10 January 2018
If there was a space in Manchester 19 years ago with rolling monthly contracts, access to TV and recording studios, an events space and telephone and reception services, it would have been paradise for Gail and I.
Back then we were in the position of making the huge step from a home business to taking up space in an office in the city centre. The commitment of a two- or five-year lease was terrifying but we took a leap of faith and it has thankfully stood us well. That experience, however, sowed a seed in both of us that we would one day like to provide a space for startups and growing tech businesses so that they didn’t need to experience the stress of long contracts and commitments so early in their journey.
So last year, when we acquired the building next door, we were finally able to fulfil that ambition. With a whole building being redeveloped, UKFast doesn’t need the entire space at this stage; it’s more of an insurance policy having plenty of space to grow into in the coming years. It’s a similar situation to when we moved into City Tower and were rattling around with 30 of us; then when we moved into No1 Archway and had three whole floors to fill. It’s hard to imagine needing more space but I know it won’t be long!
With plenty of space, it makes perfect sense to share it with the community that has supported our growth. It makes equally good sense to hand the reins over to Tech Manchester to run the space.
Tech Manchester: connecting startups
A few years ago at a meeting with Sir Howard Bernstein he commented on how well Manchester’s digital community was doing but also on how fragmented it had become and how we need to connect more. As he sat down he said out loud he had hoped that I would take on that role. With a suggestion like that from such an amazing character, it was inevitable that we’d rise to the challenge.
Having spoken with friends, colleagues, the business community and beyond, we chose the name Tech Manchester. The initiative exists to connect all areas of Manchester’s tech community and bring real-world support and mentoring to those who need it. The challenge then was who to lead it? It is essential that Tech Manchester isn’t a UKFast Show; it’s neutral, it’s a community and it’s here to help. It needed its own identity and along that search we found Patricia Keating (Trish). Trish couldn’t be better placed to run the initiative – other than the fact that she was in Belfast at the time!
Since moving over and immersing herself in the community, Trish has done an extraordinary job of linking up people, networks, mentors and mentees in Manchester’s digital scene. With that in mind, Trish and Tech Manchester are the obvious choice to run this new space.
I am excited to launch the space later in the year and meet the exciting startups who take space in the facility.