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Business & Economy

A beacon of hope for the North East’s startup community

Startup Awards North East has taken over from The If We Can You Can Challenge to offer a roadmap to success for North East-based startups.

FIRST, organisers of Startup Awards North East, are building on solid foundations to offer a series of engaging activities that were launched this week with a startup showcase planned over three high impact virtual events: SkillUP; StartUP; ScaleUP between June 15-17.

FIRST is committed to delivering opportunities with impact.

Through partnership working, Startup Awards North East will shine a spotlight on ambitious early stage founders, celebrating their journey so far, and connecting them to life changing opportunities and experiences.

Dom Ryan, co-founder of SwitchAid says, “The last 18 months have been difficult of all businesses, but with the exposure we received from being part of and winning the awards, with the advice we got as prizes from business like Deloitte LLP has been key to our growth and invaluable.

“As a small business, you don’t usually get to access to such quality support, especially so early in your development. Based on the advice we received, we have changed the structure of the business and look forward to growing in the coming years. I recommend any entrepreneur to enter as it is voted for by local businesses.”

Caroline Theobald CBE, co-founder and chair at FIRST says, “I have been involved with the awards for over a decade and my passion to help the region’s startup community is stronger than ever. This year it is even more important to support the early-stage founders that have demonstrated resilience by trading through the pandemic. We will also provide those with new business ideas important connections to the services and support they need to ensure they grow strong and are successful. We provide the FIRST step, working with our generous partners we can support aspiring early stage founders on each step of their journey.”

Applications and nominations are now open, so whether you want to SkillUP to explore ideas and opportunities, are looking for resources to StartUP, or want to take action to ScaleUP now is the time to connect with businesses and professionals in the North East ecosystem.

There are two awards up for grabs for each of the three categories – the High Growth Potential Award and the Social Impact Award.

Tracey Moore, chief executive officer of PNE and Social Impact Award sponsor explains, “The Awards supports us to pursue our strategy of fostering and celebrating entrepreneurship within our region.”

As well as being in the running to be awarded the accolade, all Startup Awards North East applicants will have free access to 12 hours of NEL Fund Managers Accelerator programme.

Alongside the accelerator, other partners are collaborating together with workshop activities.

Shaun Fooy, UK network senior manager at British Business Bank, explains, “We are delighted to be able to support the Startup Awards North East, and will be delivering a workshop on the ‘funding journey’. It is important that businesses know about the different options available to them, but also at what stage in their startup journey these types of funding may be most suitable.”

The awards have garnered support from long-standing partners.

Stephen Hall, office senior partner at Deloitte in Newcastle says, “At Deloitte we are passionate about the talent in the North East startup community and are fully committed to supporting those businesses become success stories of the future. As one of the largest professional services firms in the region we take our responsibility as a key player very seriously and investing in startups is crucial for a thriving and successful economy, never more so than in 2021.”

Alongside our returning partners we are delighted to announce day 1 and 2 headline partner Harris21. Claire Priestley, founder and managing director, says, “I love being involved with startups and entrepreneurs, their ideas and passion that they bring. I’m thrilled to be able support this project, delivering workshops and offering guidance and support.”

Charlotte Windebank managing director and co-founder at FIRST, explains, “We decided to make this year’s awards fully online so that 2021 early stage founders wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity. Not only does this mean we can have more people attending the awards but it’s also showcasing the region’s talent to national and international audiences – this is really exciting and we can’t wait to see what happens as a result!”

This will be the first year the awards have been accessible to a global audience with online ticket sales open to the North East region and beyond.

Ticket sales are now live, so if you are passionate about supporting early stage founders from across the North East then visit –