Bristol is proving itself to be a popular place for entrepreneurs who are starting up a business.
Out of the British core cities, Bristol has the fourth highest number of business start-ups at 93.7 per 10,000 of the working age population in 2017.
The city is well-known for the Clifton Suspension Bridge, being the biggest manufacturer of hot air balloons and, of course, being the birthplace of Ribena. Cary Grant and Banksy also hail from the city.
It has two universities, University of Bristol and University of West of England, so you’ve got the possibility of hiring fresh talent.
Is it right for you? Let’s take a look at some of the key lifestyle factors.
Bristol is the 10th-largest city in Britain, with an estimated population of 459,300, according to the local council.
The age make-up is fairly young, with a median age of 32.7 years compared to 39.9 in England and Wales. Over half (54.2pc) of Bristol’s working age residents are qualified to degree level or above.
It has more children aged 0-15 than those aged over 65 – kids make up almost 19pc of the population. Older people make up a smaller 13pc.
Crime in Bristol is at about the same rate as similar cities, as stated by police figures. In the year ending December 2018, the rate was 115.4 per 1,000 population. That’s lower than Salford (123.55) and higher than Cardiff (106.37).
The average house price in Bristol is £311,425, according to Rightmove.
Council figures show that 13.6m day visitors came to Bristol in 2018, along with 21.m domestic staying trips and over 570,000 staying trips. The visitor economy in Bristol and South Gloucester is valued at £1.3bn. Total tourism supported business turnover is estimated at £1.77bn.
Of course, there are plenty of buses travelling around the city. However, if you fancy a more relaxed trip, there’s a floating ferry harbour service.
Bristol trains are mostly serviced by Great Western Railway, heading to various destinations around the UK including Cardiff Central, London Paddington and Glasgow Central. Stations are Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway.
Like many other major UK airports, you can grab a domestic or an international flight from Bristol. European destinations are popular, such as Paris and Rome, as well as Hurghada (Egypt) Orlando and Santorini.
Heading down to the capital is easy by car, taking around two and a half hours.
You can find out about various business finance opportunities through Bristol City Council.
What the businesses made of starting up in Bristol
Stats are one thing, but it’s often more helpful to hear from someone who’s been there before. That’s why we’ve asked three businesses what their experience of Bristol is like.
India Langley, science communicator at LettUs Grow, explains why the innovative business scene in Bristol was perfect for their business.
Bristol is a brilliant place to be a start-up. It has a long-standing connection with aerospace firms and expertise in robotics, so it’s the perfect place for a company like ours. Because of its history of innovation, there is a well-trodden path and heaps of support for new businesses.
We were lucky enough to cut our teeth in the SETsquared Centre in Bristol. It is a hub, run by Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, where businesses, entrepreneurs, academics, social innovators and corporates can collaborate. That’s where we met SETsquared.
We joined them to access its experienced mentorship, world-class training and extensive founder and investor networks. As first-time entrepreneurs, this was an invaluable resource in our early years and continues to be a fantastically effective way to provide training to all our staff, while exposing the whole company to the thriving Bristol tech ecosystem. The SETsquared are a core part of this.
Anyone well-acquainted with Bristol will recognise the sign at the entrance to Stokes Croft. It’s an alarmingly apocalyptic countdown to the last harvest – and we don’t seem to have many years left on the clock. Street art like this is just the beginning. There is a real spirit of community and grassroots activism in Bristol which helps spur on projects like ours. Because of this, Bristol has a thriving ecosystem of start-ups, SMEs and talented mentors to draw upon. If you’re in a bind, you know you can always find someone who’s been through something similar to talk to.
We’re lucky enough to have world-leading universities like Bristol, Bath and Cardiff on our doorstep. A Sunday Times poll found that Bristol offers a ‘glamorous, creative, hi-tech and professional variety of jobs, with an above average UK wage of £23,000 a year. Because of this, graduates are increasingly likely to stay and find work in the region.
These factors fuel the thriving hub of start-ups, scale-ups, SMEs and corporate brands, many of which are building tech and digital teams out at pace.
