Relaunched Tech Nation to “collaborate, not compete” with Barclays, says boss

Tech Nation, under new ownership by Founders Forum Group, plans to collaborate with Barclays Eagle Labs, despite controversy over the bank's acquisition of the government's Digital Growth Grant. Relaunch set for October.
Relaunched Tech Nation to “collaborate, not compete” with Barclays, says boss

The new owner of the UK startup network Tech Nation says it will “collaborate, not compete” with the banking giant which controversially was awarded the government’s £12 million Digital Growth Grant.

At the start of the year, in a highly controversial move, Tech Nation — which has supported the likes of Monzo, Revolut and Ocado — lost its government grant funding (its main income source) to Barclay’s tech business incubator Eagle Labs.

After the blow, Tech Nation closed its doors, but in April this year, the brand and assets were acquired by entrepreneur network Founders Forum Group, owned by co-founder Brent Hoberman.

Founders Forum Group is relaunching the Tech Nation brand in October at Birmingham Tech Week, proclaiming the importance of an “independent body” to support the UK tech ecosystem.

Tech chiefs have criticised Barclays being handed the government contract, saying it’s unhealthy for a commercial banking giant like Barclays to hold sway over the UK startup scene.

But Founders Forum Group CEO Carolyn Dawson stressed the entrepreneur's network was “here to collaborate, not compete” with Barclays Eagle Labs.

Dawson said:

“There are differences in what they are planning to do, what we are planning to do.”

But she added:

“There is enough to do across the whole ecosystem. We have had a couple of really good conversations initially.”

On relaunching the Tech Nation brand, Douglas said:

“Why did we want to do this? We have amazing relationships with founders. 

“We believe there is absolutely a place for an independent body who is working across the ecosystem to support them.”

Key existing Tech Nation programmes like the Climate programme (which supports climate tech startups), Future 50 programme (its scaling programme), and Libra programme (which aims to tackle tech’s lack of diversity) will be maintained.

Likewise, its Rising Stars competition (competition for early-stage startups) is also been carried on, albeit with a slight difference as it will now have regional heats running up to a final at London Tech Week next year.

Tech Nation’s research and insight programmes will also continue, but the startup network is no longer undertaking the “huge amount of work done with the government funding”.

Dawson says the Founders Forum Group is busy building up its Tech Nation team, currently standing at eight, which is dwarfed by the 100-strong team when it was receiving the Digital Growth Grant.

But Dawson points out there are “synergies of infrastructure” across the Founders Forum Group, which Tech Nation can tap into, such as across content and events.

She says:

"To be honest we are working with the community to understand what they need and want, and what we will continue, what we will revitalise, and what we might start from scratch.”

Starved of its £12 million government grant, Tech Nation will be funded through commercial support and partnerships.

Dawson adds:

“Much like Tech Nation was doing, in addition to its government funding, we are working with partners who want to support us and support the ecosystem in the same way.”

Dawson said the group wasn't ready to name any partners yet but added that “a lot of the previous supporters will be the same” from the conversations the group has been having with the ecosystem.

On the high-profile Global Talent Visa, Dawson thinks Tech Nation will continue to run it until 2024.

She said:

“As far as we are concerned that is still continuing, I do believe the Home Office are reviewing, they have not given us a set timeline, probably be well into 2024. It’s not a case of just someone else taking over.

“It’s such an important scheme. Our only interest at the moment and it’s the same with the Home Office, is making sure it's continued business as usual because that is what the ecosystem needs.”

Gerard Grech, founding CEO of Tech Nation, will hold an advisory role at the relaunched Tech Nation.

Lead image via Tech Nation.

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