Tech leaders set for maiden Manchester-San Francisco flight
Tech sector leaders will fly the Northern Powerhouse flag on a Silicon Valley trade mission to mark the launch of direct flights from Manchester to San Francisco.
Entrepreneurs, universities and business bodies say the service, with Virgin Atlantic, will deliver a major boost to the industry across the North, giving them access to funding and know-how from the home of tech giants like Facebook, Uber, Eventbrite and Apple.
Trade Minister Greg Hands hailed the three-times weekly route as “a boost for the Northern Powerhouse’s ambitious tech and digital companies as they take advantage of new markets and trading opportunities”
It is the first ever direct service from the North to San Francisco and the only route outside of London in the UK.
A 30-strong delegation of leading figures from the tech sector across the North will board the first flight from Manchester, on March 28, as part of the mission.
It has been coordinated by MC2, a Northern Powerhouse partner with offices in Manchester and San Francisco, in partnership with Manchester Airport and Virgin Atlantic, and supported by the Department for International Trade and the Institute of Directors.
The group is being led by two serial technology investors and entrepreneurs, Scott Fletcher, founder of cloud services provider ANS Group, Manchester and Dr Adam Beaumont, founder of telecoms platform business aql, Leeds.
Fletcher said: “I’ve always been big advocate of Manchester’s technology capabilities, but by joining forces with the other cities across the North we become a true force to be reckoned with on the global stage.
“This is proper collaboration, and we’ll be showcasing the Northern Powerhouse to West Coast businesses and also taking learnings that can improve how we operate in the North.
“It’s a prime example of what the Northern Powerhouse can deliver.”
Beaumont said: “I’m wearing two hats whilst out there - as a tech CEO looking for partnerships with new startups, but also on behalf of Northinvest, representing the business angels of the North of the UK.
“The goal is to find new VC funds and other investors we can co-invest with in UK opportunities.”
The delegation includes a mix of Northern corporates such as Sage, of Newcastle, CoOp Digital, of Manchester, as well as a host of early and mid-stage tech firms like Hull-based Vis Vr, Vibe Tickets and On Iota, from Lancashire, and Manchester-based Wakelet.
It is also being supported by the University of Central Lancashire and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Silicon Valley is the world’s leading hub for the tech sector, with an estimated 25 per cent of all start-up funding still originating in the San Francisco area.
The North of England currently has 283,000 tech sector jobs, worth £10bn. It is hoped the direct service will drive large-scale growth by linking businesses across the patch with funding and talent from Northern California.
The delegates are set to have a high profile itinerary, meeting some of the West Coast’s top tech giants while on the mission. They will also get the opportunity to meet leading US universities and funders, pitching investment and collaboration opportunities in the North.
International Trade Minister Greg Hands said: “The Northern Powerhouse, like Silicon Valley, is a leading centre of creativity and innovation.
“A direct link between the home of the industrial revolution, and the home of the digital revolution, will be a boost for both regions, and for the Northern Powerhouse’s ambitious tech and digital companies as they take advantage of new markets and trading opportunities across the world.”
Richard Gregory, director of Tech North, added: "Creating better links between the established tech scene of the West Coast, with the burgeoning ecosystem in the North of England, is a triple win, providing market access, additional funding options, and access to more tech talent."