Comment: Why Sheffield is a great place to start a tech business

It’s never been easier to launch a tech startup. Samantha Deakin Hill, startup coach at University of Sheffield Enterprise and Founding Partner at Campus Capital explains why Sheffield is such a popular city for entrepreneurs. 

Why Sheffield is a great place to start a tech business

by Samantha Deakin Hill, University of Sheffield Enterprise

173 digital tech startups were born last year in Sheffield, according to the latest Tech Nation report. Now, I’m always a little dubious about statistics like this but regardless of how accurate the numbers are, it’s hard to deny that digital tech is a great place to be at the moment. Salaries are 44% higher than the national average, with job creation in the sector growing twice as fast as the wider economy. Combine this with comparatively low house prices and cost of living in Sheffield and you end up with a quality of life that soars above many other major cities in the UK and the world.

Sam Deakin

Good news for digital tech workers. But what about digital tech entrepreneurs? It has literally never been easier to start a tech business - low startup costs, low overheads, low cost of failure, and a plethora of free online tools and resources to help you learn how to code and launch. Investment in Northern tech companies is on the rise as well, with a total of £326.9m invested in 2016, according to the Tech North Investment Index. This is an increase of 1,551% since 2007 and to me, indicates that investors outside the north are getting wind of the opportunities in Sheffield and other northern cities. 

Just this month Sheffield tech company, The Floow, announced a £13m investment, which will allow them to double their workforce. Early stage tech startup, Tutora, co-founded by University of Sheffield graduate Scott Woodley, also announced an equity crowdfunding raise of over £700k, allowing them to take on more staff and invest in research and development. 

But it’s not all about the money. In the early stages of your business, the key to success for first-time founders is reaching out and getting help. Sheffield has several sources of local expert support available, including free business coaching sessions and skills sessions from Business Sheffield and The Growth Hub, available to anybody living in Sheffield. Both universities also provide free startup support to their students and graduates.

There are also many ideation and peer-learning events such as Startup Weekend and Founder Brunch which are open to any aspiring or active entrepreneur, so anyone can pitch ideas, meet co-founders, and build products with the support of people who have been there and done it.

Outside of the formalised support structures, we’re seeing meetups replacing traditional networking events. Informal regular gatherings such as the weekly GeekBrekky run by Sheffield Digital, and MISCSheff are a place for sharing challenges, learnings and getting to understand this strange but exciting world of technology and fast-paced innovation, and the people in it. 

The potential for growth of the digital tech sector in Sheffield is enormous. If you’re sitting on an idea you’ve had for a while and aren’t doing anything about it because you think you can’t or because you don’t live in Silicon Valley, think again. The Floow did it and are kicking butt at it. Tutora are doing it. Sumo Digital, WanDisco, Pimoroni. Countless other awesome tech companies are doing this in Sheffield. 

At least 173 people started something in Sheffield last year. Why not you?