What a week we’ve just had at Bristol Technology Festival 2022! After 70+ events were hosted across the city, bringing together tech enthusiasts, enables and creators from the South West, at techSPARK our hearts are feeling very full – all made possible thanks to our Headline Partner Hippo Digital. Returning the festival to a mostly in-person affair paid off tenfold, and it’s been so inspiring to hear about the connections made across the community following the week. 

We talk about community regularly here. It’s central to what we do at techSPARK, and the reception to BTF after two remote years highlighted that our sector truly does have an appetite for collaboration. Despite the resilience that everyone displayed throughout the pandemic, this year’s festival demonstrates those impromptu chats that take place as you deliberate over which sandwich to go for just can’t be recreated online. And even if nothing comes from the chat, at least you got to bond over some free food.

The essence that we thrive better together was captured at countless events last week. We have no doubt that the connections you made with one another with continue to flourish – and there are plenty of meetups to nurture these relationships at, from South West Founders to Third Thursdays and Cyber Tuesday to name a few that we look after at techSPARK. Also, keep your eyes peeled for details on July’s Bath Digital Festival

Bringing people together

There were so many events that held community core to their objectives. To recap on just a few:

AND Digital, founding partners of BTF2022, hosted a panel discussion on how to maintain both profit and purpose through technology, alongside the official launch of their new Bristol office ‘Club Wangari’, which took place at their new home at Runway East. The event was a warm welcome for AND Digital – the team has been created over the summer and they’re now keen to get involved with the city’s tech ecosystem. As the new branch was being built out, Jonathan Postans, Club Executive at AND, who is leading the project, told us about their ambition: “For me, a healthy culture is the most important factor of a progressive and successful company. If you haven’t put in the necessary foundations that support, nurture, empower and listen to your people, then how can you expect them to be passionate about the company’s vision and purpose?”

On Protect Day, techSPARK hosted the Bristol and Bath Cyber Conference – a full day of talks, workshops and networking that hasn’t taken place for two years. We were thrilled to bring this important conference back to life; as 200 movers and shakers in cyber got together to learn and share knowledge at the Watershed, it proved there was a real need for this community to get together on a large scale. A huge thank you is owed to our headline partner Immersive Labs, as well as Softcat and The Cyber Scheme for making this day possible!

People Day sponsors, Ghyston, kicked things off with a breakfast meetup midway through the week to discuss some of the challenges our tech community faces. Alex Holland, our Partnerships Executive, comments on the event: “One discussion that stuck out to me was how important is workplace culture in employee retention and talent acquisition

In the evening the inaugural Electra event took place, hosted by Rocketmakers CMO, Briony Phillips, in partnership with Natwest, Clockwise and techSAPRK. Electra is a new space for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to connect, discuss challenges and celebrate one another’s achievements by bringing together a community of truly inspiring women. One particular highlight was Charly Patrick’s session in Overcoming Challenges – aka the challenge room. It created genuinely a supportive environment; I think it’s safe to say everyone came out feeling energised. You can express your interest in the next event here!

Thursday evening’s Get Up Startup, hosted by SETsqaured and Engine Shed, got everyone to loosen up in true Play Day style with some indignifying and some impressive karaoke, as well as some wonderful 60-second pitches. Signing up reluctant participants encapsulated the real community energy we have here in Bristol. There was also the opportunity to get squished by an ambiguous robotic bug (caterpillar, slug, snail?) named Luma. Emma Powell gave a heartwarming talk on the concept behind their Air Giants project – if you get the chance to interact with these charming robots, don’t pass it up! 

The week was wrapped up with another successful LDN2BRS event, further strengthening the connections between our two cities. The final theme for BTF2022 was Pioneer, and this day emphasised the extent of groundbreaking innovation that takes place here – the quality of which wouldn’t be possible without the support, advice and resources our community so aptly provides.

It’s a community thing

When we ask people what their favourite thing about the South West’s tech sector is, the answer usually revolves around the community – so much so that when asking SPARKies 2022 attendees to describe the event in three words, we had to say ‘except community…’ The most common words to replace this included fun, inspirational, connectivity, creative and collaborative – together all of these aspects are what makes our tech community so unique. 

Whilst BTF illustrates how strong our community is by condensing all of this activity into a week, it’s an entity that’s forever growing and evolving as new people bring new ideas to the table. Even in the less exciting times without festivals and awards, there remains a dedication to build a fantastic tech community around us. 

You don’t have to look far for this reaffirmation, in a Startup for 10, Hugo Walker, Head of Marketing & Digital Content at Gravitywell tells us: “The network of engaged agency owners is superb — everyone wants to help and is available for advice. The South West is exceptional for collaboration and we’re truly grateful to be part of that.”

To the same question, Georgia Stweart, founder and CEO at Tumelo adds, “Everyone I meet in the South West is awesome. People always have time for you (something I don’t find in London). NatWest’s Andy Jackson has always been a great support, as has Rosie from SETsquared. Mayden Academy has given us a fantastic software engineer; SR2 recruitment has supported us loads and TechSPARK (Ben & Briony) of course is always at the centre of everything. We also have some great angel investors from the region. I probably missed tonnes of people, but that is a brief summary of all the amazing support out there!”

In our chat with Adam Watts, Investment Manager at Mercia, he says that “Venture can be a competitive industry, however, I have found the community in Bristol and the South West to be extremely collaborative. 

“Since launching here last year, we have bought into that and have sought to “give back” where we can. One example of this is through our Investor in Residence partnership with SETsquared – where local businesses and entrepreneurs can book in a monthly timeslot with one of our team to ask specific questions, or just have an informal chat.”

The list goes on of the wonderful things people have to say about the South West’s tech community, but if you’re still not convinced it’s anything special, come along to the next meetup or networking drinks to have a chat with a few members of our community – we may just change your mind. 

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