Tech Swindon - Year One

Happy birthday, tech Swindon – one year on!

Tech Swindon was officially launched just over a year ago,

We weren’t born fully formed, although led by the very experienced Tech Spark team it was not a case of replicating that community in Swindon.

We have a very different tech community and different needs, so our first job was to get to know the companies, see what was already there to support the community and look for gaps and opportunities.

Swindon has some great tech meetups already - Data Swindon, Swindon AI, Swindon Connect and Agile Practitioners being just four you should check out – so we didn’t need to start up anything in that area

But there was nothing for founders to get together and share experiences, challenges and make new connections so we blatantly pinched that idea from Tech Spark and ran our first Swindon founders on a very wet and dark Thursday in November, kindly hosted by Matt at Desk it was a vegan spread and a great turn out.

We kept a strict no sales rule, turned away consultants – all of who were lovely about it and understood that to build a founder community we had to keep it pure.

Our first three Swindon founders were in person, and we spoke to BraveDog, Silicon Practise, Traced, Foregenix, Van Heroes and iKnow about running a business, managing people, raising money, losing money, keeping motivated and what their favourite pancake filling is (that was the one in February, thanks to Chris Parsons!)

Our website went live – a simple platform for events and tech community interviews and articles – finally something that could start to showcase our amazing tech cluster.

We started adding our events, interviewing start-ups, and scale-ups – founder tales and company insights.

And then there were rumours of a lockdown coming, our event on the 19th March was scheduled to be in person, with Be More Pirate and Google coming along to talk about building a team, defining your culture and intelligent disobedience – an amazing speaker line up for a fledgeling community.

As the date got nearer the world started to change, attendees cancelled and trains got quiet – we couldn’t expect an audience worthy of our speakers or ask them to travel from London with such uncertainty in the air. So, we cancelled.

A new community had launched, to be locked down. Our founders were all in flux, as we all were – what to do next, how to pivot, how to survive.

Swindon Founders felt more important than ever, but it didn’t seem right to ask our founders for time, and we also wanted to avoid the panic titled sessions that were cropping up – so we did something different, the communications trilogy.

Alex from Be More Pirate kindly agreed to be our first interviewee – our tech failed and it was blind panic behind the scenes until the minute before – but she made it all look easy, and we started a theme of thinking about business from a new perspective.

Our community read the book, we had larger attendees than any in-person founder event and two weeks later we did it again.

Sam Knowles from Insight Agents picked up from Be More Pirate to move from our purpose to our story – how we use the data we are always gathering and create impactful messages.

He highlighted the importance of taking time to think, giving yourself headspace – which we all need right now – and allowing ideas to percolate. We had over 70 signups for that event – and international attendees!

For the final piece of the communications trilogy, last but not least, was Joseph Bradfield from Sussex Innovation Centre to help us take our fully formed purpose and stories out to the world using the much misunderstood and very powerful world of PR.

We’ve since gone on to interview our founders again – Tom from Digital Marketing Specialist Ltd talked about enjoying more time during the lockdown.

We also spoke to Simon Bond from SetSquared as they launched their fantastic, free, innovation workshops – planned pre lockdown but feeling essential for our community now.

Show me the money was great fun – an investor, an investee and a legal brain – James Phipps, Peter Von Oven and Kat Wellum-Kent were brilliant, we talked highs, lows and gin in a session that flew by!

Shane from VanHeroes did a Founder take over, interviewing Tim from Landhawk and we teamed up with The Techies for a summer social on the 23rd July to celebrate how hard it is to be a founder – with help from Anita Jaynes, John Panzcak and Grev Commins

Our November summit, due to be a full day at Steam, has evolved into a week of events – most virtual but we hope that by then some round table in-person sessions might be viable.

Making it virtual and across the week is an exciting proposition – we can include more topics, from deep geek to HR, start-up workshops to corporate innovation round tables – and reach a much larger audience who no longer have to leave work or travel to Swindon to see how much is going on.

We’re working on our events schedule for that week, and for the rest of 2020 – topics for focus include pitch practise, inclusion/diversity/ flexibility which we’ll bring together in a regular meet up for leaders tentatively called Balanced and tailored round table sessions.

Lots of ideas, and a lot more people engaged with the community who are keen to get involved.

It’s been an interesting year one, a few bumps along the road – as you would expect with any start-up – but we’ve created a strong foundation and are looking forward to seeing how the next year goes.

Our ask for those reading this – if you are a founder of a tech company get in touch, we’d like to interview you for our site and keep in touch with events.

If you are working in tech for a company large or small sign up for our news and updates, come along to the founder’s events.

And for those working in HR or leading the tech teams get in touch to support – with time or sponsorship – we need help to do more.

Finally, a huge thank you to our first supporters – Royds Withy King and Set Squared who have joined Swindon Borough Council in investing in our community – and we look forward to announcing more very soon.

Tech Swindon is a Switch On To Swindon Initiative.