Startups in Silicon Gorge
Bristol has had many faces during its long history. However, it’s now an emerging tech giant destined to rival its Silicon Valley counterpart. Furthermore, those in the technology sector refer to Bristol and the wider region as Silicon Gorge. Therefore, it’s gaining a reputation as the home of commercial enterprise and innovation for ambitious businesses and talent alike.
Silicon Gorge Startups
The Silicon Gorge success story owes itself to many factors. Firstly, the region’s approach to dedicated spaces for innovation. In this arena are places like Bristol’s Temple Quarter, Bristol Robotics Lab and UnitDX. With improved rail links from Bristol, Swindon and Bath, the cluster has secured its status as a world-leading destination. Additionally, it has become a realistic commute, with journey times to London now as little as 80 minutes.
The annual TechNation report highlighted that regional companies received over £300m in VC capital investment. In addition, it has birthed two new unicorns in Graphcore and Ovo Energy. Furthermore, it has one of Europe’s most productive technology talent pools.
Talent Is The Key
Alongside the births of unicorns and the arrivals of corporates like Channel4 moving into the region, the cluster’s success is also due to its ability to nurture and educate young talent. Furthermore, Bristol and Bath have always had a strong tech presence. Many industry leaders in the fields of media, tech and aeronautical engineering enjoy success here. Meanwhile, Bristol boasts two first-class universities educating the tech talent of the future. The University of Bristol graduates more than 5,000 software engineers and other computer science-related students each year. It has strong connections in the industry with companies like Toshiba and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, supporting industry placements and projects. Thus, students graduate with many opportunities to excel in their chosen fields.
Furthermore, aside from the education of future entrepreneurs, The University of Bristol plays a far wider role in the technological innovation of this city. Additionally, at the heart of the region’s technology sector is The Engine Shed. It is home to SETsquared, ranked the global number one university business incubator for the third consecutive time.
However, the Engine Shed isn’t just a space. It’s an ecosystem built to develop entrepreneurial communities. Therefore, it links investors and institutional finance, education and research programmes to the technology industry in the region. This unique environment plays a substantial role in raising Bristol’s profile in the tech and digital space.
Supporting the Silicon Gorge Startups
Bristol & Bath are built upon several pivotal networks to further demonstrate the cluster’s community spirit. One of the most prominent is TechSPARK which operates throughout the West of England. Its mission is to help strengthen the tech and digital sectors. TechSPARK delivers over 80 events each year, including the SPARKies. Furthermore, it provides a number of impactful programmes to support every level of business, from startups to major corporates. TechSPARK launched a UK-first initiative called the Investment Activator Programme (IAP). The 2-year programme strengthens the region’s finance ecosystem, develop stronger relationships with investors and VCs, and increases engagement with the region’s scale-up founders.
They aim to make it quicker and easier for technology businesses to access investment. In March, the programme was reported to have helped attract over £180m of investment into companies based here.
In addition, the schemes from Business West and West of England Combined Authority have given young founders the support they need to scale.
Silicon Gorge Startup Success Stories
Furthermore, one of the most successful enterprises to date is “Graphcore”. They have embraced technology and startup innovation to completely reimagine the future. In evidence of their ambitious business, they announced an additional $150 million in new capital to secure their position as the leading pure-play machine intelligence AI processor. Furthermore, the private placement is made by leading financial asset managers, growth equity funds and investment trusts.
This is an extension of Graphcore’s Series D round, which closed in December 2018. It brings the total investment in Graphcore to over $450 million at a valuation of $1.95 billion. Currently, Graphcore is extremely well-capitalised. It holds around $300m in cash reserves after this new investment. The vision is to support the company’s continuing major R&D investment and global expansion.
It’s not only Bristol’s tech scene which is enjoying such growth. All over the city, innovative and interesting projects are emerging, which only underlines these attributes. One overwhelming example is the introduction of The Bristol Pound, the only city-wide local currency in the UK. This unique payment method builds community connections and supports the local economy.
Many other attributes, such as strong transport links, help secure its appeal as a destination for employers and candidates. Cultural and leisure attractions, museums, festivals, a strong cafe culture, independent retail and inner-city regeneration have made this city and wider region a residential hotspot, with over 81 people per week moving from London to Bristol, according to to Invest Bristol & Bath.
Notable Silicon Gorge Startups
Don’t just take my word for it! This who’s who of Bristol and south-west startups is only the tip of the iceberg…
- Ultraleap: Using ultrasound to project sensation into the hands of users. Working to create a connection between people and technology, the tech business currently has a valuation of more than $1bn.
- HdE: The Performance Growth Agency for technology companies has helped many of the region’s high-growth technology companies grow their brand, audience and revenues. HdE recently secured a lucrative £500K deal with one of the world’s largest enterprise cloud providers. They are looking to utilise the agency’s acute specialism scaling technology companies in the UK.
- Five AI: Driving the future by developing AI & machine learning software for autonomous vehicles.
- XMOS: A Bristol-based microprocessor and micro-controller designer, leading the way in voice capture solutions…think Alexa and co.
- Immersive Labs: A cyber skill expert transforming the way people learn by engaging their curiosity and unleashing their potential with content informed by real-world events and threats. Recently secured $50m investment to scale their operations in the UK & North America.
What makes Silicon Gorge Startup hub?
Bristol has embraced innovation and handsomely rewarded with industry support and overwhelming success within the tech and digital arena. The region has a very mature tech ecosystem, which plays an important role in the region’s economy.
Indeed, the digital tech sector was responsible for a turnover of over £7.9 billion in 2017 alone. Per person, Bristol has the highest digital turnover in the UK at £320,000. The community is at the heart of such projects, which Bristol can strongly demonstrate through its rich and diverse culture.
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