Does Birmingham need another 'sexy' brand?
Birmingham has the potential to be a globally recognised tech force but the city needs to shout about what it already has – and not compare itself to others.
That was one of a number of key messages to come out of our latest roundtable discussion at Innovation Birmingham, which was held to bring together business leaders and influencers to discuss the future of the Midlands.
"I think we need to be sexier as a city," said Tom Howarth (pictured below), managing director of software developer B13 Technology, which has offices in Birmingham city centre and London.
"Something like Peaky Blinders was a sexy thing – and when you search for Birmingham online that's what comes up, just like football teams come up when you search other cities like Manchester.
"We need to put together a sexier brand for the city in order to get the national coverage that I think we deserve."
Molly Thompson is community engagement manager at not-for-profit organisation Silicon Canal, which was set up to champion the West Midlands' tech scene and help to connect and support entrepreneurs.
Thompson believes it's not enough for businesses in the region to sing their own praises.
"We should be highlighting other people and other companies and spread the word about how amazing we are," she said.
"It's all well and good shouting about your own business but it’s about shouting about other people as well and getting the coverage across everywhere."
Harry Smith and Jack Cornes
One of the businesses represented at the roundtable was Hausbots, a tech start-up founded by Harry Smith and Jack Cornes (pictured above) specialising in construction and household robotics. The pair's first creation is a wall climbing and painting robot.
Smith says all Birmingham needs to do to attract more start-up business is to "sell what it's already got".
"We've got stuff like the Steam House, which is a community workshop made for businesses and people like us who are building something," he said. "You can apply and get free access to amazing space with all the kit you could ever want.
"It needs to actually advertise what's got and then it will get more businesses move in to the area because it's got amazing stuff already."
The advice from Naomi Watts (pictured below), manager at Entrepreneurs for the Future (etF), was that Birmingham needs to "stop competing with itself".
"The SMEs collaborate very well but the support systems around it compete with each other rather than realise they're trying to achieve the same thing," she said.
"We need to make a Birmingham brand that everyone can fit into."
Daniel Bridgewater, founder and director at tickets and activities subscription service Buckt, echoed a similar sentiment and said that it was all about sending out the right message.
"You also need organisations like the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) to run more meaningful projects and campaigns as opposed to it being slightly 'tokenistic'," he said.
Also speaking at the roundtable were Wei Wu, director & CEO, WeiPoint; Lee Hull, executive director, Intercity Technology; Ammar Khalid, managing director, Centric Web Solutions; Joe Kibbler, founder, icarusparts.com; Rick Deller, head of tech recruitment, Eligo; Sam Mikkelsen, client solutions director, Oscar Technology; and Charles Chance, founder, Nimvelo (Sipcentric Ltd)