Pride in Manchester
by Chris Sykes, Legal Tech Evangelist at Zegal
Back to the mills
A trip to a co-working space in one of Manchester’s industrial era mills showed me first hand how things have changed and continue to change.
A bee goes back to the hive…
I’ve just move from Hong Kong to Manchester in order to prepare for Zegal’s launch of a UK product. It was a sad farewell to people I’ve worked so closely with these last 4 years, but I am looking forward to new LegalTech adventures and another new start for the business.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel when I came back to my home town of Manchester, as I’ve now lived away for 7 years – some of that time in Spain, then in Hong Kong. After seven years away, what would have changed? After Hong Kong would it feel a little bit too quiet and small? And where (if at all) would I find the ‘startup scene’ in which I’ve existed these last few years?
I knew ‘Cottonopolis’ would still have all the things that make it so great: history, architecture, music, and nightlife. And after speaking to my neighbours I was reassured that Mancunians are still as indisputably friendly and proud of their town as I remembered. But what has changed?
This city has never been short of creativity, and areas such as the Northern Quarter are no longer just about a fun place to go drinking – but full of businesses based around design, software, music and technology. Parts of the city are now real startup communities, while the big banks and law firms still continue to thrive in the glass offices of Spinningfields.
A lot of my colleagues and contacts asked if I was moving to London – synonymous with starting a business in the UK – and this meant I had to ‘sell’ my move, and think about the positives and negatives of launching a business in England’s ‘northern powerhouse’.
To be clear, Manchester is never going to compete with the capital. Greater Manchester is the second biggest urban area in the UK, and the biggest economy outside London, but is still dwarfed by comparison. However, the air is cleaner (and a bit colder) and costs are cheaper….hugely important to a struggling startup, and those looking for an affordable lifestyle.
Manchester Airport is the best connected outside of London – my tearful flight from Hong Kong to England was direct and took just 12 hours!
According to the UK Tech Innovation Index, Manchester is the third most active tech city in the UK (after London and Edinburgh). A statistic that fills me with joy as a tech business co-founder.
Law to LegalTech
I left England as a solicitor, and return as a co-founder of a successful LegalTech business. The last time most of my old solicitor colleagues and friends saw me I was wearing a suit and carrying some kind of folder. Now I dress ‘startup’ and work in a business that actively encourages people not to use paper! I even describe myself as a ‘LegalTech Evangelist’. How times have changed.
At the same time I’m positive that I can encourage old colleagues to take a look at the growing world of LegalTech (or LawTech depending on how you feel).
There’s no place like home
I’m excited to be back in a growing and ever-changing city, and I’m confident that I’m in the perfect place to launch our business and get involved in the startup world.