Newcastle Tech Trust in 2018 — our first year in review

Last January, a group of entrepreneurs from the North East’s digital technology sector launched Newcastle Tech Trust. As we reflect on our first 12 months, it’s worth considering the mandate we set ourselves at that time:

…to support and empower ambitious technology startups and scaleups in Newcastle and North East England… to offer independent support, access to network and informed representation based on first-hand experience.

Newcastle Tech Trust continues to be entirely voluntary in nature and operates without any formal funding — just 8 of us giving our time and energy for free, while we work full-time in the tech sector.

Deb and Jo at the Trust’s first steering group meeting, January 2018

That means we haven’t made good on all our promises or intentions, because 2018 turned out to be a pretty eventful year for us all:

Flux Outdoor’s technology in London
  • Paul exited Hyperloop One and joined Jo (and co-founder Kev Price) to found SaaS startup Ricochet, raising a pre-seed round in July;
Jo and Paul working on user onboarding for their new startup, Ricochet
  • Tristan and the Ignite team continued supporting early-stage tech founders across the country, launching new programmes in Belfast, wrapping up their national programme and relaunching Ignite in Newcastle with both pre-accelerator and accelerator programmes; collectively, Ignite has supported and invested in over 50 startups in 2018.
Tristan mentoring Ignite teams at Techhub (photo credit — Ashley Baxter)

In other words, there was a real danger this was going to be a very short review. So what did Newcastle Tech Trust manage to deliver in 2018?

186 founders supported

The headline, and one we’re really proud of. Through our coaching efforts, workshops, founder events and focus on female founders, we’ve directly engaged with and supported nearly 200 people in our first 12 months.

74 coaching sessions

This total is a mix of the formal office hours we’ve delivered, and adhoc requests received via email and social media that resulted in coffee and advice. 1-to-1 coaching is resource-intensive and difficult to scale, but it’s integral to the community, and we’re hopeful we can improve on this in 2019.

FOUNDER / MIXER event, September 2018
1 female founders network

We’ve built a strong group of female founders over the last 12 months. At the moment it’s more of a knowledge-sharing community, but we’re looking to start arranging meetups in the new year. We’re also thinking about how we can make these female-led and female co-founded teams more visible to the investment world in 2019.

6 events & workshops

We collaborated with Jim Mawdsley and the team at Digital Union to present our series of Startup 101 workshops, deep-diving into essential topics such as business development, marketing and equity investment. We also held three FOUNDER/MIXER events in 2018, inviting new entrepreneurs to meet established startup founders, so the latter could offer the former experience-based advice and support.

FOUNDER / MIXER event, March 2018
2,434 readers

We haven’t been as consistent as we’d have liked with our posts, but we’ve found a substantial audience with what we did publish — our guide to dealing with bad actors in startup communities resonated with startup communities across the country.

1 Christmas Masquerade Shenanigans

Thanks to SoPost and Ignite Accelerator for their generosity in making our Christmas Masquerade Shenanigans one of the year’s highlights for the region’s tech community.

Shenanigans! December 2018 (photo credit — Tynesight Photography)
Advocacy & strategy

Advocating for digital technology SMEs is essential to improve their long-term opportunities, in the North East and further afield.

We’ve chaired panels about diversity in the technology sector, attended roundtables in Manchester and London on regional collaboration, contributed to working groups to directly engage Government about supporting sector growth.

Meeting with Matt Hancock (formerly DCMS) and NE technology representatives, June 2018

Our meetings have concerned local agendas (Newcastle, Gateshead and Middlesbrough councils) and national strategy (Tech Nation, BEIS, DCMS, the Cabinet Office), and we continue to meet regularly with other technology organisations in the region (Digital Union, Software City, Tech North East, PROTO, Institute of Coding) to ensure that our diverse agendas provide opportunities to collaborate.

2018 concluded with the Trust inadvertently becoming a modest viral sensation; when HM Government conflated facts about their Brexit deal that appeared to be endorsed by us, we pushed back — resulting in thousands of likes, retweets and comments:


So what didn’t work? The biggest casualty of our limited bandwidth was Seed Summit North, an educational event we’d planned for founders, angels and investors. The effort and resource required for a half-day conference was simply beyond us. Overall we struggled with consistency and delivery in the second half of the year as the majority of us became stretched by our professional and personal commitments.

We intend to do more in 2019, starting with the launch of a series of founder dinners, and we’ll be making some changes in roles and personnel to ensure we’re more consistent in our delivery. Our mandate will remain the same; we’re absolutely convinced by the North East’s potential, by the ambition and determination of the people and companies we meet, and we’ll continue to #givefirst and do everything we can to support and empower them.