After ceasing operations earlier this year when it lost its core funding grant, start-up network Tech Nation has announced it will be relaunching its brand with a £10bn investment.
Originally established in 2010 as ‘Tech City UK’, focusing on nurturing the tech ecosystem in East London, the non-profit ‘Tech Nation’ grew to become one of the most prominent start-up networks in the UK, supporting the growth of the digital tech sector across the country. Tech Nation is reported to have supported more than 5,000 companies in their efforts to scale-up as well as 48 growth programmes to help accelerate over 1,200 start-ups.
Core Funding Lost – Ceased Operations
However, back in February, it was announced that Tech Nation would be winding down and operations would cease at the end of March 2023 due to its core grant funding from the UK government being awarded to a programme run by Barclays Bank. At the time, Gerard Grech, founding CEO of Tech Nation, highlighted how important Tech Nation had been to the UK’s tech sector, saying: “Many of Britain’s most successful tech companies, from Monzo to Deliveroo, and from Skyscanner to Darktrace, have passed through one or more of Tech Nation’s growth programmes” and that “we have helped spread digital growth and jobs nation-wide. For every pound invested in Tech Nation, we have returned £15.”
Although Tech Nation was broadly praised for what it had achieved, criticism that came out of a report about its grant funding by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology was that it failed to implement some recommendations from a 2019 review (better recording of outcome data), and that, in its last period, around half of the participants in Tech Nation growth programmes were based in London (perhaps not a wide enough scope).
Along Came The Founders Forum Group
After announcing that it was “actively seeking” interested parties to acquire its portfolio of its assets, Tech Nation was acquired in April by the Founders Forum Group, owned by UK entrepreneur, investor, and founder of LastMinute.com, Brent Hoberman CBE.
On acquiring Tech Nation, Mr Hoberman said: “By recognising and fostering remarkable digital talent and accelerating startup success nation-wide, Tech Nation has positioned the UK as a world-class innovation hub. We’re honoured to be inheriting this important mission and marrying our objectives with those of Tech Nation to preserve and expand the UK tech ecosystem.”
Now, with HSBC Innovation Banking as a funding partner, Tech Nation has announced its relaunch (at Birmingham Tech Week – TechWM), saying in a LinkedIn post: “We are returning with a bold pledge to facilitate £10bn investment into the tech ecosystem and a commitment to ensuring half of Tech Nation’s UK startup network is based outside the capital.”
Tech Nation has also announced that, in partnership with Motability Operations, it will be launching ‘Creo’ which is a community of disabled founders and those building technologies for the disabled community.
Tech Nation describes itself as the “leading platform for tech insights, connections, collaboration and talent.” The kinds of services that Tech Nation offers to UK startups include:
– Fostering connections among tech entrepreneurs, startups, scale-ups, and established companies (creating a supportive community).
– Offering training, workshops, and resources to entrepreneurs and startups to help them acquire the skills and knowledge to grow.
– Mentorship – providing access to experienced entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and mentors who can offer guidance and advice.
– Helping startups to connect with potential investors and navigate the funding landscape.
– Publishing reports and insights on the state of the tech industry in the UK, which can help inform policy and investment decisions.
– Advocacy. Representing the interests of the UK’s digital tech sector to policymakers and government bodies, thereby (hopefully) helping to shape a more favourable regulatory environment.
– Helping companies to scale their operations internationally.
– Organising events, meetups, and networking sessions that provide opportunities for startups and tech entrepreneurs to connect.
Although the UK government wants to turn the UK into a science and technology superpower, and the return (re-launch) of Tech Nation will be seen by many as one important contribution towards achieving that, recent economic conditions have proven to be challenging for tech companies. For example, a tech skills gap, very high interest rates, the UK on the verge of a recession, a slow recovery from the pandemic, Brexit complications, tech firm layoffs, and a drying up of venture capital last year, and more have all created a less than favourable environment for tech startup growth.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
In the previous year of Tech Nation, prior to losing its funding earlier this year, it had proved to be instrumental in the growth of the UK’s tech landscape, bringing it to a valuation of $1 trillion today, compared to $60 billion in 2013, and helping create 4.8 million jobs and 135 ‘tech unicorns’ (privately held startups with a value of over $1 billion).
The return of Tech Nation, therefore, backed by investment and the support of the Founders Forum Group, could be a pivotal moment for the UK tech sector and startups in terms of providing much needed support in challenging economic times, offering resources, connectivity, and a wealth of opportunities to rejuvenate the startup ecosystem.
Tech Nation and its many services (such as mentorship, training, and networking) being back up to full speed could bring faster growth and smoother scaling. Additionally, if its network really does extend far enough beyond London, Tech Nation could democratise access to its resources, ensuring businesses across the UK can benefit. This approach could foster a balanced and (hopefully) resilient tech ecosystem nationwide.
The hope now is that Tech Nation’s impactful return could also stimulate job creation, skill development, and economic growth in the UK, aligning with the goal of establishing the UK as a science and technology superpower.
In these times of venture capital uncertainty, Tech Nation’s role in connecting startups with potential investors could become even more crucial, and Tech Nation could help provide UK tech businesses with expect guidance through the funding landscape, opening up new opportunities for growth.
It’s also good to see that Tech Nation’s relaunch includes ‘Creo’ which signals a dedication to building a more inclusive tech community, ensuring that opportunities for innovation and impact are accessible to all.
Tech Nation’s relaunch, therefore, could be a significant boon for the UK tech sector, promising renewed support, nationwide opportunities, and a bolstered economy. For businesses, this could equate to a supportive environment, increased funding access, and a commitment to inclusive growth, setting the stage for a brighter, more innovative future.