The flagship Platform building in Leeds.
Nick Hill

Is 2018 set to become the year of the entrepreneur in Leeds?

Leeds City Region currently boasts a £64bn economy with a combined population of three million and a workforce of 1.37 million. It is therefore quickly establishing itself as the UK’s fastest growing city.

Key sectors contributing to the growth of the city region include retail, leisure tourism, construction, manufacturing and especially financial and business services, which account for 38% of total output.

However, Leeds also possess and extremely diverse economy and is becoming a haven for a wide range of entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

Over the last several months, I have noticed that there seems to be a growing emphasis on the importance of supporting and guiding these new business ventures, which is why I’ve now asked myself the question - could 2018 be the year of the entrepreneur in Leeds?

I would firstly like to highlight that last November the flagship Platform building, situated by Leeds city station, was officially launched. This 13-storey, 120,000 sq ft building is designed to support startup and early-stage businesses from the region’s digital technology and creative sector.

Tenants of Platform can benefit from a bespoke programme of business support, as well as social and networking events such as industry talks and seminars, health and wellbeing and mindfulness sessions.

It is at the Platform building where a recently announced new Angel Investor Hub will be based. Described as a place “where investors and startups can come together”, the Leeds Angel Hub will offer free co-working and education for investor members as well as hosting entrepreneurs, business leaders and academics for networking events.

The hub will be based in Platform’s lounge, which provides access to co-working hot desks, meeting areas, training workshops for new and would-be investors, event spaces plus access to market intelligence and a network of entrepreneurs.

Among the startup companies which have made the move to Platform is digital design house, LightStart. The company, which specialises in building digital products including mobile apps and web apps, has taken workspace in the tech hub that sits over three floors of the 13-storey building. LightStart’s new Platform space provides workspace and meeting space for its 6+ team.

Leeds entrepreneurs are also set to benefit from a newly launched incubator scheme, which will operate at the Unity Business Centre in Chapeltown. Designed to support Leeds’ budding entrepreneurs to commercial success, the incubator scheme will offer access to office space and meetings rooms, together with mentor and specialist support services including marketing. The initiative will be targeted at new startups and home-based businesses seeking to expand.

According to figures released by Leeds City Council, there 32,000 VAT-registered businesses based in Leeds and more than 6,000 are small and medium-size enterprises, which accounts for more than half of employment. This is significantly more than the national average.

Consequently, the initiative’s such as the ones mentioned above play an imperative role in, not only supporting the growth of a startup or early-stage business venture, but also help safeguard and create jobs and hel attract other budding business owners/entrepreneurs to the area. All of which will result in boosting the region’s economy.

In my opinion, Leeds City Region is quickly establishing itself as a key destination for entrepreneurs because they are provided with opportunities to gain financial support, expert advice, access to working space and are among other like-minded individuals. Therefore I do believe that 2018 will become the year of the entrepreneur in Leeds.

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