Ignite co-founder tells of programme's expansion

Paul Smith, co-founder of the Ignite accelerator programme in Newcastle is expanding the business into the North West. He tells Journal Business of the start-up developers’ progress and success

Paul Smith of Ignite
Paul Smith of Ignite

Founded in 2011 by Colin Willis, Jon Bradford (Techstars) and myself, Newcastle-based Ignite was expected to be a one-off, three month accelerator programme for early-stage technology startups.

It built on the legacy of Difference Engine, Europe’s first bootcamp-style programme, also based in North East England.

Ignite didn’t fade away after its conclusion.

The appetite for collaboration from the programme’s alumni and other startups in the city saw Ignite grow into a small, independent co-working space and venue.

As Newcastle’s ambition grew, so did we.

Two years ago, Ignite launched a Community Fund to help improve the quality and quantity of local tech meetups, and later became the first regional coordinators for CodeClub.

This year, Campus North opened its doors — 10,000 sq ft of hot-desking, co-working, offices and venue space for over 150 founders, developers and designers.

In July we’ll start our fifth accelerator programme, quickly followed by a sixth and seventh within the following 12 months.

Our portfolio is already blazing brightly with exceptional founders and teams including Future Ad Labs, Verticly, Earsoft, Papertrail, Matchchat and Websand, to name but a few.

We’ve played our part in supporting one of the strongest tech communities in the UK, and will continue to do so; it’s our home, it’s our passion and we appreciate what a truly unique experience Newcastle offers tech startups.

As a business, however, we need to tend to our own growth.

Ian Brown once said: “Manchester has everything except a beach”.

That’s not strictly true. While Brown isn’t best known for his keen insight into emerging technologies, a full-time accelerator programme has been conspicuous by its absence from the city’s emerging startup scene.

We’re going to change that.

Ignite has supported teams and founders in the city for several years, and we’re proud to announce that Ignite will be part of Manchester’s tech community from Autumn 2014.

Ignite will deliver its first accelerator in the city in partnership with UKTI; teams of foreign graduates will relocate to Manchester for the SIRIUS programme to develop and grow their early-stage startups, supported by entrepreneurs, mentors and investors (if you’re interested in applying, you can find out more here).

Teams will be based alongside other founders based at Ignite’s office in Techhub, in the city’s Northern Quarter.

What happens beyond that?

We’re not certain at this point, but there’s opportunity for collaboration, and we know several investors are willing to explore further activity.

Manchester should be capable of supporting one or more accelerators; if we feel we can deliver high quality programmes and if the community is willing to support our efforts, Ignite could become a permanent resident in the North West.

For now, we’re looking forward to meeting Manchester’s entrepreneurs and founders, and learning how best to support the tech community.

I’m a former resident of Hulme Street, having once worked in the labyrinth that was the BBC on Oxford Road, so on a personal level I’m looking forward to spending more time in the city.

We’re excited to be the first to dip our toe in the water — even if there isn’t a beach.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer