Why Manchester’s startup scene leaves London’s for dust: A love letter.
July 25, 2019
Manchester is no stranger to revolutionary innovation. In the mid-nineteenth century, Karl Marx documented the city’s infancy as the birthplace and international epicentre of the industrial revolution.
Only a few decades ago, reminders of this world-leading status were a painful sight.
Once-famous mills stood unloved and unused. Across the river in Salford, the Quays which once linked Manchester with an envious wider world that had little chance of keeping up with the city’s industrious spirit were little more than a polluted wasteland.
These are now among the most impressive symbols of Manchester’s resurgence as an international power to be reckoned with. The mills home a diverse array of startups and new kids on the block. And though strictly ‘over the river’, the quays have been transformed into MediaCityUK – the north’s undisputed tech centre where tech giants loom over the waterfront next to small social disruptors.
Manchester isn’t quite the world number-one when it comes to being startup central but it can certainly giving London – the European leader – a run for its first-round funding.
Just ask The Hut Group, AO, boohoo, or any of the other billion-dollar newcomers that have sprung up in recent years.
There are plenty of reasons to be here (the weather isn’t one of them). And even more reasons why Manchester is head and shoulders above London as a preferred startup locale.
For starters, London is outrageously expensive. And that means staffing and office space are also costly. According to Numbeo.com, Londoners earn a whopping 31.8% more on average than the rest of the country. That’s a huge premium on staffing costs for struggling startups.
This year saw the arrival of Pollard Yard in Manchester’s ever-expanding Northern Quarter (or Ancoats to lifelong Mancunians). The innovative scheme is a community of 30 uber-cool shipping container offices kitted out to house freelancers and small companies. The going rate for one of these mini offices is just £225-£445.
Good luck finding anywhere-near similar value in London.
With costs so prohibitively high, it’s no wonder so many young tech professionals are choosing to leave. In 2018 record numbers swapped the capital for Manchester. Research by Reach PLC puts the number at 10,200 – part of a much larger ‘living costs exodus’ from the capital of around 106,620 people.
Those who can afford stay enjoy a lively jobs market with thousands of big players vying with startups to attract top talent.
Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond. This little pond just happens to be the birthplace of industry, the home of the world’s first computer and of game-changing breakthroughs like Graphene.
There’s more to come from Manchester – and the city’s vibrant startup scene is the centre of the revolution.