Manchester-based tech entrepreneur, Manoj Ranaweera founded Techcelerate in November 2006 as ‘Northern Startup 2.0’. Techcelerate led the initiative to consolidate and grow Manchester’s burgeoning tech scene. Between 2006 to 2013, Techcelerate ran over a hundred tech entrepreneur events bringing together entrepreneurs, senior managers of tech companies, investors, dealmakers and service providers in Manchester, Daresbury, Liverpool and London. They founded the very first dedicated co-working space in Manchester and lasered-in on sharing access to finance, talent, knowledge and distribution channels.
It grew to a community of over 2,300 companies and individuals stretching from Manchester to San Francisco and went on to start the UK’s only black-tie gala awards dinner dedicated to tech entrepreneurs. They eventually sold the awards to GP Bullhound, a boutique investment bank in August 2013 who continue to run it to this day. Techcelerate ceased operations that year but continued to keep a slimmed-down version of their website alive on the web for posterity.
During this period, the BBC moved a huge part of their London operations to MediaCity in Manchester in 2011. This was a very contentious move at the time as everything media had always centred around London and the South East. The North of England was seen an ideal location not least because 25% of license fee payers are based there, but at the time just 8% of programming catered to this region. Relocating to Manchester allowed the BBC to bring down costs and give more support to the region’s independent production, media and tech companies. MediaCity is now an established digital and technology hotspot and in 2017 Salford was declared as one of the UK’s best cities for startups, outranking London.
“We were the TechNorth or TechNation before these names were household terms and names. When no one gave a hoot, Northern Startup 2.0 was building Manchester’s tech ecosystem”
Manoj Ranaweera, Techcelerate Founder
2018: The Re-Emergence of Techcelerate
“When GP Bullhound acquired Northern Tech Awards from us, we decided to take a break” says its founder Manoj Ranaweera, a young-at-heart-but-clearly-seasoned candid 52-year-old entrepreneur. Still itching to help shape the Manchester tech startup scene for the new era, Techcelerate has been re-formed in a new guise.
Today, Techcelerate works with founding and management teams of technology product companies to accelerate their growth towards eventual exit. Its literature extols building a new trusted network for British Tech Product Companies – helping with their product development, customer acquisition, strategy, positioning, fundraising and M&A.
“In 2018, we restarted with some of our old and new friends”, continues the founder. “This time around, we wanted to get our teeth into helping tech companies accelerate growth through access to finance, know-how, talent and new markets whether planning to follow the traditional investment routes or not”.
“Our team and network has founded, failed, grown and exited from many tech product companies. We now deliver services based on this knowledge, experience and networks with the expertise of other partners and specialists to help us do so”.
In our short interview, founder Manoj Ranaweera explains how the new iteration of Techcelerate came about:
“There is a lot of information and knowledge out there in terms of how to create a tech company, but founders keep on making the same mistakes that I made in the mid-2000s. Namely, wastage. There is a lot of wastage in growing tech companies. I know this from personal experience. One man cannot fix all of this because the sectors and markets are massive, wide and fragmented”.
“And there are a lot of different interested parties in the startup ecosystem: accelerators, incubators, VCs, all getting intimately involved in a company’s development and journey like never before. As a founder, one can easily be overwhelmed or confused”.
“I’m trying to see if I can influence and remove some of that wastage and inefficiency by working closely and diligently with particular founders using our learned experience, expertise and networks. We try to provide other ways of doing things. We try to keep control in the hands of the founders and stop unnecessary wastage and dilution. There are many ways companies can develop quickly without selling a massive slice or giving up massive control”.
“It is easier to raise money now than it was before. There are more avenues to raise initial funds. Crowdfunding means anyone can invest in a technology startup up from as little as ten pounds. It’s now like a new alternative marketplace. But it’s about what you do with it and how much of yourself you give away. The funding rationale has become more skewed. You have to know your value and the solid reasons you are raising funds in the first place. We think there are other ways to do things, smarter”.
“But the only way you can do this is through solid trust-relationships with your founding teams, and delivery. That’s what my forte and focus is. On the founders and delivery. We work with founding teams from incorporation all the way through to exit. That requires solid relationships and trust. There is a lot to be learned, appreciated and applied from previous turbulent times in order to navigate through this one, to a brighter, solid footing”.
What Does 2021 Look Like for You?
“Covid has been difficult and it has caused many problems for us and our clients, and obviously to everybody else. But this has also given us a break and allowed us to reset and reassess where we all are. It has also brought up many new opportunities that will burgeon in 2021. Things have changed, and we will see how technology, the landscape and opportunities changes with that. But I for one am very positive about the rebound potentials of 2021 and solid growth potential going into 2022”.
Find out more about Techcelerate Ventures at https://www.techcelerate.ventures