Innovation without borders: the changing landscape
At Wirehive we love all things digital. We were founded to provide digital agencies and their brand clients an alternative to faceless one-size-fits-all hosting. Day to day we get our kicks in finding elegant solutions to the myriad of technical conundrums that can make or break (quite literally) a website. However at heart, we’re all in it for that moment when beautiful design meets digital innovation in perfect harmony. The truth is, more than anything else we’re massive fans of your digital creations.
Through our work with some of the most exciting and innovative agencies and brands, we have observed first hand a significant shift in the industry landscape. When we started Wirehive the received wisdom was that anyone wanting to work at the cutting edge of digital needed to make like Dick Whittington and head to London. It wasn’t that innovation didn’t exist outside of the M25 – far from it – but the assumption on both sides of the fence seemed to be that eventually all roads to success ended up in London.
Five years on and there are now distinct digital economies flourishing in regions as diverse as Liverpool, Manchester, Belfast, Brighton, and of course Bournemouth – recently named the UK’s fastest growing digital economy according to Tech City UK’s 2015 Tech Nation report. Not only do they have distinct specialisms but also their own unique identities. In short, innovation is no longer constrained by location.
So what’s driven this change? While there are some macro forces at play that can’t be ignored – namely the 2008 recession sparking an uplift in start-ups across the UK– having been at the coalface of the industry we think the most significant factor is the nature of digital itself. We would go so far to say the diffusion of innovation away from the traditional commercial centres is the logical conclusion of the digital industry.
Web technologies have been a democratising force for business: opening up national and global markets where products and services are judged on their own merits and marketing activity carries a clear measure of success or failure.
But all successful digital businesses have these two core principles in common:
- The ultimate purpose of any digital project is to overcome the obstacles of physical location or presence when it comes to connecting people and sharing experience. User convenience is central to the value proposition.
- In the digital industry this purpose is only meaningful when combined with the tools not only to deliver it, but continually improve it through further innovation. User experience will determine whether you succeed or fail delivering the value proposition.
Any business with this purpose and ability to wield these tools does not need to select their location based on physical proximity to target customers. Instead they need a location that contains and / or appeals to the highly specialised workforce who will ultimately deliver customer results. While the metropolis contains many, it by one means has the majority of these people.
Changing customer priorities of success over address mean that digital agencies are increasingly able to leverage locations with great feeder universities or industries. Or, offer an alternative lifestyle option to the bustle of the city without a career compromise. Bournemouth is lucky enough to be able to offer both of these things.
We’ve seen this trend go beyond the UK. One of our longest standing agency clients – digital renegades We Make Awesome Sh. – are living the dream having successfully split the team between Austria (to take advantage of the snowboard season) and UK. They still collaborate to produce cutting edge digital products for UK customers and work with UK suppliers like us to deliver them. As far as their customers are concerned they’re still getting the WMAS expertise and experience they love.
There is no doubt in our mind that the growth of regional digital hubs was not only inevitable but to the benefit of the industry. It can sometimes be forgotten amongst the code and the tech that digital is ultimately a creative and collaborative industry. Like any ecosystem it thrives on diversity and cross-pollination. Mostly it has occurred organically however but sometimes it needs a bit of a helping hand. To this end we’ve always supported as many digital events as possible across the UK.
For the past four years we’ve been shining a spotlight on the regional talent of the South by running the Wirehive 100 – the biggest (and in our not so humble opinion, the best) digital marketing awards for agencies based outside London. These awards are not only coveted and meaningful to the agencies who win them (several of whom are based in Bournemouth and Poole) but most importantly help them attract new clients and staff who value industry recognised expertise.
We’re delighted that this year we have the opportunity to be involved with Silicon Beach as well! Any event that boosts the profile of this region and encourages the sharing of knowledge and skills between the most innovative digital practitioners can only further the growth of the UK digital economy. The excitement for this year’s event is palpable and the enthusiasm infectious. There’s so much in this industry and Bournemouth to celebrate right now. We’ve no doubt it’s going to be the best Silicon Beach yet and can’t wait to be part of it.