“Birmingham has a fantastic opportunity to be a Tech City we can all be proud of. However, before that’s achievable, we need to sort out some of the issues we have. First, we need to stop talking about collaboration and start doing it; working with each other, sharing insights and being proud of some of the amazing things we’ve collectively achieved. We then need to create an environment where we all have the best chance of succeeding.
In order to achieve this, we need to inspire the next generation, attract investment, nurture businesses with high-growth potential and turn our existing talent into the leaders of tomorrow. Birmingham Tech Week was set-up to be the catalyst for this change; we won’t change things on our own but hopefully, we’ll demonstrate what is possible and in doing so change hearts and minds.”
— Yiannis Maos —
Yiannis Maos founded Birmingham Tech Week in 2019 to bring Birmingham’s Tech community together by celebrating the city’s growing and vibrant Tech scene, inspiring the next generation into Tech, and fostering collaboration across the city.
The inaugural Birmingham Tech Week in October 2019 featured 68 high-impact events attended by over 5000 people across 40 venues. The Week was recognised and supported by local and national governments, with Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, speaking at the Birmingham Tech Week official launch event at Millennium Point to kick off the week’s festivities.
Over the past year, Yiannis and the Birmingham Tech Week team have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to grow the Birmingham Tech community. This has included, in part, launching Birmingham Tech, an online collaborative community space where people can share ideas, content, and encouragement; building four digital communities (Tech for Good, Digital Skills, Scale Ups, and Diversity and Inclusion) to support the diverse needs of the region’s Tech companies; partnering with high; collaborating with local organisations to support Tech for Good, Digital Skills, and Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, including The Brum Muse and Diversity in Tech Brum; and planning an all-online, COVID-proof Birmingham Tech Week 2020.
Yiannis took some time to share his thoughts on Birmingham Tech Week 2020 and what attendees can expect from this year’s events.
What is Birmingham Tech Week?
Birmingham Tech Week is an annual celebration of Birmingham’s Tech ecosystem, featuring a combination of events run by our local and global partners, alongside keynotes and panel discussions. We provide insights and thought leadership on innovation, strategy, and all things Tech-related. Beyond that, it’s a great place to meet people who are passionate about Tech and who want to collaborate to drive business growth across the region.
Why did you create Birmingham Tech Week?
I created Birmingham Tech Week because I saw a need. Birmingham has the potential to be a major player as a Tech city, but we struggle with shouting about the good work we are doing. I also recognised that we talk a lot about collaboration, but haven’t always followed through on that. Since founding Birmingham Tech Week last year, I’ve seen collaboration across the city increase exponentially. People from all sectors are working together and using Tech to solve some of the city’s most pressing needs, including the Digital Poverty Initiative that’s working to grant connectivity and hardware to young people who don’t have it. This initiative is close to Birmingham Tech Week’s heart because it’s all about using Tech to increase equity of opportunity, to enhance educational outcomes, and to inspire the next generation to use Tech. It’s hard to know how to use Tech if you don’t have access to it.
What makes Birmingham Tech Week special?
I think what differentiates us from other Tech Weeks across the country is that Birmingham Tech Week is a non-profit CIC. That’s what we are most proud of. Because we are a CIC, every poung that comes in to Birmingham Tech Week goes directly into supporting the community through education, Tech for Good, and community-based initiatives that are designed to enhance collaboration across the region’s Tech sector.
What have you been up to for the past year?
The most exciting thing has been launching and growing Birmingham Tech, our online community for collaboration. We will be launching our new website, birmingham.tech, during Tech Week as well, so be sure to keep your eyes out for those announcements! Birmingham.tech will become Birmingham’s digital Tech hub, a one-stop resource that signposts to all of the wonderful Tech initiatives happening across the region.
Alongside that, we’ve partnered with local businesses and organisations to deliver events designed to help advance the region’s Tech sector. We’ve also partnered with Birmingham City Council on their Digital Poverty Initiative, This Is Our Brum on their Tech for Good initiatives, and The Brum Muse on their Diversity in Tech Brum initiative, among many others. We’ve also strengthened our relationships with NatWest, the WMCA, Birmingham Enterprise Community, Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands, and our other Community Partners as we have all worked together to support the region’s Tech community throughout the COVID-19 period.
Okay. Now on to this year’s Tech Week. What’s different this year?
Birmingham Tech Week 2020 events will be online! Like most Tech companies and organisations, we have actively pivoted in response to COVID-19, and we have taken steps to ensure the safety of our community. Rather than a barrier, we’ve found this to be an exciting opportunity to welcome an even broader global audience to experience Birmingham’s Tech ecosystem.
Our Digital Communities will also be running a virtual Hackathon this year to give people the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned from our speakers, panelists, and workshops during the week. The hackathon is called This Is Our Brum: Social Hack, and it takes place from Friday – Sunday (16-18 October). We will be focussing on what practical steps we can take to increase Diversity in Tech, both in Birmingham and globally. The hackathon will be open to people from around the world. We’re excited for people from around the world to collaborate with our community to increase Diversity in Tech worldwide.
What are you most excited about?
Getting everybody together (virtually) to celebrate Birmingham’s amazing Tech ecosystem! We have a great lineup of speakers and events again this year, including Thomas Blood, Digital Innovation Leader at Amazon Web Services; Jill Palmer, CEO at Click Travel; and Avin Rabheru, Founder and CEO of Housekeep. I’m excited for the community to hear from them. And I’m even more excited to see how Birmingham’s Tech community applies the knowledge we gain during Birmingham Tech Week to our businesses over the next year. As Andy Street has said, Birmingham was in a good economic position before COVID-19, and it’s going to take all of us working together to get us back there as lockdown is lifting. I firmly believe our Tech ecosystem is going to play a major role in revitalising Birmingham’s economy. Birmingham Tech Week is a place for us to join together and use our innovation, creativity, and determination to take steps toward making our economy strong again.
The region’s Tech ecosystem has done a good job pivoting to meet the needs of the post-COVID world, and we are excited to be part of driving the social and economic recovery as we get back on our feet and continue growing. Each one of us plays a part in that. Each one of us has something valuable to offer. That is what makes Birmingham Tech Week special. And that is why we exist.
We will also be welcoming young people from across the city to participate in some of our events. We are ecstatic to be giving the city’s young people a platform to share their ideas and perspectives with those of us who are already working in Tech. Inspiring the next generation into Tech careers is one of our key pillars, and we couldn’t be happier to see this becoming a reality.
After the year we’ve all had, our team are excited to spend a full week celebrating all of the brilliant innovation and growth that’s happened across Birmingham. So sign up — for free! — to some high-impact events and get ready to celebrate!