A few years ago I came to UK from Nigeria to do startups. Attending Warwick for my masters degree was just a legitimate way for me to be in the country at all (Dear Parents, don’t see this; if you do I am joking). It was really hard getting into the mix of thing especially without knowing where to start.
After 3 years of pressurizing, my man Omo (the guy that introduced me to Twitter in ‘07 but doesn’t tweet and the first good programmer I met) is going the same route). This post is for him and those like him.
Coming to the UK to do Internet startups is not the route most Nigerians take so it was no surprise that I had no one to point me out in the right direction after I had arrived.
The UK is not the UK does not house the most friendly and welcoming people on earth but the guys and girls in the startup community are a different wonderful bunch entirely.
Launch 48: The easiest way to direct you will be to tell you to attend Launch48 (a weekend hackathon) and everything will be ok. You spend a weekend hanging out with awesome people. It was where I met the people I call members of my startup community. If you have the chance to attend only one event, this should be it. perfect for those who have absolutely no idea where to start if they want to build the next Facebook. (organizers: Ian and Adil). They have a conference coming up called The Inspire Conference
Drink Tank: Like the name says you tank drinks while chatting with members of the London startup community. There is nothing like arguing about Twitter’s new API rules under the influence of free alcohol :). Organizers: Huddle.
Open Coffee: This was started by Saul Klein of SeedCamp. It is a meetup that holds in UCL every Thursday. Calm environment for chatting startup stuff.
Bootlaw: This is a meetup for those interested in Startup law. it is very popular among London startups. I have not attended this one but it is highly recommended and I have met one of the organizers Danvers several times.
TechHub: This is a physical space for tech startups in London. It is located in old street. What ever you do, make sure you drop by. it is unfortunate that I left UK just as it was being launched. It is run by the indomitable Elizabeth
Microsoft: Yes Microsoft. The have a program called BizSpark which is very helpful to startups. They organize several events a year where you can meet great startup people. Holla Bindi, she runs BizSpark UK
TechCrunch Europe: The technology blog holds a series of tech events every year. Be on the look out for them. Holla Mike the Editor of TC Europe
Desigan a.k.a Cyberdees: This honorary Nigerian (he’s south African) works with Mozilla. He organizes several hangouts for geeks. Try and attend the next one. Wonderful connector.
Iqbal: He is my (now formerly) secret adviser. He is ready to spend time with you on what you are working on and gives AWESOME advise. Don’t go disturbing lest you eat into my advice receiving time!
The bulk of activities happen in London. But if you are in the West Midlands, just go to Birmingham contact Simon who runs a tech Incubator in Birmingham Science Park and my man Joel. They will put you on the right track.
If you want any intro to those mentioned above, Holla me. Of course i can only intro those I know personally.
So Omo, go holla them all, NOW!
Another lazy way will be to subscribe to the London section of startup digest
I wrote this first thing this morning so I must have forgotten quite a bit. I will add more as I remember.
More People to know
David: He is co founder of GroupSpaces. I knew of David when I was still in Nigeria and he was working on a startup called ClickUni. If you want advice of how to go from zero to raising Gazillions, talk to him.
Daniel: Startup guy extraordinaire. he is the founder of Woobius. If you want practical advice on running a business in the UK this is the man to meet. He can even save you money!
Hermione: The queen of the pack. Founder of a media organization Newspepper. She is highly connected to the startup community in the UK especially London. It was through one of her videos I saw Ian talking of Launch48. How could I forget?!!
Update: Hermione has move to the valley (See mike Butcher’s comment). Bye Hermione!
Sorry Omo for writing this one month late.
Disclaimer: This is how I did it. It is in no way comprehensive and of course I do not guarantee you will have as much fun as I did.
I have left Coventry for good, I have moved to Birmingham!
Moving was hectic, in trying to be economical (I saved about 40 pounds), I had to make 3 trips from Coventry to Birmingham carrying about 5 heavy bags each time. but it would have been a lot harder without having my man Jude, drop me at Coventry train station on two occasions. Thank you sir!
Why I left
I have several reasons for leaving Coventry, top of the list that nothing happens in Coventry. If London is Lagos, then Coventry is Benin. Without the University (in my case Warwick) Coventry might as well be sold to France. Ok, enough of the slamming of Coventry. It is not that bad it used (I get am before no be propati) to be the centre of manufacturing but since the rise of China, everything manufacturing has gone to the far east. Poor ‘Coventrians’!
The actual reason I moved is that Joel and I were looking for an ideal Internet startup base to launch OnePage from (outside London) and Coventry was high on the list but to do that, we needed other startups in the area. Like Paul Graham said, Startups need other startups around to thrive. I tried pushing for a startup hub centred around Warwick University but as time went on, I realised I had neither the muscle nor the time required. So I knew my time in Coventry was up.*
*Of course i will be coming to Warwick at the slightest opportunity, I love that Uni!
Deciding on Birmingham.
When I wrote the blog post “What is wrong with the UK startup scene?" I got to know of Entrepreneurs for the future exactly what I was trying to push for. It came in the form of a comment from Simon Jenner (you see why you should always blog your thoughts?). The Birmingham City council is trying to stimulate the region buy supporting startups. So the possibility of being with other startups was the first motivation of considering moving to Birmingham. There are also a lot of Internet activities going on in the area; Multipack, Birmingham Social Media Cafe, Birmingham Bloggers, to mention a few) .Secondly, I thought I should move to a city. Birmingham is the second biggest city in the UK by population (although 10 times smaller than London). So it was a worthy consideration.
Why not London?
London is too expensive! Although I could have got a moderately priced place ‘near’ London, it would not be London. I have always believed if you live in a city, you should live in the city, not nearby. e.g Kubwa is NOT Abuja, no, ‘Redeemed camp area’ is NOT Lagos. Luckily I live near the city centre in a place called Digbeth. Though it is in a formerly rugged part, I can walk to the City centre! I look on the bright side
Another reason Birmingham appeals to me is that it is small enough to create the family startup scene I have always dreamed of. Since the people of Birmingham are serious, let us see how we can get this city on the European startup map.
- There are about 2 Chinese restaurants and 4 pubs for every person in Birmingham. Seriously.
- It is quite cool when your local shopping area is Bull Ring (I have noticed some coded areas like the Rag Market though) and you pass where they audition for X-Factor on the way to your local pub.
- My I stay about 30 seconds walk away from St Annes Catholic Church. My problem is not that they might be having revival at 1am but that I will have no good excuse for missing mass!
- We (yes we) have two Clubs in the Premier league (Aston Villa and Birmingham City) . I now have a chance of seeing my Man U when they are in town!
Joel will be moving in form Sheffield in the next few day. I would like you all to wish him the best of luck. It takes great courage to decide to live with Oo for ANY length of time.
So anytime you are in Birmingham, give your boy a holla, I will come meet you up. I mean Birmingham, not near Birmingham.