eCommCon comes to Lancaster

Magento development and hosting specialists Nublue are bringing together some of the eCommerce industry’s leading names at an event in Lancaster next month.

eCommCon, a brand new event, is aimed at established eCommerce businesses interested in practical tips and advice on how to improve online conversions.

The event, which is supported by Digital Lancashire, will take place at The Storey in Lancaster on Tuesday 30th January 2018.

Expert speakers will include representatives from Dotmailer, Brightpearl, Nosto, Feefo, Temando, Loyalty Lion, RapidSpike and Barclaycard, with keynotes from CRO agency Endless Gain.

Katherine Bell, senior partnerships and events executive at Nublue, said: “There are so many successful ecommerce businesses in our region, but typically they have to travel to London to attend this kind of event. We have a great family of partners who can really add new thoughts and insights to these businesses so we wanted to bring some of them together to inspire more local businesses.”

Citybase Apartments unveils brand refresh

Serviced apartment specialist Citybase Apartments today revealed its fresh new look, upgraded website, new international locations and updated portfolio of high quality, family- and group- friendly apartments.

The formation of its new parent company – Habicus Group – was also announced, with all firms within the group undergoing a visual refresh and review of their strategic focus.

Citybase Apartments guests will enjoy a faster, more intuitive website, with enhanced user experience and more online availability. With hundreds of worldwide destinations to browse and book, or speak to an expert for inspiration and a personal set of recommendations.

The combined knowledge and buying power of Habicus will give guests a wide choice of apartments, live online availability, instant booking technology, the most competitive rates, and combined expertise of nearly 20 years’ experience in serviced apartments.

Marcus Angell, Habicus Managing Director said of the decision to rebrand:

“The investment in a revised strategy for Citybase and visual identity for all our brands reflects the growth in popularity of serviced apartments amongst travellers in both the corporate and leisure markets; more and more people are now looking for an alternative to a hotel for the flexibility they offer. We see the market as having huge potential internationally and the growing popularity of apartments suggests to us that guests are expecting and seeking a more independent and authentic experience when they visit a location. Serviced apartments can offer this, making them a great way to get a feel for a neighbourhood on your own terms.”

Caroline Saunders, Habicus Group Head of Marketing looks back on the project undertaken by her team to update and position the brands for future growth:

“The launch of the new brands is a result of a 12 month rebrand project planned and executed by our in house marketing team, with design and consultancy support from design agency Fat Media. Each of our brands is unique but share some common features that unite them. We have looked in great detail at our brands and developed the direction and strategy for each one to ensure they are not only distinct, but work in harmony as a family.”

Marcus Angell reflects on the challenges posed during the course of an acquisition:

“When several companies evolve as competitors and then come together in a strategic acquisition of this kind, it is always sensible to take an objective look at external perception, market positioning and visual identity to ensure that the brands are distinct and complementary. These are exciting times for the brands within the Habicus Group. The reach, buying power and portfolio open to both our corporate and leisure clients is unrivalled in the marketplace and the technology and customer service, for which we are renowned, will ensure we maintain our position as the world’s leading serviced apartment agents and set the foundations for international expansion and future growth.”

The Prolific North Tech 100 – the links you need

The Prolific North Tech 100, in association with Manchester Tech Trust and RSM, is an extensive new piece of original research published over three days last week…

The Prolific North Tech 100: The leading tech companies in the North

The Prolific North Tech 100: The North’s biggest employers in tech

The Prolific North Tech 100: The Top 30 Tech Companies to Watch

£40M for North West Businesses

The government-backed Start Up Loans programme has lent £40m to start-ups and new businesses across the North West since launching in 2012, it has revealed.

The scheme has provided low-interest funding to more than 6,000 loan recipients around the region since 2012. More than £365m has been provided to 50,000 loan recipients in total across the UK.

Read more at Insider Media…

City and County officials meet Digital businesses in Lancaster

Digital Lancashire, the trade body for digital business in Lancashire, has brought council leaders and officials to the city for a tour of digital businesses at Lancaster University and in the city centre. The aim of the tour was to showcase digital businesses and homegrown digital talent and to discuss ways in which the councils could help digital businesses in the City meet several key challenges.

Michael Green, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Lancashire County Council, and officers from Lancaster, Preston and Burnley, heard from companies they visited, including Fat Media, NuBlue, Relative Insight, Yordas Group and Factored, that city-based digital businesses faced two key challenges: finding and retaining talent with the right digital skills and finding suitable buildings and office space in which to grow and develop their businesses.

Michael Gibson, Director of Miralis Data and Chair of Digital Lancashire says, “Officials were told about a Lancaster-based business that has recently created 20 new roles in another city because suitable office space could not be found locally; another digital business that cannot find suitable office space with a flexible lease in Lancaster, so it has moved out and is car-sharing its staff to Kendal and back every day; and two others are looking at moving from the city altogether with the potential loss of 100 jobs if the right space doesn’t become available. Thanks to Lancaster University and a foundation of successful digital companies, over 800 well-paid jobs have been created in the digital economy in Lancaster which boosts other city businesses. However, we have to do more to create modern, collaborative workspaces and to develop, train and retain talent or we will lose this fast-growing part of our local economy.”

