Yorkshire digital sector valued in the billions

Clarence Dock, Leeds
Clarence Dock, Leeds
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The digital industries of Yorkshire and the north of England have been earmarked for rapid expansion by a leading investment bank which has identified two of the country’s fastest growing tech businesses as being in Yorkshire.

GP Bullhound, a technology investment bank with large scale bases in London and Manchester, has published data showing two firms in the region – SkyBet and Pace – are currently classed as “unicorns” or companies which are said to have a worth in excess of $1bn.

Richard Flint, Chief Executive of Leeds Based Sky Bet & Gaming.

Richard Flint, Chief Executive of Leeds Based Sky Bet & Gaming.

In addition, four more Yorkshire firms were identified as having a worth of more than $500m – the Emis Group and CallCredit in Leeds, plus Hull’s KCOM Group and Daisy, which has offices in Bradford as well as Burnley.

The research has been published by GP Bullhound following a Northern Tech Tour, held in collaboration with Bloomberg, which brought a selection of the leading tech investors from across Europe to Leeds and Manchester for two days of presentations from 23 local technology companies.

Newcastle-based Sage remains the most valuable technology company in the north of England, with a valuation nearly twice as high as the next largest tech company, AutoTrader, based in Manchester.

A spokesman said: “The remaining companies all reflect the specialisms that have created such a strong track-record of technology success in the North of England – marketplace platforms and e-commerce.

“The remaining companies all reflect the specialisms that have created such a strong track-record of technology success in the North of England – marketplace platforms and e-commerce.”

“The combined value of the tech companies above $0.5bn is $30.5bn, demonstrating the extent to which the region is producing world-class businesses.”

Hugh Campbell, managing partner at GP Bullhound, commented: “The message to tech investors in Europe and the US is clear – world-leading tech companies don’t just exist in London.

“The tech ecosystem that has been established in the region has a proven track record of fast-growth tech success stories and the depth of talent, ideas and funding available is creating real momentum.”

GP Bullhound highlighted particular areas for growth within the North’s tech sector through analysis of companies’ business models, global ambitions and market growth potential.

Calling them ‘foals’ – a nod to the unicorn status – the investor cited companies with the potential to reach a billion-dollar valuation in the near future, including TheLADbible, Zuto and Performance Horizon.

In Yorkshire, Pace – makers of set top boxes and other digital services – was named the region’s most valuable tech company at $2m while online betting firm SkyBet was listed at $1.1bn.

Leeds is increasingly positioning itself as a top digital centre, with as many as 23,000 jobs now devoted to the sector within the wider city region, generating £671m for the economy in the process.

Last month The Yorkshire Post carried a report in which it was claimed that Leeds had the potential to become the digital capital of the north if it could position itself as a low-cost alternative to London, generally recognised as the leading centre in Europe for digital businesses.

SkyBet chief executive Richard Flint told The Yorkshire Post: “It is great to see Yorkshire’s strength in technology firms highlighted by this report. With fantastic universities and a growing digital sector, it’s a great place to build a tech company. I hope the new Government continues to recognise the role northern businesses like ours can play in rebalancing the economy away from London.”

Controversy erupted in the wake of last month’s vote to exit the European Union when a van drove around the centre of London carrying a billboard reading ‘Keep Calm and Move to Berlin’ in response to fears a Brexit vote would see start-up companies flock away from the UK to remain part of the common market.