Newcastle Startup Week Founder Paul Lancaster (pictured right).
Jamie Hardesty

Member Article

North East digital diary: Newcastle Startup Week Day 1

In the latest North East digital diary, Editor Jamie Hardesty shares his account of Newcastle Startup Week, one of the the biggest tech events to take place in the city this year.

I’ve eagerly-awaited the start of Newcastle Startup Week since event Founder, and the region’s favourite digital superconnector, Paul Lancaster exclusively shared his big plans with me last September.

A week crammed full of digital and tech enthusiasts coming together to share their experiences, successes and advice - what’s not to love, right? Needless to say, today’s opener didn’t disappoint; it aimed to inspire and inspire it did.

Before I give a personal account of the day’s highlights, some context on the event’s background and ethos should be of interest.

A startup week, in Newcastle?

From Joseph’s Swan’s lightbulb to smart data technology at Science Central today, Newcastle has invention, innovation and entrepreneurship in its blood.

Newcastle Startup Week, a five day festival beginning May 15, is a celebration of such talents organised to inspire more local people to start a business and, ultimately, attract greater inward investment to the area.

Event founder Paul, for those of you who don’t have Twitter, has worked for the likes of Shell LiveWIRE, Sage and Tech North and is one of the leading proponents of North East tech operating today.

This week marks the realisation of Paul’s dream, an event to celebrate the city’s success as well as inspiring its future.

Day 1: Inspiration

Held at the Boiler Shop, a part of the city which was the focal point of the vastly innovative Stephenson locomotive works in the 1820s, the venue is the first of many sites across the city which will feature expert speakers sharing their stories throughout the week.

Paul opened the event, alongside conference coproducer Sarah Crimmens, by telling the packed crowd that he’d been helping people to start their own businesses for the past 15 years. Finally, he started his own business, Plan Digital, in April last year.

The week, he continued, was devised to ‘put on a plate’ the various aspects needed to know to start a business.

Based in venues across the city, Paul explained that the week would begin with a day of inspiration, followed by tips on getting started, funding and finance, growing and scaling and finally, whether to keep going or pivot.

Three of the best

It’s hard to pick out three highlights after such an impressive first day but hey, we’re allowed to have our favourites!

Speakers: Jason Knight, Blue Kangaroo

MD at Gateshead-based creative agency, Jason Knights delivered an impassioned account of his company’s history and particularly, how his business has won design work with leading U.S names from Disney to Lucasfilm.

Bursting with funny and charming anecdotes, Jason was warmly received by the crowd who will have sent many home imagining just what can be achieved from right here in the North East.

The setup

What’s really impressed me about the event so far, along with its branding and ethos, is its digital execution. Newcastle Startup Week comes complete with a free app (attendees, download it if you haven’t already) which provides not only a practical tool for our convenience but has a few trendy features that complement the ‘coolness’ a tech event such as this inevitably transmits.

Features: Heat map (pictured above) and live social media feed (pictured below).

The people

This week is about people. The entrepreneurs, the risk-takers and the up-and-comers.

While interviewing Paul I was interrupted by Dragos Iulian Matei (pictured alongside Paul in the headline image), an entrepreneur who met the event founder in 2012.

“Paul inspired me to create my business and I’m so, so excited to be here and celebrate with you guys”, Dragos told me, who specifically travelled from his native Romania this week to attend Newcastle Startup Week.

How’s that for inspiration?

Next up

Next up, Day 2: Getting Started, will explore business support opportunities are available when starting a new enterprise in Newcastle.

As well as covering the event this week, I’m investigating how those operating at grass roots level in the region’s tech scene feel about the North East being represented nationally. Would a Chief Digital Officer be a good move for the region?

Currently Mayor Sadiq Khan is recruiting for such a role in London to ensure the capital’s tech sector is sufficiently protected and promoted. I wonder, should the North East have such a role or even a holistic, representative body to do more for the sector by large? Why doesn’t it?

Lookout for my Twitter questions throughout the week, catch me @jamiebdaily, and don’t hesitate to stop me at sessions throughout the week to share your thoughts.

To see more info on schedule and events throughout Newcastle Startup Week, click here.

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