Written by:
Christine Christodoulou

Revoco Talks Tech in the South West with Vicky Hunter of Tech Nation

We were lucky enough to be joined by Vicky Hunter of Tech Nation for our second Revoco Talks Q&A!

Here we talk Tech in the South West, more about her role as Entrepreneur Engagement Manager and just some of the fantastic digital initiatives and startups growing in the region. Have a read below…

Vicky, it’s great to have you join us for the second instalment of our Revoco Talks series. Could you kick things off  by telling us about Tech Nation and the work you do as Entrepreneur Engagement manager?

I really enjoy my role at Tech Nation, getting to meet and champion so many innovative tech entrepreneurs from across the South West region. Tech Nation has a number of different resources for digital tech companies such as our Digital Business Academy, the Tech Nation Visa and our support programmes for various tech sectors and different growth stages. My job is partly to promote these to the right people, but also to be aware of all the other opportunities available locally, nationally, and sometimes internationally, that scaling companies can benefit from.

Bristol has recently been recognised as the number one place for start-ups (outside of
London). In your opinion, why do you think this is?

Bristol regularly appears top or near the top of lists for it’s tech and startup scene, which is fantastic. Having personally moved from London to Bristol (with a few adventures on the way) I could say it’s to do with the appeal of living in a creative and community-driven city with a thriving tech scene, that attracts new talent and opportunity to the city. However there had to be something to attract them in the first place and that took time, hard work and dedication to build. Bristol now benefits from a platitude of spaces to work from, events to network at, and infrastructure for advice from starting out to scaling a business. There is a strong sense of collaboration and very importantly there are success stories we as a city can enthuse about, to show that you can build a business and thrive here.

Your work covers the whole of the south-west, are there other emerging tech hubs in
the region that could (in time) compete with the likes of Bristol and London, as a base
for start-ups?

There is no doubt that Bristol is thriving but there are hugely exciting things happening across the region too. Organisations like Tech South West and The UK Tech Cluster Group (national focus) are evidence that there is huge strength in collaboration rather than competition.

Generally there are more people, resources and money in bigger urban areas but there are great founders building their businesses from smaller towns. The pandemic has in many ways highlighted the opportunities for more people working from home, or from local co-working spaces, rather than commuting or needing to live closer to their urban company HQ. The places that will thrive, in my opinion, are those that can create a supportive infrastructure and community for business, that enables people to drop in and out when needed. Better transport will play a big role in this, as will facilities like restaurants and meeting rooms, but at the centre of it all you need the right people.

What do you think sets tech in the south-west apart from other hubs across the UK?

Different parts of the UK have different strengths but it’s clear to me that the calibre of companies coming out of the South West is consistently high across different tech sectors and different stages of growth. We have exciting new startups and we have Unicorns (a company valued at a billion dollars). I’m encouraged also by the number of successful female founders, which can only be a good thing for future generations of women looking to work in the industry. There is more work to be done in tech especially around ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, but there are some great initiatives like SETSquared’s Breakthrough Bursary and the Diversity Business Incubator in Plymouth.

You speak to Entrepreneurs every day, what would you say the main barrier impacting
entrepreneurial success at this time?

Well right now of course CV19 is a huge threat and the uncertainty of what’s to come puts pressure on founders both professionally and privately. Access to funding and the right talent are things that come up time and time again, and I think access to networks at a time when many people feel isolated has a role to play too. Networking is a strength of clusters; the more people you know in your sector, the more people know you and can send opportunities your way. If you’re building something in a small town where there isn’t a tech scene, you are likely to know less about the resources and help available. This is where my job can be so rewarding, and why, even aside from lockdown, online communities are of vital importance. Tech Nation set up Founders Network for just this reason.

What would your advice be to entrepreneurs wanting to get their venture off the
ground?

Budding entrepreneurs need and will get a lot of advice from a lot of different people. Not all advice is equally valid and it’s up to the individual or founding team to work out which advice to take into consideration. Researching your market and the routes into your customers is vital; building something is the easy bit, selling it is hard. There is also a lot of support out there so dive in. And of course get in touch with me or one of my colleagues across the UK, we’ll help point you in the right direction!

Who is exciting you? Are there any particular start-ups, initiatives or people doing great
things in the south west tech scene at the moment?

Oh this is a hard question because there are LOADS that I’d love to mention and I don’t want to be accused of favouritism. I find impact tech or tech for good especially exciting and to name a few there is Money Story in Cornwall helping their users with financial wellbeing, WellGood in Bournemouth focused on personalised mental health care and Ecologi in Bristol who plant trees & fund the world’s best climate crisis solutions.

Find out more about Tech Nation and the work they do here.

We’re helping start-ups scale their teams and save money! Find out how here.

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