Interview: Martin Bryant, community editor of Tech North

Martin Bryant is probably a name you’ve heard of in the technology industry. He worked for world renowned tech publication The Next Web for a few years.

Shifting around various roles, he eventually became editor-in-chief and was responsible for leading a global news team. Now he’s working as community editor of Tech North.

In his position at this government organisation, his role is to put the North of England tech sector on the map and to support its community of bright technology entrepreneurs.

He’s due to be speaking at the 2017 Oi Conference, which is set to take place in Cardiff next month. We caught up with him and discussed British technology among other topics.

TD: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your background?

MB: I’m a tech journalist who previously worked in several roles at The Next Web, including two years as Editor-in-Chief. Although I was based in Manchester, I led a team around the world, covering global tech news.

TD: What did you learn from working at The Next Web?

MB: That it’s possible to have a close working relationship with a distributed team – in some ways perhaps more so than a team you share an office with.

We developed really efficient ways of working that helped people feel they were part of a creative, productive team whether they were based in a co-working space in New York, an apartment in Bangalore or a house in Manchester.

TD: When did you join Tech North, and why?

MB: I felt it was time for a change and having always lived in the North of England I’m passionate about its tech sector. I wanted to have a more hands-on impact on improving the prospects of tech businesses in the region.

TD: What does the organisation do, and what does your role involve?

MB: Tech North exists as part of Tech City UK to promote and help develop the tech sector across the North of England. We have a range of programmes that work directly with tech businesses and individuals in the industry. Plus we work more broadly to improve challenges around investment and recruitment.

The other area we deal with is drawing attention to the success stories across the North. The national and international media often miss these stories, so our content team profiles successes, mines data for insights and provides useful resources for people in the North and beyond.

As Community Editor, this is the area I’m most involved with although I get involved with other elements of the organisation too.

TD: How important are tech entrepreneurs to the British economy?

MB: Tech entrepreneurs are hugely important to the UK. As tech transforms every part of the business world – and our lives – it’s only going to become more important.

As Brexit brings uncertainty to the UK’s place in the world, we’ll need as much homegrown talent and innovation as possible. That means we need to nurture tech communities from Belfast to Brighton and Cardiff to Clydeside.

TD: What’s been the biggest success story to come out of the North of England?

MB: Over the long term, it has to be Sage, the accounting software firm that started out in Newcastle in the early 1980s. Now it’s a global success story, in the FTSE 100 and is still headquartered in the North East.

TD: What elements are needed to ensure a tech cluster can succeed?

MB: On a practical level, resources like co-working spaces, a strong pool of talent and a healthy investment scene are key. The most important element of all, though, is a community of entrepreneurs who are willing to learn from each other and support each other – that’s the gel that brings it all together and makes an ecosystem more than the sum of its parts.

TD: What are the most lucrative areas in tech right now, in your opinion?

MB: B2B SaaS platforms that can quickly scale globally and charge huge subscription prices are probably the most lucrative. But if everyone focused on that tech would be a pretty dull space, so I’m grateful that this is a sector where there’s always something new to get excited about.