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18 November 2021

The Co-working Digital Communities that Spark Our Ecosystem

Our digital series has already shown how a voracious appetite for collaboration and co-production has driven the growth of the digital economy across Southeast Wales. This capacity for sharing knowledge, resources and opportunities can be found at many levels throughout our region – perhaps most remarkably in the co-working communities that are a key characteristic of digital SME success across CCR.

These magical digital spaces can be found in many different places throughout the region. Within a fifteen minute drive of Cardiff City Centre, you’ll discover digital enterprises enjoying the benefits of co-working at Barclays Eagle Labs, Gloworks, Hackspace, Meanwhile House, Rabble Studio, Tec Marina, The Arcade Vaults, The Sustainable Studio and Welsh ICE, to name just a few. The list of collaborative communities in every part of CCR seems to grow year by year – testimony to the fast-tracking of our local digital economy – with much of the inspiration being drawn from the national and increasingly international success of Tramshed Tech.

“A collaborative co-working community of start-ups, scale-ups and potential unicorns” 

It’s difficult to overestimate the success and importance of Tramshed Tech in driving the development and establishing the credibility of our co-working digital ecosystem. The brainchild of co-founders Mark John and Louise Harris, this beautifully designed regeneration of the historic Tramshed in Upper Grangetown is just a few minutes walk from the centre of our capital city and home to leading digitally-enabled businesses such as the unicorn-in-waiting Amplyfi, the market-leading Business News Wales and the world-protecting Wolfberry Cybersecurity – as well as 50+ other companies at their Cardiff site, ranging from pre-revenue start-ups to scaling companies, as well as more than 600 registered members from the local digital and tech community.

Building that ‘Community’ is at the very heart of the Tramshed Tech vision. When Mark and Louise first took on the regeneration of the Tramshed in 2016, one of their first priorities was to organise a street party and ‘open house’ for the highly diverse local community that lived around this disused but iconic building. That people-centred approach has seen them nurture a digital community one person at a time, one business at a time, building an onsite partnership with Barclays Eagle Labs in their Cardiff hub – developing a business model that has seen them open their Newport hub and grow their offering across the CCR and beyond. October brought the much-acclaimed news of a Tramshed Startup Hub in Swansea’s Palace Theatre as part of a major landmark regeneration; and last week, they went international – with Mark John travelling to Paris to sign a pioneering tri-nation partnership between England, France and Wales, bringing together the combined visions of Tramshed Tech, TechSPARK UK and Communauté d'agglomération de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.

“Creating an environment where digital people feel they belong”  

What has been the secret to building such collaborative digital success? It’s clear that creating a co-working community means much more than just providing a comfortable, well-equipped space where people can work and collaborate. It’s about creating an environment where people feel safe, supported and ‘at home’. The Tramshed is founded on this feeling of ‘togetherness’: helping give entrepreneurs a sense of purpose and the emotional courage everyone needs to pursue their business vision in a competitive digital world.

Providing such an all-encompassing facility, service and ‘home’ means that the Tramshed is many different things to many different digital enterprises. To some, it’s a whole start-up ecosystem in itself – the fastest-growing business incubator in Wales, featuring a recently launched Startup Academy – with introductory workshops taking place every Thursday. Those start-ups who secure a place enjoy a 12-week programme that covers all aspects of building a successful business – from idea generation and planning to product development, finance and team building. The final week involves pitching to a panel of investors, with one lucky business receiving £10,000 in equity-free cash and mentoring support from Google for Startups to help with future business growth.

The Tramshed has also become a stage for other organisations to showcase what they do – hosting Fintech Wales’ prestigious Annual Awards and pioneering Foundry Accelerator Investor Event. And it’s a place where people can discover and explore, becoming a community focus for important initiatives such as Black History Monthly.

Ultimately, Tramshed Tech and the many other co-working spaces across our region are the incubators, accelerators and ‘safe places’ that give our emerging digital enterprises the home, the testbed and the permission to Think and Do: vital ingredients for success in any market. And in our next features, we’ll be looking at some of those start-ups who have grown up in our region to become market-leaders across the world …        

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