I am sitting on a 60s Scandinavian-designed sofa in the basement of The Society Cafe in Bath. The Fantastic Mr Fox is being projected on a big white wall next to wooden canteen-style tables that seat 10+ people. Other tables and sofas are all full. Everyone has a Mac and the words I overhear from conversations are “usecases”, “going viral”, “acquisition costs”, “what’s the website for”, “Android or iOS”. And in this moment, for the first time in my many years of living in Bath, I feel that this is the closest thing yet to what I regularly experience in the coffee shops of San Francisco and Shoreditch.
It’s a watershed moment for me. And this coming on the day of the opening of Bath’s second Digital Festival.
Two years ago, a group of digital entrepreneuers got together and started BathSPARK – a networking group and series of events for anybody working in tech in and around the city that has 500 members. This group got together with others like BathCamp and BathDigital with a belief that Bath and the West of England has some great ingredients to grow as a hub for developing world-leading tech IP. With Bristol, Bath and Exeter Universities in the top 10 for CompSci and/or Maths, with the Bath MBA being second only to LBS in terms of quality, with networks of angel investors, a growing number of support organisations and availability of investment and facilities (Bristol & Bath Science Park) and with the undeniable fact that this is a great place to live, there are so many reasons for this belief to become reality.
My watershed moment in a coffee shop and the opening today of the second Bath Digital Festival are all the proof I need that things are heading in the right direction. The festival has provided a framework for a great programme of events as diverse as X Media Lab Creative Masterclasses, The SPARKies (the region’s tech awards), Nodecopter hack and the UK’s biggest Rails Girls Group meetup.
The momentum of tech entrepreneurship and innovation in Bristol ‘n’ Bath is palpable and unstoppable. This is a good time for everyone who has an interest in tech & the region to build on what is now happening. Attend events. Shout about what you do and why you do it here. Be demanding about what you need to make your idea happen. Recruit the smartest people you can into the region.