Manchester Eagle Labs: from boxing tech to legal innovation
As the nationwide network expands, we visit Barclays’ Eagle Lab in Manchester city centre and find out how it’s backing small businesses, from a legal tech firm to a company building wearable technology for boxers.
It’s fair to say that Matthew Priestley, Ecosystem Manager at Barclays’ Eagle Lab in Manchester, is passionate about supporting start-ups.
“The whole model here is a co-working incubator where we work closely with the businesses,” he explains. “My job is to work with them on a one-to-one basis and really add that extra value and support where we can to help their business grow.
“If I can give them support that helps their growth journey to become a big global brand or a household name, that's amazing.”
He is proud of this approach, which sets the busy hub – located in Albert Square in the city centre – apart from other workspaces. “Instead of just being a co-working space where you take an office and the door is closed, here, there is someone like myself who is dedicated to adding value.”
The Manchester space, which opened in late 2018, is just one of 22 labs nationwide offering a range of businesses somewhere to work, expert advice, networking opportunities and a collaborative environment to learn from other entrepreneurs.
The lab can accommodate up to 110 people who either rent desk space or take one of the offices that hold between four to 12 workers. Community-focussed events are held in the on-site auditorium. “We open up the doors to people to help them understand what we do and how we can add value to them and their business,” says Matthew.
A passion for progression
One of the success stories from the Manchester Eagle Lab is Corner Wearables. The company develops wearable technology for athletes, with a special focus on boxers, and currently has around 2,000 users.
When Corner Wearables needed to prototype the device, the Eagle Lab provided them with a variety of tech. “The prototyping support was a hugely valuable part to us, then as we grew out of that phase, we eventually moved here permanently,” explains Co-founder, Jerry Krylov.
Now, the business is able to get the help it needs to find investment or make business connections: “It's really about creating an environment where, wherever you are as a company, you know there's somebody that you can talk to and get some help”, says Jerry.
Another lab resident is LawBid, an online digital platform that matches members of the public with legal professionals, locally or further afield. Someone looking for a conveyancer for their home purchase, for example, can log on, enter what they’re looking for, and a number of legal professionals will come back to them with a quote for the work.
Last year, LawBid won the Excellence in Technology and Innovation award, given by The Law Society of England and Wales, against several multi-million pound companies.
Reflecting on what the company has gained from its Eagle Lab base, Founder and Director, Kid Harwood explains: “The beauty of being at the Eagle Lab is there's a huge degree of being able to network – so we're meeting investors and we've done a few pitches. It’s definitely the right place to be.”