In the last few weeks, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to support our community and make sure we’re in a position to survive during this crisis. Most of these things aren’t really visible so I thought it may be worth sharing some of them.

Gathering Evidence

Firstly we’ve been drilling down to the key issues that are affecting you. TechSPARK has hosted a series of roundtables and meetings across Bristol & Bath to understand the key challenges and learnings we can share. We have spoken with dozens of businesses ranging from 3 to 1,700 people in the region under Chatham House rules.

What we’ve learned is that there is some amazing resilience out there and, whilst many business and people are being severely challenged at the moment, there’s still a huge appetite for collaboration with companies keen to see we come out of this stronger. We’re going to continue to talk to you to understand challenges as the crisis unfolds and use this as an opportunity to build even stronger links between businesses and founders. 

Offering Support 

We’re taking the evidence we’ve gathered and using it to offer support and share the information that’s out there. That includes:

Working with Government

We’ve also been working closely to advise both local and national government on the challenges our community faces and lobbying them to take action. We know that a big part of the future prosperity of our area is based on the work that tech businesses and startups are doing now; to lose this community would be incredibly damaging. 

Every week we report, nationally as the board of the UK Tech Cluster Group, into the Minister for Digital to lobby for support including cosigning with Coadec the Save Our Startups campaign. In Bristol, every Tuesday, the Mayor pulls together the One City Economy Board where we represent the tech sector to understand the challenges and what he can do. We’re also in almost daily contact with the combined authority (WECA) to share our expertise and encourage them to take action to support the ecosystem to get through this and grow. 

We’re lobbying on specific support to be invested into the ecosystem and sharing where many of our community has fallen through the gaps. A good example of this is the lack of support for businesses who, by basing themselves in a managed workspace, haven’t been able to access the £10K grant awarded for small business rates relief. There’s a petition we’re hosting with Business West and EngineShed, please sign it.

We’ll keep going. 

We’re doing all this as a tiny not-for-profit who, like lots of small businesses, has seen a huge drop off in income and real uncertainty for the team. Despite that, they’ve worked incredibly hard to keep things going and we’ve seen some real support from individuals in the community to help us, which I’m immensely grateful for. It should also be said that we don’t get public funding to do this so without our core partners we definitely wouldn’t be where we are today. 

We’ll continue to do what we can to make sure that this awesome community survives and thrives as we get through 2020. I look forward to seeing lots of you when we’re allowed back out of our houses!

Ben Shorrock

Ben has been working to help grow tech and digital business for the last decade. He is currently the MD of TechSPARK the Southwest’s network for tech startups and scale ups working with 25,000 people a month to help them recruit, network and raise capital in the UK’s most productive Tech cluster (TechNation 2019). He sits on the boards of the UK Tech Cluster Group, Bristol’s ONce City Economy Board, Tech Swindon, Tech Southwest and is a co-founder of Bristol Tech Festival. Prior to working for TechSPARK, Ben worked in consultancy with businesses opening new sites internationally. In this role, he helped set up Invest Bristol & Bath and the Netherlands consulate for the north of England.