Last week was one of those weeks that reminded us of why we are incredibly lucky to live in the North East. It was a big week for the tech community with the launch of Newcastle Startup Week and the 10th annual Thinking Digital conference. They were both a source of excitement throughout the office. While we didn’t attend Thinking Digital in person, we were all streaming our favourite sessions and Paul went to the fourth day of Newcastle Startup Week which was "Growing and Scaling". Both of these events are a testament to the extensive but often unsung tech and digital community in the North East.
The North East as a region has a longstanding history of innovation, and it’s hard to escape, even if you don’t realise it is there. It was in the same workshop that Robert Stephenson had his locomotive works that saw the launch of Newcastle Startup Week, echoing the region’s past innovation as inspiration for the region’s future entrepreneurs. Thinking Digital was held at Sage Gateshead, an iconic concert venue, that has The Sage Group as its patron (and namesake), one of the region’s biggest digital industry successes.
Many times in our office we’ve lamented over seeing cool events in London and not being able to go, so we have an appreciation for people like Paul Lancaster and Herb Kim leading the charge by recognising the need and filling the gap. Thinking Digital has become an institution of the digital scene in the UK with attendees and presenters coming from across the country and around the world. Newcastle Startup Week had more of a local focus, which contributes to fostering that cohesion that the North East digital community needs.
While Cargo Creative isn’t technically a startup, we found that the Thursday session of Newcastle Startup Week on growing and scaling still had a lot to offer to us as a more established business. This was one of the benefits of the way that the week was structured. Being a busy agency, we don't always get the chance to get out of the office, but it was worth the effort of getting ourselves out to Thursday’s session.
One of the highlights of the afternoon without a doubt was Chris Yiu, Uber general manager, Scotland and North East. He chartered the rise of Uber, and what the future holds for them. It was particularly impressive to find out the average Uber wait time is 4 minutes. Unreal! It’s not hard to see how they’ve become a household name in a few short years.
Something that appealed to us was that the event recognised that everyone is at a different place in their startup journey by having sessions that relate to a range of businesses - from those that haven’t started yet to those that are already somewhat established and looking to take their next steps. It was inspiring to have speakers that are at every point along the journey as well. Just because you aren't necessarily established, doesn't meant you don't have something valuable worth sharing.
There was a good camaraderie in the event, a sense that we're all in this together. While we are all different, have different mindsets and approaches to the way we envision our businesses, it's about capitalising on that startup mindset - growing, scaling up, improving and focusing on offering solutions.
Success looks different on all levels - we've got large-scale local gone global success story in Sage but it's good to recognise and celebrate the smaller agencies and businesses that are out there doing well. Gospelware is an example of this - who last month won the Webby Award for Best User Interface for their app Realrider.
We’ve got a lot to be proud of, so sometimes we should shout about it.
For us, one of the most important things was to be able to relate to the speakers, and to get enough out of it that it gave us something to take back to the office and reflect on it. It helped prove to ourselves that we were doing some things well, and that even though there are things that we could be doing better, we’re have a lot of good things going on. Sometimes it’s hard not to compare yourself to other agencies and remember that it’s okay to chart your own path instead.
Newcastle Startup Week had speakers and attendees from all backgrounds. From politicians to app companies, to creative agencies, to accountants, funding bodies and venture capital groups, lecturers from local universities, to online stores, to theatre companies, business psychologists, people in the legal sector, everyone can have a startup or help a startup. The tech community is a diverse ecosystem and we all need to continue to support each other, whether that is through championing the sector to more tangible measures, such as supporting infrastructure initiatives like high-speed internet for businesses.
We have got great opportunities in the tech community. Opportunities from joining communities like Front End North East, hot desking at Campus North, working with startups at Ignite to attending events like Newcastle Startup Week. We’ve got a lot to be proud of, so sometimes we should shout about it. Back at the office, we all have a lot to reflect on and think about where we’re going as a company and as individuals. It’s exciting and a bit scary, but we’re all proud to be part of the great digital community in the North East. At the end of the day, sometimes the best things from events like this is the reminder of what we stand for as a business - to work hard and be nice to people.
Special thanks to Blu Sky Chartered Accountants for the feature image and all they do to support startup businesses!
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