8th Northern Tech Awards – a celebration of tech entrepreneurship in the North

Manoj Ranaweera
Updated on

8th Northern Tech Awards returned to Manchester after touring Leeds (2015), Liverpool (2016), Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (2017) and Edinburgh (2018), which I founded in 2011 and ran until it was acquired by Hugh Campbell of GP Bullhound in 2013.


In 2011, we catered for 70 attendees, when Ajaz Ahmed of Freeserve fame delivered the keynote speech. In 2012, Jon Bradford delivered the keynote suggesting strongly that Manchester get behind supporting tech entrepreneurship. In 2013, Ian Gotts delivered the keynote sharing how he sold his tech consultancy business in 9 months after moving to San Francisco.



This year, GP Bullhound catered for circa 240, where David Rowan interviewed David Moss, CTO and Co-Founder of Blue Prism, the only real tech unicorn (scalable software company) to emerge from the North West, now worth over £1.26 bn after listing on LSE:AIM.

When I started ebdex, my first tech company in 2004, tech used to be about building highly scalable software applications, e.g. Salesforce. Somewhere down the timeline, we started to talk about unicorns which in essence pushed technology driven non-software businesses such as Boohoo, The Hut Group and the likes into the limelight. As such, the definition of a tech company has increasingly become blurry over time. So it was a great opportunity to learn about a true software unicorn from North West after all these years.



Whilst 10 companies won awards, GP Bullhound compiled a list of the top 100 companies this year, a tradition they started in 2017, then with the help of TechNorth. Their list now includes digital service businesses which have further muddied up what tech is, e.g. unfortunately, this trend continues where non-tech ends up bundled with tech. Business Cloud recently published a list of 251 North Western Tech companies, which includes a significant number of agencies.

From the 100, GP Bullhound recognised 50 fastest growing companies, and these were presented on the three big screens last night. Here are the 10 companies which took awards at the end:

  1. Fastest Growing Company of the Year (with revenues under £10m): Wejo
  2. Fastest Growing Larger Company of the Year (with revenues over £10m): Celerity
  3. Judges’ Innovation Award: Crisp Thinking
  4. Judges’ Award for International Success: Twinkl International Publishing
  5. Judges’ Leadership Award: Nexus Vehicle Rental
  6. Tech4Good Award: Ecometrica
  7. Judges’ Young Entrepreneur Award: Adam Hildreth, Crisp Thinking
  8. Judges’ Entrepreneur Award: Mark Livingstone, Pharmacy2U
  9. Overall Judges’ Award: Matillion
  10. Northern Star Award: Hark

Congratulations are due for all of them. Setting up and running companies is not easy. You make so many sacrifices to achieve overnight success. Awards ceremonies are a good way to recognise the hard work done.

Rewinding back, in 2011, Garry Partington of Apadmi Ventures introduced me to Hugh Campbell, when Hugh returned to his home city after setting up and growing GP Bullhound in London and Europe. On 1st August 2013, GP Bullhound acquired Northern Tech Awards from Techcelerate. Lawyers for GP Bullhound were Brabners, who become our first corporate member this month after we decided to re-build the Techcelerate Network. As always, my interests were looked after by longtime friend Stuart Scott-Goldstone (of Aaron and Partners). I’m hoping Aaron & Partnes would also join the Techcelerate Network.



It’s been a while since I caught up with Garry Partington and the crew from Apadmi. They were unbeatable in the early days of Northern Tech Awards. No one came close to beating them in the mobile category. Techcelerate was the first to give an award to many tech companies in the north from Liverpool to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Such companies included CapsuleCRM, CANDDi and many more.



As the tradition dictates, some of us partied until early hours. I’ve left at 2 am appreciating that whilst Northern Tech Awards has changed, it still holds the same spirit of recognising tech entrepreneurial talent, as when it was first launched in 2011. Thanks to the hard work of Bev, Hugh and the team at GP Bullhound for keeping it going all these years.


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