The start-up cities

Let’s go to the chosen 25 cities and check their entrepreneurial credentials.

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Belfast

The Cathedral Quarter is being rebuilt and redecorated due to the University of Ulster intentions to make their Greater Belfast Campus reborn. The plan costs £250 million, and the place is said to become the own entrepreneurial hub for Northern Ireland.

At least, such are the expectations of the InvestNI company that provides start-ups with support, giving them a helping hand while going through several profitable initiatives. Diane Roberts from xCell Partners, the company that cooperates with the InvestNI’s branch StartPlanetNI has the same hopes – to establish a good co-working atmosphere.

Due to the efforts of Ulster Bank, the city has its Entrepreneurial Spark branch now. NISP Connect expects that the province will be turned into one of the best entrepreneur knowledge centres of the country or even in Europe till 2030.

Queen’s University takes too much effort comparing with its abilities to create new businesses. Kainos, the AIM-listed software developer, began as a venture between the university and Fujitsu. The university’s Qubis helps academics to commercialise  intellectual property with the help of business angels and VC funds.
Adam Ewart’s business idea was a practical response to a costly problem. ‘I was travelling back from Heathrow to Belfast with my girlfriend and we got charged £60 in excess baggage fees for 3kg over.’ That was the start of Sendmybag.com, an affordable door-to-door luggage delivery service that sidesteps soaring airline charges. At first Ewart sold to students, but as airlines sought to make more money from baggage, he began dealing with expats, sportspeople and celebrities. ‘We collect from 40 different countries,’ said Ewart, 30, who started the company in Bangor, near Belfast, three years ago. ‘In the past 12 months we handled more than 150,000 cases.’

Birmingham

Birmingham boasts the most start-ups outside London with more than 18,000 new firms born last year and the city council is doing all it can to keep the region at the top of its game. Finance Birmingham, set up after the financial crash, manages £90m of funds for small and medium-sized enterprises. It offers grants between £100,000 and £1m and claims to have helped 35 companies create 1,200 jobs in less than 12 months.

At Birmingham’s science park, Innovation Birmingham houses a number of programmes and offers start-ups and growing ventures desks and support as well as help with securing investment. Other programmes to support the city’s thriving digital scene include the Oxygen Accelerator and Google’s Digital Garage, which offers free mentoring and masterclasses from Birmingham’s main library.

In February Entrepreneurial Spark launched the first in a series of regional accelerators which house up to 80 young businesses for 18 months and give them access to growth awards of up to £50,000. Research suggests Birmingham’s office market offers the best value for money in Britain; an office in the business district is said to be cheaper than London, Edinburgh and Manchester with operational costs up to 55% lower than the capital.

“You’re never far from bumping into an entrepreneur in Birmingham,” said Anisa Haghdadi, 25, who was born and raised in Northfield, a suburb in the south of the city. She runs Beatfreeks, a youth engagement agency that works with employers to make secondary students aware of school-leaver schemes. “If people aren’t working from offices or hubs, they’re in coffee shops starting businesses. There is a real buzz and lots of support,” said Haghdadi, who has a British Empire Medal for services to education and young people

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