Tourist destination or University town, Brighton & Hove comes under many guises, but unbeknown to most holidaymakers, this good-vibe city is one of the UK’s entrepreneurial capitals. Creativity is never hard to find in Brighton and it is one of the few places that celebrate the fusion of tech with the arts to create truly ground breaking companies.
Commonly known as London by the sea – or Silicon Beach in the entrepreneurial community – Brighton is full of perks. It has the educational establishments of a city, the accessibility and workforce of the big smoke, and the bohemian swing of a seaside town that celebrates diversity, creativity and culture.
Brighton & Hove is a seaside city located in East Sussex. Brighton is under an hour away from London via train and connects to central stations such as London Victoria and London Bridge. Not only is the accessibility to the capital seamless, but many London workers commute from Brighton creating an experienced talent pool in this coastal city.
In just 30 minutes, you can reach Gatwick airport by train, but also have options to use the National Express or well connected roads such as the A23 and M23. Alternatively, Brighton City Airport is based in Shoreham.
Newhaven has a ferry service to France and is less than half an hour away from Brighton.
On a side note, there is a relatively big cycling culture in Brighton that has led to the improvement of cycle lanes. Transport within the city is greener when you opt to cycle or use services such as the Big Lemon bus that runs on waste cooking oil.
Brighton nurtures innovative ideas and non-traditional businesses thrive here. With this in mind, the city is full of useful facilities to get unique startups off the ground.
The Sussex Innovation Centre is an incubator based at the University of Sussex. It has tech and innovation-based startups at its heart, and provides support teams to cover numerous areas including bookkeeping, business strategy and sales and marketing. Alternatively, Denton Island has incubator units, workshops and larger units aimed at businesses between 1-10 people. It also has a regular ferry service to France.
There are two main accelerators in the city: Happy Startup School and Entrepreneurial Spark Brighton. The latter is focused primarily on enabling positive social change. The Digital Catapult Centre is also available to SMEs and concentrates on innovative ways of using real-time data.
As the city has many freelancers and contractors, there are several options for co-working space which is handy for startups too. Knoll Business Centre and the Fusebox studio are both innovation spaces. More traditional working spaces include The Skiff, Brighton Media Centre, The Werks and The Dock Hub.
For those with young children, OffiCreche offers flexible childcare and co-working space too. This way, you can work away from home, but near your children.
Digital is strong in Brighton and it seems only natural that a game development co-working space is an option. The Brighton Game Collective offers just that. It offers affordable desk space to both freelancers and small businesses to thrive in a game development community.
Besides working space, NatWest launched 10 new in-branch entrepreneurs hubs in 2015.
Brighton is home to two universities: the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton. Both have world-leading research facilities and generate a diverse talent pool of students who want to stay in Brighton.
The University of Sussex are particularly strong in Psychology, Biological Sciences, International Relations, Anthropology, Politics, English, History, Media & Film and Development Studies. Many courses offer optional modules from outside their discipline allowing student to expand their knowledge in different subject areas. The University of Brighton’s strengths lie in Design, Nursing and Midwifery, and Sports Science. The range of scientific and creative subjects as well as the possibility of cross-discipline learning creates an educated talent pool that are diverse in their way of thinking. They could be ideal as new recruits in a thriving startup.
The University of Brighton also run a program called CENTRIM (Centre for Research in Innovation Management) which links graduates to local small businesses in the form of an internship.
Brighton businesses have a strong sense of belonging and often help each other. Similarly, the council and many other groups provide financial support and courses to help small businesses grow.
Coast to Capital is the Local Economic Partnership (LEP) of the area. They are trying to connect local businesses with support services to create a sustainable economy by 2030. They are also looking to become entirely resource-efficient and become a zero carbon zone in the same time period. These initiatives are supported by Hove Business Association by offering networking events, business ‘health checks’ and informal breakfast or lunches to encourage both new and established businesses to share advice.
Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce is all looking to develop startups by offering training and networking opportunities. To add to this, the Sussex Chamber of Commerce is providing professional services to its members including Human Resources, legal queries and training. MD Hub is also one of the main groups supporting SMEs. They offer help to managing directors and monthly seminars and work group sessions to get the ball rolling.
Brighton based angel investors can be discovered at The Funding Room.
Claire Potter Design is a sustainable/circular economy design studio that produces interior architecture projects and products. This studio of 3 go the extra mile and also carry out design research, lectures and try to find connections between design and the environment.
Claire Potter, the founder, was born in Brighton, but after her architecture degree at the University of Brighton she soon realised that the city’s culture was a fantastic ecosystem for creativity. She claims that the energy and buzz there is the real advantage for starting a creative business in Brighton & Hove.
Although the startup scene is very competitive, it also means that there is a lot of support and like-minded people in the area. Since Claire Potter Design started, tech startups have been on the rise. Claire believes this is because of the increasing inclusion of tech in our day-to-day lives, the cheaper rent (compared to London prices) and the laid back lifestyle that Brighton offers.
She believes the diversity of the city means that innovation comes quite naturally, which is only improved by the support there that is nurturing it. To add to that, she believes that success grows success, so with any luck, Brighton will continue to thrive as a startup haven.
Tips for Entrepreneurs starting up in the UK
“I had a lecturer who once told me ‘you can have the best idea in the world, but if you do not get it out the cupboard and talk about it passionately, nobody will ever know about it – or even care’. In our days of unlimited connectivity, finding your voice and sharing your passion is key. But my favourite quote is ‘work hard and be nice to people’. Best advice I ever had.”
– Claire Potter, Founder of Claire Potter Design
MakerClub is a learning platform that uses 3D printing, accessible hardware, physical workshops and interactive digital content to get young people building their own creative technology products from scratch. They are currently launching after-school tech clubs in 70 locations across the UK that are all connected through their digital platform. This success partially lends itself to the city of Brighton & Hove.
Declan Cassidy, the Community Manager at MakerClub, claims that the community, friendly vibe and the beach (yes, the beach) makes Brighton a great place to start up. Because the city is so small, you can just about walk or cycle everywhere. This relaxed environment takes away the stress of the commute, makes a happy team and subsequently produces better results. Another bonus is the two Universities. So many graduates want to stay in Brighton making the talent pool incredibly strong.
Declan thinks the startup scene is transforming Brighton & Hove into a digital hub. This means there is an increase in office space and a few big names are settling down in the city too. Unfortunately, there isn’t very much to cater for student startups.
Tips for Entrepreneurs starting up in the UK
“Make contacts with everyone. Have beers/coffee with people in non-networking style and always try and find out what somebody else wants. Be free with your time and make sure you try and be a connector yourself.”
– Declan Cassidy, Community Manager at MakerClub