Ben Maughan (pictured)
Managing director, Epic Social
Ben Maughan always wanted to be an entrepreneur and started his first company – a clothing label – at 16 years old.
“I wanted to build a brand and move it forward,” he recalls.
The former Durham School pupil then established creative agency Very Niche, which delivered brand and marketing services for a number of local and national companies.
Following a six-month period working as a marketing director in London, Ben then saw an opportunity to develop a North East agency dedicated to social media advertising.
He established Epic Social six months ago, where a team of videographers, social media managers, photographers and graphic designers produce high quality and creative viral content for social media channels.
The fledgling company has already worked with Porsche, BMW and Mini, and it garnered international attention with its McValentines campaign earlier this year.
“We came up with the idea to host a Valentine’s Day event at the McDonalds on Northumberland Street,” Ben explains. “It was a bit of a gimmick but the story just took off. It trended around the world and UNILAD, LADBible and The Hook all picked it up. It even appeared on Guten Morgen Deutschland, Germany’s equivalent of This Morning.
“We estimate the total reach of the campaign – which sold out instantly – was around 200 million people.”
Ben is an incredibly passionate, driven and ambitious young entrepreneur. – Sarah Glendinning, regional director, CBI North East.
Co-founder, Nebula Labs
Dylan McKee started building websites and developing apps when he was 13 years old and, a few years later, participated in the Ignite accelerator programme (as lead developer of Velo-Trainer Ltd) before attending Newcastle University to study computer science.
“Being on the programme at such a young age inspired me to be a tech entrepreneur,” he says.
Dylan established Nebula Labs – which offers mobile app development, web platform development and bespoke software development – with partner Nic Flynn, in his final year of university. The pair also participated in Newcastle University’s START UP Foundership programme where they received business support, funding and access to a co-working space.
Now based at Campus North in Newcastle, the award-winning Nebula Labs has worked with North Tyneside Council, Northumbrian Water, Gym Plan, SMD and Redu, among others.
Dylan has also recently become North East Futures UTC mentor and will work with students when the specialist college opens in Newcastle this September.
“I’m aware that I’m still at an early stage in my career but hopefully I’ll be able to open students’ eyes to the tech scene and help plant the seed for them to start the next Sage Software or major tech company in the region,” he reflects.
Dylan – who has twice been awarded scholarship tickets to attend the Apple Developers Conference in San Francisco – is now hoping that he and Nic can grow the team at Nebula Labs, while still delivering a highly technical and agile service to clients.
Dylan has continued to demonstrate that he and the team at Nebula Labs are innovating how tech can change the face of business. – Angela MacOscar, innovation manager at the Innovation SuperNetwork
Shems Eddine Boukhatem
Lead software developer, Waterstons
Shems Eddine Boukhatem was born and raised in Algeria before his family relocated to Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
Known as being the artist of the house, Shems became interested in animation when he was 13 years old and spent his spare time creating 3D models on his computer.
While studying for his A Levels, Shems began coding and applied to Newcastle University to study computer science.
While at university, Shems completed a placement at Waterstons and continued to work at the IT consultancy, on a part time basis, while completing his final year.
Shems is now lead software developer at Waterstons and manages a team that provides leading edge solutions for number of clients, including a large logistics business.
Over the past year, Shems has delivered numerous university lectures throughout the UK, has helped to run code clubs and contributed to many hackathon events in aid of good causes, such as the Hack for Hospice day.
He reflects: “I didn’t get to where I am today on my own. I’ve had a lot of help and so I think it’s important to give something back.
“I want to show people what career opportunities there are for people in tech. It doesn’t have to mean sitting behind a desk all day. You can get involved in various things and be very creative.”
Shems has a true passion for technology and dedicates himself to using it to make a real impact, while giving back to the community in his spare time. – Dan Halliday, head of bespoke, Waterstons
Senior BIM Author, NBS
Cramlington-born Jane Hibbert aspired to be a PE teacher at school but turned her attention to a career in STEM and 3D digital modelling – which she showed an impressive talent for.
“During my A Levels, we started using a CAD software tool called Pro/DESKTOP. I was the only one in the year that could use it and so I ended up teaching it to the whole of the sixth form,” Jane recalls.
Jane studied building design management at Northumbria University where she completed a placement year at NBS. She continued to work at the Newcastle-based BIM specialists during her final year, before joining the company as BIM author.
