Ignite by the numbers
Proof that the North can hold its own in building the UK’s technology industry
Yesterday saw the conclusion of Ignite’s fourth accelerator programme, with a public showcase at Campus North. Coincidentally, it followed the national launch of TechNorth, a new government agency to highlight and promote the work of the digital industries in cities across the North of England.
Ignite was one of the partners involved in the bid, and provided crucial validation and credibility to the proposed outputs of the new agency. Newcastle has the most developed tech and startup community in the North of England, and Ignite is the only longstanding accelerator programme in the Northern regions.
So while the spotlight is on the North, I thought I’d share some of the highlights of a presentation I made to the audience at yesterday’s event:
Campus North is a privately operated venue in the heart of Newcastle. It was commercially funded through partnerships, a successful Kickstarter campaign (which reached its target in 29 hours) and personal investment from the management team. It’s 10,000 sq ft of hot-desking, co-working, office and venue space, and it’s important to recognise that we established Campus North to meet the demands of the city’s existing tech community, rather than to stimulate interest in a vacuum.
Since opening its doors in June, the venue has had over 3,000 visitors. A typical sample of the type of events taking place at Campus North include:
• Tech meetups
• Newcastle University Entrepreneurs
• Sage Mentoring
• Mozilla Maker Party
• Free Coding Courses
The last example is something I’m particularly proud to see the team organise; Phil Jeffes, a developer with one of the startups based at Campus North, offered his time to produce a free six-week course for adults not involved in the industry to learn the fundamentals of programming.
Between the hot-desking, co-working, offices and accelerator programme, Campus North supports around 50 startups at any one time.
In October 2013, there were 3 Code Clubs in the North East of England. Ignite seconded its operations manager to Code Club for a week per month to work as a regional coordinator. Bear in mind that at this point, Ignite was a team of three people operating both an accelerator and co-working space—offering a week of manpower per month to a third party was a significant and potentially detrimental undertaking.
12 months later, and there are now 69 Code Clubs in the region. Code Club has now established paid regional coordinator roles across the country. There are over 4,000 9–11 year olds in the North East learning the basics of programmming every year.
28 early-stage startups graduated from Ignite’s first three cohorts. 82% of all teams raised seed investment as a result, and by the end of the 2014, the total investment raised by our alumni will tip over £10 million.
Ignite is a seed accelerator; that is to say, the majority of teams have never raised investment before joining us. Techstars, on the other hand, prefers experienced teams, a substantial number of which will have already raised before joining, and the expectation is that startups will raise at least $1.5 million once they exit the programme. Seedcamp is a micro-fund, and Entrepreneur First recruits individual graduates rather than teams. It’s important to make the distinction that while these are are incredibly successful programmes, they’re not seed accelerators comparable to Ignite.
While raising investment is by no means an accurate indicator of a startup’s success, it is a significant metric for Ignite, because the purpose of the programme is to ensure teams are investment-ready and capable of raising seed capital (should that be the best course of action for them; generating crazy amounts of revenue is always a welcome alternative).
The long and the short of it is that Ignite is the most successful seed accelerator in the UK. By comparing the top-line figures that are available for other programmes accepting early-stage teams, Ignite alumni are more likely to raise more investment than any other:
Seed accelerator in the UK
Please forgive the flag-waving and the self-congratulatory tone, but we’re now a team of just four people operating Ignite and Campus North, and like most startups, we rarely take the time to celebrate our own achievements.
Next year our plans will take us across the country and across continents; our home, however, will always be Newcastle. There are amazing founders, teams and technologies wherever you care to look, and we’re excited about playing our part in making the UK’s technology scene shine.