Bristol, a city of creatives and entrepreneurs
Bristolians are friendly, liberal, free-spirited and extremely supportive of new ventures and ideas. Home to a diverse multicultural and multiethnic community, the city takes huge pride in its cohesiveness and community-led events and enterprises. Bristol’s sense of shared identity is palpable to anyone spending just a few weeks in the city and is embodied by Bristol’s inherently collaborative startup and entrepreneur community.
Bristol’s vibe is one of inclusiveness, openness and tolerance, reflected in the city’s proud recent history of championing civil rights and challenging prejudice, encouraging open and frank debate about its troubling involvement in Britain’s slave trade during the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Bristol is also a very green and sustainable city (it was named European Green City in 2015) and Bristolians are very proud of this. This can be seen in the number of green startups the city produces, like Pukka Herbs, Soil Association, Better Food and Sustrans. The city was also the first to introduce free water bottle refills and has lead the way in promoting plastic-free living.
Bristol’s Cultural Scene
Bristol is renowned for its rich and diverse culture. From Stokes Croft (so dubbed Bristol’s ‘cultural quarter’) to annual St Paul’s Carnival to the esteemed heritage of Bristol Old Vic (the oldest theatre in the country); Bristol’s cultural identity is profound and discernible to anyone who experiences it. The city offers a wealth of independent cinema, plays, cabaret and stand up comedy at vibrant, independent venues such as the Wardrobe Theatre, the Tobacco Factory Theatres, Watershed and Trinity Centre.
Like other UK cities, Bristol has a distinct sound and style when it comes to music, producing such pivotal and groundbreaking artists, bands and producers as Portishead, Massive Attack, Tricky, Roni Size and Neneh Cherry. Reggae, jazz, drum & bass, ska and a thriving indie scene mean the city is a musical mecca for the south-west. Bristol is also well-known as a city of festivals, hosting close to a festival a week in the warmer months. Highlights include Love Saves the Day, Simple Things, Bristol Pride and the world-famous Balloon Fiesta.
The birthplace of Banksy, Bristol also commands a huge artistic influence with the city playing host to what has now become the largest annual graffiti festival in Europe, Upfest. Multi-disciplinary art exhibitions and events can be enjoyed all year round at artist-led initiatives such as Brunswick Club, Caraboo Projects and The Island, as well as at larger public galleries the Arnolfini and Spike Island.
Why Start A Business in Bristol?
Consistently named as one of the country’s best cities for startups in the UK, Bristol has an established reputation, both as a vibrant place to live and a place to do business. The city is the South West’s economic powerhouse and increasingly seen as an attractive alternative to London. In 2016 a UCL study put the city at number one as the best city in the UK for startups.
Such is the attraction of the city to young tech companies, inventors and entrepreneurs, that the term ‘Silicon Gorge’ was coined (a play on Bristol’s Avon Gorge, which is spanned by Brunel’s iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge). The term hasn’t just been plucked out of the blue; including neighbouring Bath, Swindon and Gloucester, Silicon Gorge represents the fifth largest tech cluster in Europe.
In 2015, international consultancy firm McKinsey described Bristol as experiencing the “fastest internationally significant growth outside of London”. In 2016 the city was named the UK’s leading smart city outside of London and in 2017 was ranked second in the Start-up Cities Index 2017
Bristol’s long-standing culture of innovation and collaboration makes for fertile soils for businesses looking to tap into a wealth of diverse talent and expertise. Despite being a city, Bristol’s creative industries are a close-knit community, working and networking across a range of collaborative spaces and disciplines. All this gives the startup scene more of a village feel, making it far easier to establish good connections and make a splash.
Bristol is well connected, sitting on the intersection of the M4 and M5 motorways. Great for business connections, but also for getting out to the countryside or coast for some creative headspace. Bristol is also just an hour and 45 minutes from London by train with the area around the city’s main station, Temple Meads, undergoing major redevelopment to help ease traffic congestion and improve pedestrian access. Bristol is also a very cycle-friendly city with a cycle path between Bristol and Bath following the old railway line and used by thousands of cyclists and pedestrians every week.
Support For Businesses in Bristol
Undoubtedly one of the secret’s to Bristol’s success as a thriving startup hub is the support offered to new businesses through a number of schemes, programmes and initiatives. One of the most significant of these is the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which acts as a partnership between business and local authorities in the wider Bristol region, with a view to driving 3.4% annual growth and £1 billion of private sector investment into the city by 2020.
The West of England Growth Fund helps fund new businesses and projects in Bristol, with grants of anything between £10,000 to £80,000. The city’s Local Enterprise Partnership has access to £25m in investment that it invests into local businesses.
Bristol has two universities - Bristol and the University of the West of England (UWE) - which represent a huge support network and talent pool for businesses in the city. These institution’s involvement with new businesses and budding entrepreneurs is symbolised by SET Squared, a business incubator that is partnered with five universities, including Bristol and Bath. In 2018 SET Squared was ranked as the World’s Top Business Incubator Managed by a University by UBI Global
Separately, Bristol University runs it’s own Research and Enterprise Development Programme (RED), which connects academics, researchers and the business community, from kitchen table entrepreneurs to small startup businesses.