Well, will you look at that, Sheffield Digital is officially one year old! This is an important milestone for us – we’ve made it this far, we’ve achieved a great deal and now we are looking at what comes next.
We set out to Connect, Represent and Promote. From a standing start, this is where we’ve got to in just 12 months:
Sheffield Digital is now recognised across the city and the region as the voice of Sheffield’s digital industries.
“Everyone’s talking about Sheffield Digital”
“I keep hearing about Sheffield Digital”
“Someone told me I should check out Sheffield Digital”
“I want in, please”
We’ve created new ways for people to find out what’s going on, connect with others and collaborate on ideas.
Our Slack team has over 350 members and 49 different channels. 15 of those channels have been set up by different meetup organisers in the city and they’ve been able to use them to promote events and find speakers, venues and sponsors. People use the #-freelancers channel to find help for projects and to support each other with the challenges of freelancing. In the #-specifics channel, things get very, very technical. People have also set up channels to discuss smart cities, VR, 3D printing and even the philosophy of digital. There’re also some interesting (and amusing) off-topic conversations.
Meanwhile, the Events calendar on our website brings together details of tech-related events from around the city and further afield. We’ve supported and cross-promoted a variety of events and partnered with Sheffield Technology Parks and the Workstation to create some memorable evenings at The Platform. There’s also plenty of coffee-fueled weekly networking with #GeekBrekky and Code & Coffee.
We’re helping businesses to recruit in a competitive (understatement) market.
“We actually recruited 3 new Java Devs. One of them came directly through seeing the advert on Sheffield Digital, so many thanks. He’s actually a Junior, and we are going to train him up. If we’d had to pay a recruiter fee, we wouldn’t have had the budget or inclination to take him on. So, you’ve done a great service to him and us. It’s great having you guys there.”
Since we launched our Jobs board, 28 different companies have listed vacancies there and our jobs pages have been viewed over 1,500 times. As well as helping to publicise the variety of roles of available across the city, this is providing valuable data about the skills that businesses need and whether they are able to find them.
We’ve become the go-to people when organisations like the LEP, the City Council and education at all levels want to connect with digital businesses.
Practically every week, we’re at a meeting where we have the opportunity to influence thinking around how the public and education sectors can better support and benefit from digital. This is slow, behind the scenes work, but we’re seeing progress on everything from physical spaces and infrastructure, to curriculum and course development, to startup support, to attracting businesses to the city.
We’re raising the profile of Sheffield’s digital scene, locally and further afield.
Nearly 4,000 different people have visited our website since it launched at the beginning of January and our blog posts get hundreds of views.
We worked closely with Tech North and Tech UK to make sure that Sheffield was well featured in the 2016 TechNation report. We helped promote the Sheffield heat of the Northern Stars startup competition and we’ve managed to feature a few companies and success stories on our website. We’ve also created opportunities for press coverage and speaking engagements. There’s a lot more work to do in this area.
The map on our website provides a fast, visual, engaging way for people to see the scope and scale of Sheffield’s digital industries. It shows over 70 different companies and startups – we know that there’s many more than that and we’d encourage you to log in and add your company. You can add your favourite co-working space or hangout as well.
All of this hard work has been supported by our founder members: Sumo Digital, Sky Betting & Gaming, Lightwork Design, Sheffield Technology Parks, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield and Tech North. They are key organisations who have come on board because they believe in what we are trying to do. We’re extremely grateful to them for both their financial support and their involvement in our board meetings, helping us to make sure we stay on track.
So, now what?
We want to build on this momentum and on the community’s energy and enthusiasm. It feels like we are at a significant tipping point and there are some key areas that need work and attention. Here are a few highlights – we’ll put more detail up on a revamped “Plans” section of the site in the next few weeks.
Talent & Skills – collaborate on a Skills and Career fair; work with city partners to promote our digital jobs and businesses further afield; provide careers advice and materials for young people and their parents and teachers; create and promote a pool of digital business people who are prepared to go into schools to talk to young people and/or run projects with them . . .
Events & happenings – create a “digital fringe” to Sheffield Design Week as the start of something that can evolve into a Sheffield Digital festival; continue working with Sheffield Tech Parks & the Workstation to build The Platform into a regular, unmissable event; continue to promote, support and amplify other grassroots and industry events; drink lots more coffee . . .
Places – work with the Sheffield City Region MakerHub Community Interest Company (CIC) on the TechHub project; collaborate with others to improve and increase the co-working, drop-in and meeting space offer in the city; lobby policy makers to provide a more coherent and accessible ladder of workspace provision for growing digital businesses. . .
Profile – create a lot more content to showcase Sheffield’s digital businesses and success stories; support that with consistent PR activity; help Tech North and other partners to take the best of Sheffield to national and international expos and conferences, shout more and shout louder . . .
But . . .
Doing this stuff takes person power and time. We’ve depended on people giving that for free up to this point. Now, we want to put the organisation on a firm footing with some full time resource and a budget for activities.
So, we want your money – we want you to support us right now, by becoming a member. You can do that as an individual or as your company, or both! If you believe that what we’re doing is important and you want to make sure we can continue doing it, please join today. All of the detail about costs and how to join are in the new Membership section.
As Chris Dymond said in a post last October:
“The most important thing to know about Sheffield Digital is that we are not a club! Our mission is to develop and support the entire digital ecosystem in the city, not just work on behalf of a subset of that community who happen to be members and have paid their subscription. We want firms and individuals to become members because they believe in what we are doing, because they trust us to represent them, because they understand that a bigger, healthier digital industry, talent pool, events calendar, investment community and everything that comes with it, is beneficial to *everyone* and they want to see our work continue. It will be possible to ‘free-ride’ on all of this stuff and never pay for membership, and that might be absolutely the right thing for some people and firms who are starting out and can’t justify the cost. But we hope that everyone will support us if and when they can.”
To close on a personal note, seeing Sheffield Digital come to life has been the realisation of a long-standing ambition of mine (and not just me). I am continually impressed and amazed by the calibre of talent in our city, by the ideas, the hard work, the enthusiasm and the way people work together to make things happen. I have great conversations every day and I am truly excited about where we can get to in the next 12 months. Thank you all!
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