The one thing that will lead to creative and digital Unicorns in Manchester.

(A comment piece I wrote for the Manchester Evening News)

What’s more valuable to a business, money or knowledge? One allows you to buy the things you need for the journey, the other makes sure you travel in the right direction - you need the cash to move forwards, but you need knowledge to know which way to go.

Cash is a terrifying thing to have when you’re a young or in-experienced creative/technology company. For those that don’t know what to do with money then it breeds fear, for those that think they do it leads to mistakes.

The one thing that’s missing in Manchester, and that will increase our chance of more creative and digital Unicorns, is open access to deep knowledge. Not basic business advice, nor education, but access to individuals who have been through it before, and who can advise you based on their real world experience. When you’re unsure about how to move forwards ten words are more powerful than £10k.

At Formisimo we’ve taken most of our knowledge from outside the region and it’s cost us nothing – there are individuals across the world who want to help start-ups, and who want to learn from us as much as we learn from them. I’m thankful for this, but frustrated that we couldn’t tap in to local knowledge.

There are two outstanding exceptions: One Manchester advisor saw his business go from start-up to IPO, and he understands our space. Using Growth Accelerator support we gain access to his energy, enthusiasm and knowledge for £250/month. Recently two other advisors assisted us, for no cost, on a key hire in the business and their insight was vital to us making the right decision.

The challenge for Manchester is how to create an accessible pool of people who can advise creative and technology companies, and who see that task as pure joy, and not a burden.