Tech entrepreneurs in Cardiff are benefiting from a programme set up by Tech City UK that aims to link up technology clusters across the UK. 

Through the Cluster Alliance programme, startups in the city are being introduced to people and invited to pitching events that would have normally been hard to access. 

The gentrified Cardiff Bay is home to a number of tech startups ©iStock/Matthew Dixon
The gentrified Cardiff Bay is home to a number of tech startups ©iStock/Matthew Dixon

Neil Cocker, founder of Cardiff Start, a community led group of Cardiff-based entrepreneurs and investors, said the Cluster Alliance programme has helped startps like employee health monitoring app Nudged and parental communications app Schoop in Cardiff to raise their profile. 

The Cluster Alliance, established while internet safety and security minister Joanna Shields was chair of the organisation, aims to accelerate the growth of digital businesses in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Manchester, Newcastle, Sunderland, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol/Bath, Cardiff, Sussex, Cambridge and Sheffield/Leeds.

It sets out to do this by bringing together 20-30 entrepreneurs, academics and accelerator leaders who have a good understanding of their respective city’s technology ecosystem. Meetings are typically held four times a year but members of the Cluster Alliance network regularly email each other, according to Cocker. 

“I think Tech City UK is doing a good job and I’ve certainly benefited in terms of Cardiff and access to opportunities and stuff like being able to take our startups to Downing Street and Buckingham Palace,” said Cocker, who praised the efforts of Tech City UK’s entrepreneur relations manager, Emma Swift. “It feels like there’s a friend there rather than just a government quango trying to get through the day.” 

Cocker said he knows of at least one Cardiff startup that met an investor at the Pitch 10 Downing Street event that subsequently went on to make an investment. 

While Cardiff, home to many of the 28,308 digital sector works in South Wales, has had a largely positive experience, there are other cities across the UK that may not be getting as much benefit. 

The smaller cities with a younger tech scene are benefiting the most from the Cluster Alliance, said Cocker, adding that he’s gained insights from cities that are five years ahead of Cardiff in terms of their technology ecosystem. 

“Cardiff is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe but we’re still very much behind a lot of the pack," he said. "So it makes sense that we would benefit from this more than perhaps Birmingham or Manchester. 

"Fundamentally what works for Birmingham might not work for Cardiff so it’s a bit of a nebulous task in some respects,” said Cocker, who also has his own ecommerce startup, RampCommerce. “I don’t think it’s easy for them [Tech City UK]. I would say that as with all these things, there are those that definitely get less out of it." 

Tech City UK runs a number of other programmes that aim to support technology businesses across the UK. Some of these appear to provide more benefit than others, according to the startups and individuals on the receiving end of them. 

The code-teaching Digital Skills Academy, for example, has been well received by aspiring coders, but the Future Fifty programme, which aims to champion fast-growing UK startups, has done little for the likes of enterprise collaboration platform Huddle and upmarket home rental service One Fine Stay.