Similar stories were told by several of the businesses based at the University’s InfoLab21. Very many of the highly successful, cutting-edge businesses based at the University need new premises in order to continue to grow and thrive but, again, cannot find the space in the City suitable to move into.  

The digital economy in Lancaster is thriving. For example, Relative Insight, which recently received substantial investment from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, has won clients such as Disney, Sky and Unilever; Vibe Tickets, who’ve raised nearly £1 million to fund growth, is creating substantial jobs at The StoreyFat Media employs 75 people at its White Cross base through clients across the UK and around the world; and others such as SQ Digital, who employ over 40 people at its Church Street base, have brought an old, city centre building back to useful, economic life.  

Mark Thwaite, Head of Communications for Digital Lancashire says, “Digital businesses grow much faster than non-digital businesses, so office requirements change more quickly. Furthermore, digital customers have certain expectation of what their suppliers will look like – modern, fresh, bright, well-located. Digital businesses want to meet those expectations and the expectations of staff who themselves want to work in well-appointed, digitally-appropriate workspaces. If we can open up great spaces to the amazing businesses that we have in Lancaster their employees will spend in the city, build lives and raise families in the local area, and help to create the vibrant economy of the future that we all need. If don’t look after these businesses, we imperil that future.”

Unlimited holidays for staff at Cloud Technology Solutions

Unlimited holidays for staff and annual holidays to Majorca are part of the secret to the success of one of the North’s fastest-growing tech companies.

Cloud Technology Solutions placed 20th in the Northern Tech 100 list of fast-growing companies compiled by Tech North in association with GP Bullhound for the Northern Tech Awards.

After adding 52 staff in the last two years it now employs 82 people with a head office in Manchester as well as bases in Edinburgh and Belfast and a development team spread around the world.

Sales director Steve Dobson, who set up the business with CEO James Doggart in 2008, told BusinessCloud that the unlimited holiday policy began out of an admin headache in trying to manage the rota for 60 people.

Read more at Business Cloud

Tony Lacey

Tony Lacey interview: more money, more time, less stress

On the 30th November, Digital Roundtable, the leading event for digital agency owners and senior management, is coming to Lancaster. The event will take place between 5.30 to 8pm at The Borough.

Together with partners MyAccountancyPlace, Digital Roundtable helps digital agencies optimise their work, improve profitability and thrive through learning from experts and engaging with peers.

This month’s meeting will kick off with a keynote entitled More money, more time, less stress from the excellent and inspiring Tony Lacey.

There’s a great interview with Tony Lacey, over on the MyAccountancyPlace website:

“My name is Tony Lacey. I am the Founder and Managing Partner of Clarity Business People. At Clarity, we work with private enterprise businesses, motivating and energising clients around maximising the return on their business investments. We work with our clients and their teams to provide clear commercial and cultural initiatives designed to accelerate specific outcomes for owners and their businesses. The key is to address these initiatives in the right balance as they build the business towards the vision they set out to achieve.”

Read the rest of the Tony Lacey interview.

Register now for the Digital Roundtable in Lancaster on November 30.

Relative Insight are Tech North Northern Stars winners

Four months of intense competition came to a head at the Tech North Northern Stars grand final last Friday. 20 finalists pitched at the well-attended event which was hosted by Tech North’s Martin Bryant. Then four experienced judges (Suzanne Ashman of LocalGlobe, James Foster of ADV, Sarah Turner of Angel Academe and prolific investor Keith Wallington) selected the 10 deserving winners of this year’s competition…

And Lancaster’s Relative Insight was one of the winners! Congratulations to everyone at Relative Insight for all their hard work and innovation.

Relative Insight help brands choose the best language to use with their target audience: “using comparative language analysis to help marketers discover real insights and turn them into communication.”

Read more over on the Tech North blog.

Becoming Tech Nation

Theresa May and Philip Hammond have pledged to commit an additional £21 million in funding over the next four years, to support the expansion of Tech City UK and Tech North into Tech Nation.

Tech Nation will also benefit from a greater allocation of exceptional talent visas. These will be available to all endorsing bodies including for highly skilled tech workers who want to come and work in the UK, in recognition of the sector’s global nature.

With this wider remit, we will work tirelessly to accelerate the growth of the UK digital tech sector – bringing jobs, skills and higher productivity to the regions.

More at Tech City

Acorn secures £20m finance

A specialist recruitment and training business with almost 40 offices across the UK, including in Manchester, Preston, Crewe and Widnes, has secured a £20m invoice finance package from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

The funding will provide Newport-headquartered Acorn Group with working capital to support its growth.

The business was founded in 1992 and now employs a 270-strong team across 38 offices. It specialises in recruitment for the IT and digital, construction, rail, engineering, legal, industrial and executive search sectors.

Read more