Lee Strafford and friends have established project Sahara and thenetstart with the aim of establishing a community of internet companies across the North of England. It meshes with initiatives such as dotnorth.org which have compatible aims in this area.
What Lee evangelises, and rightly so, is that the most successful internet companies in the UK were those that sprung up in the North of England: he's therefore brought together some of the leading players in those companies to build a repeatable model around this opportunity.
I admire Lee's energy, and am hopeful that his experience and track record will help bring the various parties together to create a set of really exciting new enterprises; this may be challenging but it's surely a challenge worth serious pursuit.
In our own small way I think we could claim to have been the most active investor in this sector across the North in recent years, and we're looking to do more in future. I think we'd suggest that the problems Lee is addressing are important and prevalent. Most start-ups in this sector do have the feeling of being "on their own", and they'd benefit greatly from being part of a community in many different ways. The powerpoint embedded below gives more detail on the problems the project is addressing and what is being built.
I'm keen to see the project grow and succeed. There seems to be a growing momentum behind the initiative and I'll be keen to contribute where I can. In recent months Mashup, GeekUp, Opencoffee and now Project Sahara and DotNorth have exposed the size of the pool of both entrepreneurs and technical experts interested in this area of activity, and I'm looking forward to seeing us play our role as an active early-stage investor to help nurture the companies that will surely emerge.