Paul Lancaster, founder of Newcastle Startup Week.
Jane Imrie

Newcastle Startup Week 2019 highlights with Paul Lancaster

It is safe to say that Paul Lancaster has had a very busy week. As the founder of Newcastle Startup Week, an annual five-day event which has just wrapped up its third year today (May 17), he and his team have spent the week bringing businesses and entrepreneurs together in the city to celebrate all things startup.

Attracting visitors from across the country and even overseas, the event has grown in the three years since it was established, and with the event hitting its highest visitor numbers and planning to branching out to encompass the whole of the North East in 2020, Newcastle Startup Week looks set to keep on growing.

I caught up with Paul as the week’s events drew to a close, where he shared with me some of his highlights from Newcastle Startup Week 2019.

Getting bigger and better

“We have expanded the programme. The last two years it’s been afternoon and nights, so this year we’ve added morning sessions as well, we’ve added some fringe events so it’s a much bigger programme.

“It is a lot harder to coordinate but every single event has gone exactly how we wanted it to.

“From that perspective - organisationally - the team’s bigger, the programme’s bigger, the number of tickets sold is bigger, so, that was really pleasing to see.”

Lizzy Hodcroft: “Magical“

“Lizzy’s the co-founder of Myndr, and she’s one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard.

“She’s so charismatic, which is why I asked her to do that. In previous years she’s spoken on different days, this year I thought she was ready for the main stage.

“It was a really magical talk that she gave, it was a really brave performance, not just in what she was saying but the way she did it.

“There were people literally crying with emotion from what she was saying. The bravery to get up and do that…as a speaker she’s really arrived, it’s a gift she’s got.”

Steven Bartlett: “Another level“

“Steven’s a really big name in the digital marketing and social media world. There was a ripple of excitement when he walked in.

“His talk was another level, a masterclass in giving a keynote speech. He just had the whole audience in the palm of his hand from start to finish.

“It was great too to see how generous he was with his time as well before and after the talk, He spent about three hours talking to people, he had a constant stream of people wanting to talk to him. It was the nuggets of advice he was giving to people and the time he was taking to do that for people.

“I was very pleasantly surprised at how much time and effort he put into the experience, he didn’t just come and go like some speakers do - that meant a lot to the people he spoke to.”

Bringing Newcastle and Gateshead together

“We carefully choose the venues, as we like to move people around.”

“I was really, really pleased how well day two worked, because we did everything on the Gateshead side of the river.

“That was to try and attract more people south of the river to the event - and it worked, so it just shows how location does matter.”

The events on that day were great: Proto, Gateshead College, St Mary’s Heritage Centre and the Backyard Bike Shop at By The River Brew Co.“

Looking outward

“Focusing on the international angle [on day four] and looking outside of the North East really worked - putting Newcastle, Gateshead and the North East on the global map.

“That doesn’t just happen by staying here, you have to go out into the world. So I’ve gone out: I’ve gone to Edinburgh, I’ve gone to Lisbon, I’ve tapped into these networks and I’ve invited them back to speak.

“There are definitely genuine opportunities to bring the North East of England together with the South East of Scotland, as well as do more stuff with Nordic countries and Canada.

“Having people from Canada and Copenhagen involved in the event shows there are opportunities to do more internationally.”

Meenu Malhotra: “Purpose over profit“

“After the scaleup summit we did a special fireside chat at the Northern Counties club between Ammar Mirza and Meenu Malhotra [founder and chairman of Malhotra Group].

“[Meenu] never normally speaks at events, but he gave such an inspirational talk about perseverance and resilience but also gratefulness.

“[Meenu] was saying that anyone can make money, but to do it in a meaningful way that has a positive impact on the city and community, that’s much more important. And that’s what I’m trying to do - purpose over profit.

“He was saying how it makes him sad that the North East lags behind other regions, and certain people in the North East don’t come together. But actually if we work together, then we would do better, which is what I’m trying to do with Newcastle Startup Week.

“That was a really special experience, and one of the reasons I decided I was going to do Startup Week again next year. And now, it is Newcastle / North East!”

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