Charging ahead – five founders in the North East who are unstoppable right now

The North East of England is a hotspot for new deals and entrepreneurialism right now. Even though the area has seen some economic downturn since the 1970s, when its traditional industries began to disappear, there have always been some who knew how to weather a storm.

Tenacity, drive and ambition for growth defines entrepreneurialism in the region – and makes North Easteners a force to be reckoned with as they ride the upswing of 2020.

Isabella West, Hirestreet

Isabella is a founder with a mission to provide customers with an alternative to ‘fast fashion’. She set up her business, Hirestreet, in April 2018 to enable women to feel confident in clothes they haven’t worn before but give them the sustainable option of renting them instead of buying a new outfit for one-time wear.

A relatively young company, Hirestreet has taken the fashion e-commerce industry on in strides. After securing syndicated funding last year, Isabella acquired Manchester-based firm ‘Hire That Look’ and is in the process of consolidation, so that both her businesses will operate under the Hirestreet brand.
Isabella has a background in investment banking but has always been passionate about sustainability and supporting women in the workplace. With Hirestreet she’ll be sure to do both in the coming years.

Gary Trotter, Ocucon

Gary Trotter is the founder of Ocucon, the world’s first Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) system, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Ocucon is Gary’s second venture, as he’s also the co-founder of Hadrian Technology – a CCTV design, supply and installation company.

He’s been amply recognised for this, having been named the most influential installer in the UK security industry by IFSEC Global in 2017 and having his companies ranked in The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 and the FT 100.

A lot of his success is down to his tenacity and perseverance with innovation: Ocucon offers unlimited cloud storage for surveillance systems and aims to make video surveillance an accessible security option for every business. It is the product of a journey Gary and his co-founder Stuart Ferguson have been on since Hadrian Technology; a story about not giving up and packing it in when the going gets tough and the belief in innovation above all else.

Adam Jacobs, Bloom Procurement

Adam Jacobs set up Bloom Procurement in 2012 to do professional services procurement differently. By giving its clients an overview of every step taken to secure a deal, Bloom offers a more transparent procurement process that gives public sector buyers access to more choice between suppliers, and suppliers more profile and opportunities.

Adam is an entrepreneur with a background in consulting, starting his career at PwC before setting up his first business and working as a procurement advisor for a number of city councils. Under his leadership, Bloom saw exponential growth in the past year, with turnover increasing 87% in the past two years and headcount more than doubling in 2019.

And all that has not come at the expense of integrity. Bloom was awarded level two of the Social Value Certificate – accredited by Social Value UK – a first for any procurement organisation.

Ryan Maughan, AVID Technology

Ryan Maughan is the founder of AVID Technology, a manufacturer and supplier of the technology for electric vehicles. Coming from an engineering background, Ryan set the company up in 2004 after working in the motor racing industry. Seeing the impact racing and cars had on the environment and quality of the air, he set out to develop new technology that would reduce emissions and fuel consumption of vehicles through improved control.

His journey with AVID Technology includes a number of milestones beyond its phenomenal growth. In 2010, AVID developed parts for the Ecotricity Nemesis supercar, which went on to break the UK landspeed record for electric vehicles.

After securing £7m VC-backing last year, AVID is now shortlisted for Business Leader’s ScaleUp awards – and more growth is sure to be in store.

Martyn Cuthbert, OnTrac

Martyn is the managing director of OnTrac and founded the business in 2008. A serial entrepreneur, OnTrac is his fourth venture – and that’s not counting the ones he’s invested in! He’s passionate about technology and the impact it has on businesses, industries and people’s lives.

OnTrac supports the digitalisation of Britain’s railways and offers products and innovations to drive a predictive approach to infrastructure maintenance, communication and collaboration. The aim is to use data to create smarter and safer railways, with products its customers can access from any of their digital devices.

The company has been recognised in the FT 100 and the Sunday Times Tech Track 100. Martyn says that for him, the “greatest thrill in business is setting yourself a challenge to create something that has never existed” – a motto that’s sure to keep him innovating for years to come!

From the industrial sector to tech and fashion, the North East is brimming with innovation and great minds that are driving the business agenda.

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