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Sync Norwich event hears how Hi-tech start-ups are helping to put the city on the map nationally and internationally

PUBLISHED: 13:44 30 November 2013 | UPDATED: 13:44 30 November 2013

Mike Butcher editor at large of Tech Crunch speaking at the Sync Norwich conference. Pictures by Tim Stephenson Photography

Mike Butcher editor at large of Tech Crunch speaking at the Sync Norwich conference. Pictures by Tim Stephenson Photography

Tim Stephenson Photography

A cluster of start-ups is helping to put Norwich on the map nationally and internationally as a hub for creative and hi-tech businesses.

The SyncNorwich Team with Tech Crunch editor at large Mike Butcher. From left  Mike Butcher, Juliana Meyer, Fiona Lettice, Peter Schmidt-Hansen and John Fagan. Pictures by Tim Stephenson PhotographyThe SyncNorwich Team with Tech Crunch editor at large Mike Butcher. From left Mike Butcher, Juliana Meyer, Fiona Lettice, Peter Schmidt-Hansen and John Fagan. Pictures by Tim Stephenson Photography

The city’s growing reputation was underscored this week as hundreds of people
working in the sector gathered at a ‘Tech Crunch’ event organised by Sync Norwich, which has championed the cause of hi-tech start up firms since its launch 18 months ago.

Members include EDP Future 50 firms past and present including Liftshare, FX Home, and Proxama, all of which are at the cutting edge of technology, from software to app developers and beyond.

Speaking at the Tech Crunch event was Mike Butcher, editor-at-large of the influential Tech Crunch website, who said he was keen to promote greater links between start-ups and universities such as the UEA, who were present at the event held at OPEN.

He added that the growing numbers of firms setting up in the city would also help attract angel investors as they would be more willing to head to Norwich to see a range of firms rather than just the odd one or two.

Sync Norwich Tech Crunch conference. Pictures by Tim Stephenson PhotographySync Norwich Tech Crunch conference. Pictures by Tim Stephenson Photography

John Fagan, one of the founders of Sync Norwich, which now has more than 700 members, said collaboration had been key to the group’s success, and encouraging innovations among members, which could lead to new business ideas. And at its own confernce earlier this year, the group raised £6,000 to help a start-up business get off the ground

“We started about 18 months ago,” he said. “In the software technology world there are lots of community groups, but they are normally quite niche or associated with a particular product or software.

“It’s software development and start-ups. In the early days we were getting 15 people along to the meet-ups, now we have got 785 members of the group.

“The building block of the group is the monthly meet-up – that’s where it all happens.”

He said Norfolk is now home to to a growing number of creative, tech, and digital groups: Norfolk Developers, Sync Developers, Norfolk Indie Game Developers, Hot Source, whose members are increasingly collaborating on ideas.

But it is also producing young talent too, and Norwich teenager Michael Ni’Man, whose Worldwides app has already had 200,000 downloads, and who also spoke at the event, is set to set up a new Sync Youth group.

“There is a lot of potential, there are big employers in the area, who have outsourced a lot of their developers,” he added. “There is talent here and the potential to create a hub, it’s an space to watch. All the companies need to come together to create a community.

“We are a tech hub, but the city is small enough that people can meet up for lunch. As a whole the poor transport links benefit us, because it brings us together.”

Dom Davis, head of IT at Virgin Wines, and co-founder of Norfolk Developers, said: “We want to put Norfolk on the map as a vibrant digital hub, get the word out there and show people what we’re about.

“The momentum groups like Sync Norwich and Norfolk Developers are gaining means there’s a lot of buzz around these events and we firmly believe that we’ve got a good thing going on in Norwich and that the rest of the country [and the world] should know about it.”

“There is a lot of cross-pollination of ideas. The UEA has been helping with that. They are producing high calibre candidates, and we are also finding people who have been down to London and are coming back to Norfolk or are moving to Norfolk, because it’s a much better style of life.

“A lot of people are realising that Norwich and Norfolk is a great place to be, and we have got enough companies here that they are now attracting more. Why go to London when you can set up in Norwich?”

Tell us about your business successes. Email shaun.lowthorpe@archant.co.uk

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