A growing sector
The indoor farming space is very exciting right now, driven by a growing awareness of the impending climate emergency and urgent need for more sustainable solutions in agriculture. There are a handful of other aeroponic companies. But as it’s such a new industry, there are many opportunities for innovation so each has their own niche, from grow towers to high or low pressure aeroponics.
We specialise in a two-pronged approach of intelligent software and hardware. Unlike other companies we use ‘no pressure’ aeroponics, which means we can completely remove any nozzles making the system wipe clean and really easy to use.
‘Idyllic natural landscapes’
Year after year, Bristol is voted ‘best city to live in’ or ‘kindest city in the UK’ and it’s easy to see why. From idyllic natural landscapes to bright streets covered in public art, the views are as diverse as the residents.
It’s impossible to be bored in Bristol; it doesn’t matter if you’re seeking a quiet stroll around one of Bristol’s many museums and art galleries or you’re itching to throw yourself into its bustling nightlife of secret gigs, ‘speakeasies’ and festivals. There’s always something new to discover.
As graduates from the University of Bristol, LettUs Grow benefited from its Enterprise Fund: a collaboration between Parkwalk and The University of Bristol Research and Enterprise Development Division. The fund offers investment into scientific and technological spinouts emerging from the university.
Like us, many of these enterprises are nurtured through the university’s partner, SETsquared Bristol, a business incubator and world leader in developing emerging UK tech entrepreneurs.
We’ve had the support of some incredible mentors over the years, so our top piece of advice is ‘don’t be afraid to reach out’. Mentors help you get an experienced outside perspective in order to elevate your game.
You’d be surprised how many people are willing, even enthusiastic, about sharing their hard-earned knowledge. We’re now looking to pay back the favour and are working with Babbasa, a Bristol-based social enterprise that empowers young people (up to the age of 25). They work with less advantaged communities to help young people move into work, education, or business – so they feel inspired, supported and ready to fulfil their ambitions.
Mike Harvey from Amalgam, a model making company, likes the supportive and encouraging environment in Bristol – even between competitors.
The boot’s on the other foot – we’ve been very fortuitous as everything started in Bristol and the creative industries have more or less developed in the city around us. It’s been very useful for us.
We find that the creative sector is a magnet – it kind of draws people this way. We’ve got people who are happy to relocate to become part of the south west creative scene. There are many design and the creative companies in the area, and we find that people who want a bit of a change in scenery will move between us. So people that have worked for, for instance, Dyson, will work for us.
The people who have worked at design houses locally will have been with us at some point and it all comes and goes. For that reason, we’re never difficult with people who want to change, move on. We let them go with a smile and they’ll spread the word and hopefully come back, as many have done.
Why employees like Bristol
Speaking personally, I think, you’ve got an ideal blend. It’s a big enough city to have everything you want in it but it’s close enough to the countryside and close to the coast. We have a lot of people who are surfers and those who really appreciate getting out into the countryside.
Myself and several others live out in the countryside with easy access to the middle of the city. Bristol’s got the best of both and increasingly, we’re hearing about people coming down from London for the lifestyle. It’s got that kind of feel.
The vast majority these days are degree-level people wanting to raise their families in a nice, slightly less stressful environment, I guess. You’ve also got a huge range of events like the Harbour Festival and the Balloon Fiesta. It’s a really good place for people aspiring to bring up a family. It’s that kind of a welcoming and encouraging environment.
A collaborative market
Competition is a healthy thing to have. We find that some people want to spring off and go down a particular avenue and set up a business. Being the longest established and the biggest amongst them we hire them, quite often as sub-contractors. They remember us and that all helps to feed a very collaborative circle in a way.
It’s not at all cut-throat. In general, we are on good terms with people that might be seen as competitors. Maybe the ones from a bit further away are more inclined to regard us as rivals but there are several quite big design houses locally who have in-house design facilities but use us. There’s overspill and some of the smaller people that we use in turn. It’s all quite a friendly and collaborative network, really.
