Four rising stars in the Leeds digital technology scene have been given a boost after winning up to a year’s free desk space and specialist business growth support at Bruntwood’s new tech incubator at Platform.
A health social enterprise and video platform, a tourism running app developer and two software management companies are the first digital innovators and entrepreneurs to win the prestigious prize at the landmark city centre building.
Bruntwood launched the competition earlier this year, working with partners to unearth the region’s hidden tech talent and give them the space and support they need to unlock their potential and thrive.
The winning companies have just taken up residence in the growing tech and digital community at Platform. They are benefiting from services including access to finance, talent and business mentorship as well as advice provided by delivery partners including tech talent specialists Complete Resourcing, business advisers, Grant Thornton, specialist tech investors, Mercia and full service national law firm, Shoosmiths.
Supported by Leeds City Council’s Tech Hub Fund, the incubator which launched in April 2018 is designed to nurture startup businesses from the region’s fast-growing digital technology sector and help create hundreds of high value-added jobs over the next few years.
Mile Positioning Solutions, which is taking a desk in the tech incubator for a year, specialises in creating mobile apps that combine geographical positioning with tourism, sports, pollution and health data.
Their app Runnin'City, which has won multiple awards in other countries, helps users discover more than 150 cities around the world while running or walking. It guides with vocal GPS instructions from one point of interest to the next and provides touristic information as the user approaches them.
Founded in Lyon in 2016, the company is now growing internationally with offices in Spain, Italy and the Benelux. Stéphanie Dawson, director UK & Ireland, said: “Being part of the tech incubator at Platform is proving to be the perfect way to expand our business because it’s the right environment for us - an ecosystem of like-minded people willing to collaborate combined with excellent opportunities to meet key stakeholders.
“It’s important for us and so many other similar businesses to have a tech incubator like the one at Platform which has the aim of boosting the local economy and developing talent and employment in the city region. There are great opportunities here and this tech incubator is a real asset for Leeds. Having a free desk and business support will help us quickly establish our business in the UK.”
Gareth Everson, co-founder of Connectably, an ‘all in one’ online business CRM software designed for small service based businesses, agreed: “We really value being part of a local tech community. To be surrounded by other businesses at startup and more advanced stages of growth than us is of great benefit in terms of sharing ideas, experience, and suppliers.”
Connectably, which has won a free desk for a year, aims to connect the tasks, actions and admin small service businesses need, including marketing, connecting with customers and making sales, which help owner-managed businesses become more productive.
Gareth Everson added: “The added attraction of the tech incubator is that it’s tech and digital only. Having access to relevant business events, the option to hire meeting rooms and use the collaboration spaces is also a big draw. We’re a ‘remote team’ most of the time, and so having space to connect is very valuable when we need it.”
Aireforge, which creates database management software, is taking one free dedicated desk for a year. Its products help manage and maintain large estates (600+ servers) plus an advising tool which gives users recommendations to help improve the performance and stability of their systems.
Drew Littler, Aireforge co-founder, said: “This opportunity will help us to go to the next level. We are currently a two-man band and we can now recruit someone for our business development in the heart of a building that specialises in helping small tech companies scale up and make their mark.
“This free desk means that we are able to start growing the business as well as concentrating on developing our software, without the worry of looking for premises and taking out leases. To have this on our doorstep makes a huge difference.”
DigiBete CIC, which is taking two free hot desks, is a social enterprise working in partnership with Leeds Children’s Hospital. It’s a comprehensive video platform designed to increase awareness and extend clinical diabetes services online to provide education and training to support young people, their families and communities.
Maddie Julian, director and co-founder, said: “We’ve already benefited from hosting key stakeholder meetings at the tech hub and the environment is really helping us focus on our next steps.
“This facility is incredibly important because it allows early stage businesses to share knowledge and expertise and provides a fertile place to work on your business, meet clients and tap into key mentorship schemes and access free business support.”
The creation of the incubator at Platform is part of a government-backed initiative to accelerate the growth of the high-value added digital sector in the North. Bruntwood and its delivery partners were awarded £2m from Leeds City Council in 2017 to launch the new facility.
Kirstie Shapley, partnership and programme manager at Platform, said: “We were delighted with the response to the competition and believe we have selected four companies with incredible potential to grow and benefit the regional economy. Each will benefit from being in the tech incubator and our network of partners who can help them achieve their goals.
“They all have innovative ideas that will make a real difference to their own end users and wider communities and we are looking forward to working with them and helping them to thrive during the course of the next 12 months.
“Our vision at Bruntwood is to create a community of like-minded businesses in a setting where innovation and entrepreneurship come together to forge partnerships and deliver growth, jobs and investment. It’s crucial to provide the spaces and services that support tech growth in Leeds city region.”