Leaders in focus: Mark John

Agenda magazine Agenda magazine

As the co-founder of Cardiff-based digital co-working space Tramshed Tech, Mark John is nurturing future generations of UK tech talent.

Since its launch two years ago, the hub has become Wales’s default hotspot for discovering exciting new digital businesses, with the likes of We Build Bots, Big Learning Company and Amply all hailing from the space.

What is your business?

Tramshed Tech is a digital tech hub and co-working space for the digital tech and creative sectors. There’s a growing cluster of tech and creative businesses in Cardiff that can really benefit the local economy. Over 50 companies are currently based in our 20,000ft space. At least two firms based at Tramshed Tech are tipped to become Wales’s first unicorn.

Why did you start Tramshed Tech?

I began my career in television and film before moving into skills and training, working in business development for the creative industries.

While working on a project with the Welsh government, I had the opportunity to travel to a number of Cardiff’s twin cities in Europe. Eindhoven, Nantes and Stuttgart all had a space where entrepreneurs could meet and collaborate. There was nothing like it in Cardiff, so we created one.

How do digital companies benefit from co-working spaces?

The real benefit to both companies and individuals is to be in an environment where everyone is open to collaboration, and to discussing projects and ideas.

Out of the 40 office units we operate, five or six are now occupied by businesses owned by people who started out hot-desking with us as freelancers, who we then introduced to each other.

How can the UK tech sector become less London-focused?

Greater digital devolution will be increasingly important. I represent Wales on a number of UK-wide, government-led, tech sector initiatives. Part of the solution is to increase the visibility of the regions, otherwise the UK risks creating an investment black hole, with all funding being pulled back into London. There’s significant tech talent around the rest of the UK and it needs to be nurtured.

What are your business objectives for 2019?

We’re on a fast-growth trajectory. We’ve taken on an increasing amount of space and we’re looking to expand further. Two months ago we successfully tendered to establish a series of enterprise hubs around Wales, giving us six sites to expand into across the country.

The next phase will be a national one, identifying two or three more sites in key cities around the UK where we could run a similar venture. Longer-term, it would be international expansion. I would love to see Tramshed spaces around the world. I’ve already contacted organisations in places such as the US, Canada and Dubai, to begin widening the Tramshed community.

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