It’s an interesting thing – we’ve done some work with the local college where we’ve taken on apprentices from a GCSE/A level course and developed them ourselves. We take on an intern every year for a six-to- eight-month placement. Some of those would come back to work for us after they’ve finished their course. But
There’s also a big pool of freelancers in the area. We did the Wallace and Gromit sculpture trail last year. It was possible to bring in three or four good freelancers to deal with that kind of volume in the short term. People put the word out that they’re available and we keep a database. When their name comes up, it’s easy to bring them in for a specific job.
If you know where to look, there’s a lot of support. The funding is a bit up in the air with the Brexit situation, though.
SETsquared runs between Bristol, Bath, Southampton and Exeter universities which offers a business incubator type thing. You’ve now got Engine Shed down the road and the science park too. All these things have been set up with a lot of collaboration from the universities, local businesses and, in some cases, European money. It’s all been dragged together to make a very useful start-up friendly environment. People can get going quite cheaply.
Bristol and Bath are in a creative cluster which is one of several identified for Government support. This will hopefully keep funding coming in and support businesses like ourselves developing in the area.
It’s mostly the creative sector for us here, but that’s a very broad church. We’ve got an aerospace background up the road. Concorde was built here and they make airbus wings just a few miles up the road. BBC Natural History is based here so you’ve got all the live action and TV stuff, plus lots of small and medium-sized design practices. Curiously, we’ve got the finance and insurance industries coming in like Lloyds and Aviva.
The M5 and the M4 intersect just outside of Bristol – so you can get just about anywhere in the country quite easily.
Dan Scholey, COO of fintech software developer Moneyhub, says Bristol is becoming known as Silicon Gorge, drawing on the tech talent from local universities
Nowhere compares to Bristol as a place to live and work
When I moved to Bristol for a job in 2000 I was adamant I would be here for six months and then move to London. I’ve been fortunate to work for companies requiring me to travel to all the major cities in Europe and none compare to Bristol as a place to live and work, which compelled me to stay.
Even living in Bristol it would have been tempting to base our core business elsewhere, but with access to top-notch talent from the local universities and a workforce which genuinely enjoys coming into work, it makes sense to stay in Bristol. Moneyhub is located in Bristol’s enterprise zone, giving fast internet access to support remote working and easy transport to other major cities and countries across Europe.
Bristol’s universities specialise in computer science and creative skills
Bristol is a great place for talent in the software space as there is a good mix of computer science and creative skills, and local universities specialise in these areas. Although, as a growing business, we would always say there is room for more talented people in the city!
Bristol has a growing tech hub
As organisations like Moneyhub have grown and had much success we’ve seen organisations like RBS setting up large development centres in the hope of capturing some of the Bristol magic. The big benefits of this is that it promotes an ever-growing tech hub in the city and there is plenty of space for us to all differentiate ourselves. A bit of competition is always healthy!
Bristol’s transport system needs modernising
Bristol is a relatively small city, but it is large enough to always have exciting events and things to do across the year. Be it the International Balloon Fiesta, the Harbour Festival, St Paul’s Carnival or any of the other hundreds of activities that are going on, and the high-quality food scene.
The only criticism is the transportation. As it remains cheaper, faster and more comfortable to drive even into the city centre than to get the train, we would love to see a TfL-type scheme allowing our staff to mix and match bus and train transport seamlessly and dynamically applying the best fare. This would discourage driving and reduce congestion.
Silicon Gorge goes from strength to strength
We work in the financial technology sector and it is really growing at a pace. The Silicon Gorge continues to go from strength to strength, and it is great to see other industries growing alongside fintech. Companies like Extract Coffee, Friska, St Nicholas Market and all the local breweries are doing well and providing a good social scene for our teams.
Bristol will deliver great results for your business
Think about location carefully, considering factors like being in town vs out of town, public transport vs ease of driving, as these have a significant impact on the people you can attract. Come to Bristol, embrace the people and the way of life and it will deliver great results for your business.