Tech City UK Blog

This week North East accelerator Ignite announced plans to expand to two more cities in the UK – Manchester and London – we caught up with CEO Paul Smith to hear why

From September this year, our accelerator programme will operate in Newcastle, Manchester and London, supporting early­ stage tech startups with seed investment, coaching and mentoring. It’s a substantial undertaking for us: we’re a team of just three responsible for managing programmes and a 10,000 sq. ft co­-working venue in Newcastle, as well as supporting over 50 alumni companies.

Why Manchester? We’re no strangers to the North West’s startup scene; we’ve been helping founders and teams for three years through event sponsorship and office hours, as well as investments in startups based in the city. With the launch of Tech North and a renewed focus on supporting digital innovation in the Northern regions, it makes sense that Ignite takes a broader view beyond the North East.

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The Tech North leadership team: Herb Kim (left) & Claire Braithwaite (right)

As Manchester’s tech scene crystallises, it’s sorely lacking an established, successful accelerator programme, so we’re thrilled that we can support the city’s growing tech community and truly represent the North of England.

So what can Ignite offer to startups in both Manchester and London? Well, there’s that all­ important track record. For example, the valuation of our 2013 cohort has tipped over £35 million, an 8x multiple for our investors in just 18 months.

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We’ve achieved this by working with teams of first ­time tech entrepreneurs who haven’t raised investment before and ­we think we’ll work with more interesting startups if we take bigger risks.

More importantly­ (and this is a key differential between Ignite and many other programmes in the country)­ the majority of our investment is from active angel investors, not VCs, the City or public pots of money. This means that any team joining Ignite has experienced entrepreneurs in their corner from day one with skin in the game. That’s critical once the programme ends; since 2013, over half of the teams have raised follow ­on rounds in part or whole from their existing network of Ignite investors.

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Beyond the programmes, anyone who’s worked with us knows we pour our heart and soul into supporting the the surrounding community. In Newcastle, this has meant establishing a community fund to support meetups, creating educational programmes and establishing co­working spaces, and we’ll go beyond our remit to play our part in both Manchester and London.

We can’t do this alone; everything we’ve achieved to date has required effort beyond our team and family of alumni. If you’d like to find out more about investment in the programme or working with us, please get in touch. We’re digging in for the long­ term to establish Ignite as one of Europe’s signature programmes for startup founders, and we’d love you to join us.

Paul Smith is the CEO of Ignite and Campus North, and Programme Director of CyLon, Europe’s first cyber­ security accelerator. Email