Now a senior BIM author, Jane leads a team of six to deliver technical content for NBS’s BIM tools used by construction exponents around the world. She also regularly speaks at schools about the career opportunities around STEM subjects.
“I talk to the students about how every industry is going through a digital transition,” Jane explains, who often uses Minecraft as an example to explain the kind of work that she does.
Jane is particularly keen on encouraging more girls into STEM and her advice to those who are thinking of following a career in this area is: “Don’t be scared to break stereotypes and boundaries.”
She adds: “I’ve only got this far in my career because NBS has given me the opportunity to get involved in things – particularly in inspiring young people to get into the industry,” she says.
Jane is instrumental in the work that NBS does in the digital construction industry, and also spends time working on initiatives to encourage more young women into STEM. – Helen Whitfield, COO, NBS
Director, LamasaTech Ltd
Mahmoud Elsaid became interested in how technology could help people from a young age. He attended the University of Sunderland, where he studied for a BSc in artificial intelligence and robotics. In his first year, he delivered consultancy work to IBM and Vodafone. He established LamasaTech Ltd while studying for his masters.
Lamasa Tech is a digital technology agency that specialises in interactive applications and touchscreen technology including self-service kiosks, digital displays and visitor management.
“We’re unusual in that we manufacture our own hardware as well as developing all of the software too,” says Mahmoud.
The company, now in its ninth year, has offices in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, and the US, as well as in Newcastle.
Mahmoud received a FORBES entrepreneur award in 2015. More recently, the company received a North East Business Award in recognition of its work at The Word in South Shields.
Mahmoud is looking to grow the international reach of LamasaTech over the next five years, but he knows he will only achieve this with the help of his 26-strong workforce.
“I’m very proud of the team,” he explains. “We all work very hard and are very target driven. Everyone knows they have to push the limits of what’s possible to get where the business to where it needs to be.”
Mahmoud is dedicated to the success of the region and in ensuring LamasaTech is among the organisations driving the North East forward as a technology powerhouse. – Louis Bell-Proctor, director of operations, LamasaTech
Digital programmes officer, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums
Sarah Younas studied film making and app/website development at university and when she saw the digital programmes officer position advertised at Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM), she thought it would be “the perfect fit” to her skills and passions in the arts and technology and successfully applied.
Sarah now delivers a range of innovative programming at TWAM that aims to inspire future generations of inventors, designers and makers. She is also involved in pioneering research, including work with Google Arts and Culture and the GIFT International Research project, which is exploring gamification and personalisation in museums. Sarah champions digital artists and is currently working with an artist on an artificial intelligence project to enhance the Great Exhibition of the North.
“A lot of my work at TWAM is focused on research and development and in defining what we mean by ‘digital’,” Sarah reflects.
“A lot of people think museums are boring, dusty places and not for them. We want to transform that perception – using technology – and create places of discussion and creation that everyone can enjoy.”
Sarah has been a constant source of inspiration since joining the team at TWAM three years ago. – Ian Watson, director TWAM
Head of innovation and lead of Digital Catapult Centre North East and Tees Valley
Naomi Morrow joined Sunderland Software City in August 2014 as a project assistant and is now head of innovation and lead of the Digital Catapult Centre North East and Tees Valley.
In her current role, Naomi helps to promote commercial opportunities for local tech SMEs by working with non-digital businesses and leading open innovation projects to help them understand and implement emerging technologies.
“We’re not ‘shoehorning’ tech into businesses for the sake of it. It’s about making sure it’s the right tech at the right time and at the right cost,” she says. “We work with a non-digital companies to understand what their business challenges are and then break it down in a way that the tech community would understand.”
Naomi studied law at university but her project management-focused career has placed her firmly in the North East’s tech ecosystem. She now works across immersive, AI, data-driven and connected technologies.
At only 24, Naomi’s clients include global brands such as Nissan, AkzoNobel and Barclays. She is responsible for project managing complex programmes, coordinating industry experts, technology specialists and her clients – often working across multiple sites internationally.
Naomi adds: “One thing I’m really focused on at the minute is how we help non-digital companies and tech SMEs to work together long term. So often, the infrastructure and processes aren’t in place to allow that to happen.”
Naomi is already making a serious mark on the North East’s tech sector. – David Dunn, CEO, Sunderland Software City