Darren Jobling (CEO, ZeroLight) and Alasdair Greig (Director, Northstar Ventures)
Darren Jobling (CEO, ZeroLight) and Alasdair Greig (Director, Northstar Ventures)

Newcastle Scaleup Summit shines a spotlight on business growth in the city

Over 160 delegates gathered yesterday (November 23) at Live Theatre, Newcastle, to attend the first ever Newcastle Scaleup Summit.

The event, aimed at helping people learn how to take their business to the next level, was delivered by Paul Lancaster and Sarah Crimmens following the success of the inaugural, five day Newcastle Startup Week programme which launched in May earlier this year.

The necessity to collaborate, innovate and adopt a ‘growth mindset’ were key pillars to success highlighted throughout the day, which was packed with a lineup of a diverse range of speakers, all of whom offered insights and tips surrounding business scale.

Scaleups are very much the in vogue business term right now, with the work of serial entrepreneur Sherry Coutu and indeed the Scaleup Institute in the last three years really coming to the fore. When considering the future economic direction Britain must adopt to flourish on the world stage in the coming years, certainly the term now seems synonymous with the discussion.

Moreover, in the Autumn Budget earlier this week, Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed that the government is publishing its “Action Plan” to unlock £20bn of new investment in UK scaleups.

Much work is being done in the region to develop an ecosystem able to identify, support and grow scaleups in the North East, particularly by the LEP, which Business Growth Director Colin Bell explained in beginning the event.

Scaleups, in the definition promulgated by the Institute, are a difficult topic to grasp, with much research still to be conducted at national level to uncover an accurate depiction of the landscape of Britain’s high growth firms.

That being said, the concept of scaling and growing businesses isn’t groundbreaking. Newcastle alone is bursting with entrepreneurs, business owners and innovators with much experience of the highs, and lows, of rapidly growing companies. And here lies the value brought about by the Scaleup Summit. Real voices of people with deep-rooted local history of building enterprise were shared.

Alongside the stories and advice on adopting the aforementioned growth mindset, the event offered practical advice on a range of topics intrinsic to scaling a business.

Such features included improving sales, marketing & PR of existing products or services, as well as innovating, developing & launching new products or services to grow.

Improving processes to save time & money to invest back into your business and finding people with the right skills & experience to grow your business also featured prominently.

Learning how to forge & maintain partnerships with bigger businesses and understanding how membership organisations can help added to a 360 degree perspective of the ingredients needed to contribute to entrepreneurial success.

For a look back at the full lineup of speakers throughout the day, click here.

Three of the best

As ever, it’s difficult to pick out only three highlights from an event which brought together a plethora of inspiring speakers.

Looking back at my diary of the day, however, the following were particularly interesting in my opinion.

Professor Roy Sandbach

‘How to innovate & develop new products / services’

When Professor Sandbach talks, people listen. Never a business owner himself, Professor Sandbach is an academic with a prevailing interest in innovation and a long history of working amongst rapid growth from days gone by at Proctor and Gamble.

Speaking with much humility and a commanding understanding of what it means to grow enterprise right here in the North East, I’d say he had the crowd in the palm of his hand during his talk. Certainly the audience didn’t want it to end and my only criticism would be that we wanted more!

Janet Balneaves, Growth Director at Skyscanner

‘Our journey from traditional marketing to growth’

While many of use know and use flight-booking site Skyscanner, few of us know the intricacies which exist within the business itself.

To have Janet Balneaves openly and honestly offer insights into how the company works and adopts a lean mentality to constantly grow and innovate was something of a pleasant surprise.

It’s unusual for such large, established firms (Skyscanner employs over 900 people now) to value so highly the teachings from Eric Reis’ fabled book but Skyscanner really does have agile working at its heart.

Also, if you’re a sucker - like me - for a good chart and coloured graph to show business growth then this really was the talk for you!

Darren Jobling (CEO, ZeroLight) and Alasdair Greig (Director, Northstar Ventures)

Fireside Chat

I saw Darren Jobling talk at Thinking Digital earlier this year and it was really pleasing to see how he stood out, ie a local business owner, amongst an array of high-profile international speakers.

Hearing how Zerolight, a company continuing to scale rapidly itself at present, built its business from pivoting and funding risk to working with leading names in the car industry was inspiring to hear.

Packed with humble and honest snippets of advice, ranging from recruitment to innovation and winning business, it was especially pleasing to have a success story willing to draw back the curtains as Darren did.

What did you make of the event? Which speakers inspired you the most? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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