Newcastle Startup Week + TRYBES

by Paul Lancaster (Founder, Newcastle Startup Week | TRYBES | Plan Digital)

Why I started

After 15yrs helping other people start or grow their business across the UK in roles for organisations including Sage, Tech North, Shell LiveWIRE, Generator & Project North East, I started my business in 2016 so I could focus all my efforts on helping the North East of England become the best place to start or grow a business in the UK.

I also wanted to be my own boss so I had the freedom to do things differently, be more innovative & creative, less reliant on public sector or EU funding & use my skills & network to help others bring their ideas to life.

How I’ve been doing this

In May 2017, I ran my first 5-day, multi-venue, citywide Newcastle Startup Week festival because I wanted to:

  • Inspire & motivate more people to start (or grow) their business in the North East of England
  • Make it easier for people to find all the best help & advice in one place, in a carefully curated event
  • Structure the week along 5 themes to make it easier to find what they needed, depending on what stage they were at; Inspiration: Getting Started, Funding & Finance, Growing & Scaling, Keep Going or Pivot?
  • Shine a light on some of the world-class businesses & entrepreneurs we already have in the region
  • Use the event to attract & retain talent by showing what a great place it is to live & work
  • Use the event to attract more funders & investors from outside the region
  • Use the event to encourage established businesses from outside the region to open an office or base here
  • Help employees from private, public & third sector organisations learn how be more entrepreneurial
  • Have lots of fun along the way!

This first event attracted over 600 delegates from across the North East but also the wider UK & overseas too.

6 months later, my team & I ran our 1-day Newcastle Scaleup Summit for 170 people in November 2017.

We then ran another 5-day Newcastle Startup Week festival in May 2018 & May 2019 for 600 & 800 delegates respectively & introduced our monthly Founders’ Friday events in July 2018 which regularly attracted 60-80.

Day 1 ('Inspiration') of Newcastle Startup Week

Over the years, we’ve attracted delegates from across the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Romania, USA, Canada, India, Pakistan, China & Australia, plus a steady stream of positive media coverage.

Along the way, we were listed as No.8 in the ‘Top 10 Regional Champions of UK Tech / Startup Conferences’ in the ‘Startup Heatmap Europe Report 2019‘ (above Mobile World Congress, Barcelona & Tech Open Air, Berlin)!

Our ‘Impact Report 2019’ (featuring research by Newcastle University) also shows that ‘North East business creation, confidence & regional pride was boosted by Newcastle Startup Week‘.

We were planning to run another Newcastle Startup Week festival for 1,000 people in 2020 before COVID hit. As a result, we pivoted to running two 5-day Startup Week ONLINE events in May 2020 & September 2020 for 300 & 200 delegates respectively, with live-streaming & pre-recorded videos inside a private Facebook Group.

Because this worked so well, we’ve kept the private Facebook Group going for people who pay to join our online ‘Startup Week Community‘, ‘Advertise with us‘ or do our ‘5 Star Focus Programme‘ (1-2-1 coaching).

We’ve also re-positioned this website to be an all-year-round resource for anyone wanting to start or grow a business in the North East of England, with free blogs & videos published on an almost daily basis.

What I want to do next

Building on my past experience & the community I have grown around my Newcastle Startup Week events I am now looking to expand the offer more widely with a new digital platform called TRYBES.

‘TRYBES = a data-driven signposting & matchmaking platform for startup communities.’

Startup Week Community + TRYBES

TRYBES will support the entrepreneurial journey from idea to exit by enabling founders to pull multiple data sources about their business into a single dashboard & help them find the people, products, services, funding or investment they need to succeed. It makes recommendations based on who they are & the success of others.

TRYBES can also be used by local enterprise agencies, business support schemes, accelerator programmes, co-working spaces, funders & investors to:

  • Search for & match with relevant businesses or ideas
  • Promote their products, services, programmes or funding
  • Find qualified deal flow of businesses that match their fund criteria
  • Save time, money & effort on networking & marketing
  • Monitor the performance of existing & past clients or investees
  • Create their own niche network or ‘TRYBE’

Entrepreneurship is exploding around the world, yet nobody has found an effective way to replicate, nurture, grow, manage & monitor success in startup communities. We believe we can do this with TRYBES.

What we’ve done so far & how you can help

I (Paul Lancaster), Andrew Esson & Mark Renney formed a new company called TRYBES International Limited in August 2020 & since then we’ve been validating our ideas & planning our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) by having lots of positive conversations with potential funders, investors & partners from across the UK.

TRYBES Co-Founders (l-r): Paul Lancaster, Andrew Esson & Mark Renney

Even so, the funders & investors are all saying the same or similar things – “We love the idea, think TRYBES has huge potential & would love to use it / invest in it…but it’s a bit too early stage for us. Go away, build it & make it successful & then we will put some money into it!”

However, our aim isn’t just to raise investment. It’s to create something of real value to the people who will benefit most from using it. So, instead of wasting too much time chasing investment, I think we can fund TRYBES from our existing activities & would like to invite you to support us in one or more of the following ways (a bit like crowdfunding but without jumping through lots of hoops & unnecessary fees):

  1. Join our ‘Startup Week Community‘ (£75 for LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP) & get access to TRYBES when ready
  2. Buy a ‘Group Membership’ for your business / organisation for just £60 per person if you buy 5 or more Memberships in bulk by emailing
  3. Advertise with us‘ (to promote your startup or small business-related product or service from just £300)
  4. Get 1-2-1 coaching over 5 consecutive days through my ‘5 Star Focus Programme‘ (£500 per person)
  5. Donate money directly (any amount you like) to us via PayPal at
  6. Email if you have any grants you think we’d be eligible for, or other suggestions for how we can pay for TRYBES (including sponsorship or advance subscriptions)

We estimate we need a minimum of £30,000 to pay for the development of our MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

(If 400 more business owners join our Startup Week Community we’ll have enough money to develop our MVP but we’ll get there much faster if organisations buy bulk memberships, advertise with or sponsor us).

We believe TRYBES has the potential to be truly transformational for startup communities around the world but would like to start right here in our native North East of England. Will you help us?

We hope you’ll join our TRYBE by choosing one of the options above or at the very least, registering your interest for further updates below:

You might also want to Follow & Like TRYBES on social media:

Twitter: @TRYBESUK
Facebook: TRYBESUK
LinkedIn: TRYBES International Limited

Many thanks in advance!

Paul Lancaster
Newcastle Startup Week | TRYBES