Emma has a wealth of experience in tech innovation, third sector integration and fund management, as well as being an industry representative on the Tech Cluster Alliance for TechCity UK.

Emma was responsible for raising the initial investment funding of £500,000 to launch the first Dotforge programmes. Her commitment to the programme’s success resulted in a further £1.5million investment in partnership with Key Fund and the RSA to pilot Dotforge Impact, a social accelerator in Sheffield & recently launched in Manchester. She is now developing a wider portfolio of sector focused programmes building on the strengths of key cities in the north of England.

DotForge is an incubator right? Can you give us the details? What kind of companies, what’s the funding deal, what’s the criteria?
DotForge is a pre-seed accelerator for early stage software startups. We offer 3 months intensive support via mentoring, workshops and access to our experienced team, investment of £18,000 and free office space for a further 3 months after the program.

We invest in early stage teams which in most cases have a good pedigree of working together or have known each other for some time. Applicants will have built a basic MVP or pared down working prototype with at minimum some beta users, although in some cases this may be more progressed. We don’t take teams at idea stage only.

The accelerator was established by a group of angel investors in Sheffield lead by Lee Strafford and myself. The first two programs ran supporting startups working in a wider range of industries. We have some great successes including Coacher, Linc (ironically; we can’t find the link) and Mihaibao from these accelerators.

You’re expanding from Sheffield into Leeds, is that right? And Manchester? And we hear you guys are getting involved with Rise?
We have now launched in Manchester with Dotforge Impact, supporting socially motivated entrepreneurial teams using technology to solve social and environmental challenges. This program is very inspiring and we have companies working on commodifying solar energy in accessible form for off grid networks in Africa (Mobile Power), building an e-commerce applications for the unbanked (PIP Payments) and bringing personalization techniques to the difficult and relatively dehumanising process of searching for a care home for a loved one (Care Selector).

We plan to launch in Leeds shortly so watch this space for more exciting developments in the Northern tech startup scene.
What’s your position on the Northern startup scene? Is it in competition with London, or does it have it’s own niche or niches?

I think in the world of tech startups the competition for offering the right context for new companies is global – about Berlin, Boulder, and Singapore as much as it is San Fran and London. Each place has a different offer, but often the smart capital is hunting in all these places for good companies.

There are clear supply chain strengths outside of London which we can leverage for startups, these include e-health, logistics and IoT. But we also think there is an different way to do FinTech which is building on the long established back office delivery in Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester to create a focused B2B FinTech offer for startups.

We know Nostrum Group is involved with supporting Dotforge, who else have you got on board?
The Nostrum team are brilliant advocates of FinTech out of London and Harrogate, we are also working with the team at Rise, a global open innovation community who are backing our move to Manchester and have sponsored Dotforge. We are looking forward to working with them on future accelerators.

What’s the plan for DotForge in 2016?
Our plans include FinTech as well as expanding DotForge Impact and a number of other exciting developments.

Next edition: Let’s see some of these Northern Upstart Startup in action.
We have a lot to shout about so lets.