The UK’s second city is a hive of activity as companies are lured by financial incentives, while thousands of young people are fleeing London for Birmingham


Tech entrepreneur Brian Donnelly traded Silicon Valley for Birmingham when choosing where to launch software firm Synapse, after he was offered a £250,000 grant from Birmingham City council to launch his business three years ago.

“I would have started in London but it’s difficult for a start-up to attract software developers and engineers. Then the local government offered me this money. In fact, Birmingham has got a huge pool of software engineers. Also many of our workers can get to the office in 10 minutes. In London you’d be looking at an hour’s commute. You just can’t run a start-up that way.”

Donnelly, originally from Birmingham, lived in Palo Alto, California, for eight years, founding software firm Constellar, which he sold to IBM in a multi-million pound deal. His new business Synapse is a cloud-based tool that allows employees to work on the same spreadsheet remotely, making it easier for companies to compile reports. It counts major banks and retailers as clients.

The firm turned over £1.5m last year and Donnelly hopes sales will double this year. He employs 20 people in Birmingham’s Science Park, a hub owned by Birmingham City Council to support tech start-ups. It is currently home to about 100 companies and 700 workers.

“Birmingham is a great place to be,” he says. “Within 30 miles there are hundreds of big companies, so that’s a huge pool of potential customers. Birmingham is also well connected, and it’s really easy to find good lawyers and financiers.”

Published: The Telegraph 10 Jan 2015