having sold his previous tech company, Version One in 2007 to Cedar Open Accounts, Tony struggled to find investment opportunities in the North West. Meeting Ed Smith at Techcelerate events led to founding of Intuitive Business Intelligence. The company initially focused on providing an on-premise business intelligence solution to meet a specific group of customers, which was later web enabled. Once the product achieved traction, the company switched 100% to distribution partner led strategy.

John Ridd founded YRFree which was later rebranded to Eviid. The company struggled in early years both with team members and product offering, but with perseverance, have not just found a niche, but have also successfully filed a patent creating significant defensive position against future competition.

Rhys Jones and I go back a long way. My first fintech company was a direct competitor to his company, Accountis. I failed to deliver which led to founding of Northern Startup 2.0 in 2006 which I later rebranded to Techcelerate. I recommended acquisition of Accountis to FundTech and later Rhys joined me to setup edocr.com in 2007. Rhys left edocr.com in 2009 and had a number of tech startups including Sanoodi and now WaveBox. Rhys is a proven serial tech entrepreneur dabbling with many ideas at any given time, and it was a real pleasure to have him join us with Susan Davies on the night. Rhys was also the founder of Secure Trading.

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Left to Right: Angel Salazar, Eric Masaba and Andrew Threlfall

Among the attendees were Angel Salazar, who had to kill his startup when Pokeman Go took the market by storm and Eric Masaba, the originator of ride sharing before Uber and others came to the market. 2015 Global Reherring 100 winnerEric has been fighting against injustice and if you are an investigative journalist, its well worth taking the time to listen to Eric.

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As the traditions dictate, after the event, we continued networking by joining with attendees from other tech events at The Refuge. As this post is already too long, I will cover the feedback and the road map ahead on Part 2. In the meantime, please leave any feedback you have in comments section below.

Many thanks to Michael Jayson and his team at Crowe Clark Whitehill for hosting the event.

Attendees (31):

 

Alexandra Morris MakeUrMove
Andrew Threlfall Malinko
Angel Salazar Manchester Metropolitan University
Blal Choudhri (new) NGLS
Colin Barnes Collabor8
Damian Hanson Circle Loop
Donald McIntosh Raisin
Eric Masaba Texxi
Gez O’Brien Star Dot Star
Ian Moss 196Destinations
James Crawford Touchpoint Change
John Ridd Eviid
Jonathan Lloyd CGHero
Malcolm Evans UK Accelerator
Manoj Ranaweera Techcelerate
Michael Jayson Crowe Clark Whitehill
Mike Carter Ixis IT
Nirmal Singh TouchIP
Paul Rawlings Foot Asylum
Philip Valentino
Richard Owen (new) Raisin
Rhys Jones Wavebox
Sam Sethi Bagzee
Shotaro Kodama (new) Manchester Business School
Simon Dalley (new) Makeurmove
Steph Tefen Yen (new) Manchester Business School
Stephen Barnes (new) Collabor8
Stewart Townsend SaaS Consultant
Susan Davies (new) Wavebox
Tony Bray Intuitive Business Intelligence
xxx McIntosh (new)