Home of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Of Wallace and Gromit.
For those of you not yet ‘in the know’, the latter is the producer of ‘luggage for little people’, creating ride-on bags for children all over the world. Rejected by Dragons’ Den, the firm, founded by Rob Law, is close to selling its millionth unit.
Last Friday, I was the latest in a long line of admirers to get on the case…
Bristol is, undeniably, a great city. When Jon Shaw of DocCom (the social network for Doctors) welcomed our group to his offices in SetSquared, he began not with his company credentials, but with his lifestyle. A seven minute walk to work. An equally short trip to the rolling countryside for runs and bike rides. Finally, a thriving nightlife for meeting the locals. All of the above we were soon to explore. Except for the bikes, which will have wait until next time.
Last year, I instigated (note how I avoid the word ‘organised’…) a one-day trip to Brighton. It was July, a quiet month, so the theory goes. It was fun. We met great companies. I resolved to do it again.
Like so many ideas, this one relied on some like-minds rising to the challenge. I could not have asked for better conspirators than the fine folk at Sift Media, the online publisher based in Bristol. Together we plotted places to visit and companies to meet. A barrage of emails later, a group of Londoners were hopping aboard the 10.45 from Paddington, with a quick chat to the BBC from the station.
After a hearty (note how I avoid the word ‘healthy’) lunch, we were off around the city, meeting companies from design agency Studio Diva to business management software company BrightPearl. At Trunki HQ we were given a whistle-stop tour of the firm’s products and history and anyone not keen to take the stairs back to the lobby was encouraged to use the slide. As you do.
After a final meeting at Sift HQ (hosted by founder Ben Heald), it was off to the Severn Shed, a local watering hold where a few dozen Bristol business-people joined us to meet, drink and get to know each other. It was good to reunite with WebMission companies (including DocCom, Sift and The Filter) and to meet with local business owners and journalists.
Overall, I hope, some good connections made, and seeds sown.
I encourage all businesses to ‘get out more’. What does it take?
Well, first you need to pick your destination. It helps to have a local partner (thank you Business Zone , especially Rita and Dan!).
You’ll need a group of open-minded people to come on the advenuture with you. For our Bristol trip, it helped that our group was diverse and included Adam King (of tailor King and Allen), Tom Boardman (of Firebox), Duncan Cheatle (of The Supper Club), Paulina Sygulska and Daniel Tenner (of GrantTree), Drew Ellis of LikeMinds and Stu Anderson of Shell Livewire.
Tools like Eventbrite are great for keeping an eye on people and numbers.
Finally, of course, you’ll need some helpful companies to host you and share their city.
Finally, whether you’re connecting Leeds with Birmingham, Edinburgh with Sheffield or London with Shanghai, you just have to put a date in the diary and get on with it!
Thank you to all of the people who made London to Bristol such an enjoyable day, full of new connections and positive conversations. I’m looking forward to the reunion already!
I’ll leave the last word, to some of the companies who spent the day in Bristol;
“The most impressive thing about Bristol was not its relaxed, balanced feel, or even the strange mixture of big city feel with the closeness of a smaller city, but the surprising concentration of interesting and profitable startups who are, quietly, building another UK technology hub away from London.” Daniel Tenner, GrantTree
“The recent trip to Bristol reminded me just how crucial it is for entrepreneurs to get out of the office and meet and talk to people beyond their usual arena. What a great day (and evening). A truly valuable and fun way to spend time. Equal doses of inspiration, insight and useful connections” Duncan Cheatle, The Supper Club
“The day was fantastic. It was a fabulous chance not only just to see what Bristol has to offer in terms of some great entrepreneurs and disruptive businesses , but to network with some well known faces from London running some seriously innovative ventures. Everyone involved was there under the common theme of checking out what’s new, networking with like minded people and have a great time with great people whilst you are doing it- that is what being in business should be all about. If you see one of these missions coming up again, make sure you are first in the queue for a ticket!” Stu Anderson, Shell Livewire
“LDN2BRS was a great opportunity to meet and network with companies both established and in the startup phase working at the digital coal face. Bristol is a clearly a centre of excellence and an important player in the British tech scene. It’s nice to see it’s not all centred around Silicon Roundabout in London and that innovation and opportunity is alive and ably represented in the south west by the companies we visited. I hope they all come and see us at Like Minds in October and see what’s happening further down the road in Exeter as well.” Drew Ellis, Like Minds