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Manchester’s booming tech scene – #DGMeets Emily Spaven

Tech City News’ editor, Emily Spaven has her finger firmly on the UK’s tech pulse. This week, we interviewed her to find out more about being a northerner (yeah!), Manchester’s booming tech scene and James Bond.

Tell us about Tech City News 

We cover developments in the UK tech scene, producing news, comment and analysis online, plus we create video content, a quarterly magazine and we host tech events.

We started off covering the London tech community, but there’s so much innovation going on across the UK that our goal now is to cover the whole nation. We’re aimed at those working in the tech space, so expect to find useful startup advice as well as news on who’s raised funding and who’s been acquired or is acquiring!

We’ll be redesigning our site in the new year to increase the focus on the UK’s different tech hubs and there will be a whole section dedicated to the Manchester tech scene, so keep your eyes peeled for that!  In the mean time, we’re always interested in hearing from tech startups, so if you have news to share, drop us an email at editorial@techcitynews.com.

Who’s the best tech person you’ve interviewed for TCN and why?

I’m lucky to have spoken to loads of inspiring people; one of the most interesting interviews was with former MI6 field officer Matthew Dunn, we talked about the tech he used when he was working as a spy – not quite as elaborate as James Bond’s armoury of gadgets, but pretty cool nonetheless!

Your recent video about Manchester’s tech scene was awesome. What made you focus on the city?

Thanks! I’m a northerner myself (although I’m from over the Pennines in York) and didn’t want the southerners hogging all the limelight!

Manchester’s such a great city – I have plenty of friends who either have lived there or still live there and they couldn’t speak highly enough of it. It’s got all the ingredients to make a great base for tech firms and Cisco’s presence in the city was also a real help – they partnered with us on producing the video.

We’re keen to create a series of documentaries looking at the various tech communities across the UK. There are some real pockets of talent and I just don’t think they’re highlighted enough. The UK is an awesome place to start up a tech company, I just think we need to shout about it a bit more. We hope to help do this, so watch this space for more documentaries on other towns and cities.

You mention in your piece some of Manchester’s best tech brands (LateRooms, Boohoo, etc) – who’s doing digital best out of them in your opinion?

BooHoo.com is a standout success; on the day it floated in 2014, it finished with a market value of £840m – incredible. Other Manchester-based women’s fashion retailers are following in the firm’s footsteps; Missguided (with sales for the financial year 2014/15 reaching £86m) and PrettyLittleThing.com (with full-year sales of £30m last year) are both awesome brands.

What are the biggest challenges you see for tech businesses in the UK in 2017?

Brexit’s the main problem. It’s created a level of uncertainty and made investors nervous, so there may not be as much VC cash around until it’s clear what the new landscape is going to look like. UK tech companies benefit massively from European tech talent, so restrictions on the movement of workers could cause real problems given the shortage of homegrown talent.

Theresa May’s plans to overhaul employment law could also cause problems as many tech companies, and tech workers, rely on the gig economy. Theresa wants to protect workers’ rights, I get that, but I just hope any changes to existing laws don’t cause damage to tech startups. These companies are usually bootstrapped and need to be able to hire labour as and when it’s required without binding contracts, which often suits the needs of freelancers too.

Aside from that doom and gloom, I do have high hopes for 2017! We’ve seen lots of really interesting developments in areas such as artificial intelligence, VR/AR and FinTech this year, so I hope to see more of the same next year, perhaps also some viable applications of blockchain technology.

Stay on top of what’s happening in the north’s tech scene here.

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