A Guide to Business Support, Investment and Networking for Manchester Startups

The first industrialised city in the world is now reinventing itself as a startup hub thriving with companies in the digital and creative sectors. The fDi European Cities and Regions of the Future 2018/19 report has, in fact, placed Manchester at the top of its list of business-friendly cities in the continent—and for good reason.

Manchester’s edge lies in its long list of perks that make it all the more attractive to entrepreneurs, including a deep talent pool, innovative tech infrastructure, and a lower living and operating cost than London.

With more businesses setting up shop within the city’s confines, business support, investors, and networking groups are not too far behind. If you’re one of the many entrepreneurs moving up north, here’s your guide to getting the best help in Manchester for your business.

Funding Sources

While there is merit in bootstrapping a business, it’s not the ideal route if you want to grow and establish your name alongside the bigwigs in the industry fast. Raising capital from investors also comes with its own set of challenges, but it does give you the advantage of having more money to work with, improving your reputation, and having mentors to guide you.

Funding a startup in Manchester, however, is not as smooth-sailing as it is in other cities. Since the startup industry is in its infancy, the city has limited access to venture capitalists, angel investors, and business accelerators.

However, you will not be bereft of options as you can still tap on the following funding sources. Note that this list is not, by any means, exhaustive:

1. Incubators

  • Manchester Science Partnerships – After receiving £2 million from Manchester City Council, the MSP now offers incubation, laboratories, as well as office and meeting spaces for science and technology startups
  • Innospace – Located in Central Manchester, Innospace allows entrepreneurs to move forward in their startups by providing an office location, a Manchester postal address, and business facilities (e.g. HR, legal, accounting)

2. Accelerators

  • Ignite Accelerator – Provides support to startups to refine their ideas, build their businesses, and raise a Series A
  • Accelerate ME – Works with young founders in Manchester by providing equity-free funding up to £2,000, a four-month mentorship, and an office space
  • UP Ventures Group — A corporate technology accelerator that connects startups in the media, finance, and health sectors to governments and investors
  • Elevate Investment Fund — An equity investment and accelerator programme helping high-growth startups by providing them with funding (£50,000 to £250,000 for 5 to 25% equity), group and one-on-one mentorships, and process building

3. Grants and Loans

  • Greater Manchester Core Business Fund – You can loan half a million to £5 million from companies located in Greater Manchester, an option that will fit those struggling to get other types of investment
  • Start Up Loans — Backed by the government, startup owners in the UK can apply for unsecured loans (no need for guarantors or assets) amounting to £500 to £25,000 at a fixed interest rate of 6%
  • The North West Fund — Boasting of £153 million total investments, the North West Fund lends anywhere between £50,000 and £750,000 in a single round to businesses in the region

If you don’t want to accrue debt, there are also options for grants in Greater Manchester, including government grants, the National Enterprise Network, and The Prince’s Trust Enterprise.

4. Crowdfunding Platforms

Of course, you also have the option to tap on the power of the internet to generate funding.

Some of the more popular platforms include GoGetFunding, KickStarter, Crowdfunder, Seedrs, and Indiegogo. You can also go for other UK P2P platforms like Funding Circle, Zopa, RateSetter, and Wellesley.

Make sure that you spend enough time for research, promote your campaign early, offer incentives, and write compelling copy on your page to entice more donations.

5. Angel and Venture Capital Investors

Even though the majority of angel and venture capital investors are located in the capital, there are still several options available in Manchester:

  • GC Angels – Based in Manchester and publicly-backed, GC Angels aim to fill the funding gap for startups with the help of investors and various organisations, successfully raising £25.5 million worth of investment for over 30 businesses since 2015
  • Epiphany Capital – An investment house based in Manchester, Epiphany Capital has raised more than £65 million for businesses in the tech and healthcare sectors
  • Mercia Asset Management — Boasting of a portfolio of almost 200 businesses, Mercia offers financing options for businesses all over the country, including VCs, loans, and growth funding from £100,000 up to £10 million

Business Support and Networking

If it takes a village to raise a child, startups also need support from their peers and mentors to hit the ground running. Luckily, Manchester has a vibrant entrepreneur-friendly culture, with groups, meetups, and networking events in abundance where you can collaborate and exchange ideas with like-minded individuals:

1. Business Support

  • Business Growth Hub — Backed by funding from local and international organisations, BGH provides startup support services like angel investors, workshops, classes, and university partnerships—all available to you at no direct cost.
  • Manchester City Council — By working hand-in-hand with MiVentures, the city council provides startup and business advice through their online guides and expert business advisors. You’ll also get access to vital business documentation from Companies House and HMRC, as well as their IP databases and publications.
  • MIDAS — MIDAS connects startups to funding sources, provides relocation support, and assists in finding property solutions. They also have programmes for leadership training and organisational development.
  • The University of Manchester — The university partners with businesses of all sizes and helps them grow through their research partnerships, facilities, courses, and consultancy services.
  • Manchester Youth Market — Adding another layer of diversity into its startup culture, the Manchester Youth Market helps 16 to 30-year-old entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life through networking, as well as training and development programmes.

2. Networking Events

Wherever entrepreneurs converge, networking events follow.

There are plenty of networking events within the city listed on Eventbrite that take place throughout the entire year. You can also join the Manchester Tech Startups Facebook group or subscribe to Manchester Digital Events to stay updated.

Meanwhile, the Business and IP Centre (located in Manchester Central Library) regularly holds events for startups and growing businesses. You can also follow communities like the Northern Soho and the North West Tech to meet and mingle with fellow entrepreneurs.

An office space is vital if you want to plant your business roots in Manchester. Call us at 0117 244 3585, and we’ll help you find the perfect coworking space, so you can boost your startup’s image and get ahead of your competitors.

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