Digital Birmingham is joining forces with Virgin Media Pioneers to support fledging young entrepreneurs in kick starting their own businesses in the West Midlands.
Free to join, Virgin Media Pioneers is an online community that connects young entrepreneurial talent to a network of peer-to-peer support, video blogs, engaging TV series and expert professional mentoring and advice.
With over 600 members from the region already part of this digital community, Birmingham City Council through Digital Birmingham will promote Virgin Media Pioneers to those with the creativity and drive to start a company.
By making the most of the digital world in order to build better businesses, Digital Birmingham aims to unlock the talent, ambition and ideas of young people in the West Midlands, helping support the next generation of entrepreneurs.
There are also exciting exploratory talks with Virgin Media to create an entrepreneurial hub in Birmingham, providing an informal walk-in space where people can get connected and gain access to online resources and business support. This will not only boost their confidence to build a business but provide them with a real advantage that will help close the gap between the number of people with a great idea and those who are able to make it happen.
Cllr Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader, Birmingham City Council and Chair of the Digital Birmingham Partnership, said: “Young people have been amongst those hardest hit during the recession with more than a quarter without a job.
“Providing local people with the opportunity to develop new skills and increase their IT capabilities is a great way for us to invest in our local area, create jobs and grow our economy at a crucial time.
“Many have great business ideas but don't know how to make them a reality. If Birmingham is going to generate the next Richard Branson, then we need to encourage initiatives like Virgin Media Pioneers that provide young people with access to the contacts, advice and support they need to unlock their entrepreneurial talent.”
Neil Berkett, chief executive of Virgin Media commented: “Birmingham is full of talented and enterprising young people and we want to make a difference for those trying to take control of their own lives in order to build a positive future.
“The digital world can open up fantastic new opportunities and experiences for people of all backgrounds so, as a brand founded in entrepreneurial ambition, working with Digital Birmingham will help create an environment that supports the needs of potential business leaders of tomorrow.”
Amongst those at today’s launch was Matt Roberts, founder of Bean2Bed and the Virgin Media Pioneers Ambassador for the West Midlands, said: “Virgin Media Pioneers can make a real difference in the development of Birmingham's entrepreneurs of the future.
“Networking always excites and amazes me. A chance meeting or conversation can open some incredible doors for both parties but if you are not out there meeting people you’ll never know. Similarly, it gives me great pleasure helping and introducing people whenever I can. I am an outgoing people person with a wide variety of friends and business contacts in and around Birmingham. I’ll make sure that any VMP event that I organise and host will be well attended and hugely valuable to those attending.”
Digital Birmingham's support for Virgin Media Pioneers will form part of Birmingham City Council's ambition to get 2,012 digital champions across the city. This programme will launch in April as part of Race Online 2012, a nationwide challenge to get more people online headed up by lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox.
Special thanks to Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill, The Cube, Birmingham – venue for the launch and www.redpointclimbingcentre.co.uk, who kindly provided mountaineering equipment used for the media opportunity.
A hi-res picture supporting the launch is available from the Birminghamnewsroom Flickr feed.
For media enquiries, in the first instance, please contact: Nicola Bryant or Surita Solanki at Digital Birmingham on 0121 303 8779
Notes to editors
Digital Birmingham was established in 2006 to ensure the benefits of digital and new emerging technologies are available to all people, businesses and sectors in the city. The Digital Birmingham partnership includes representation from key business, research, educational, health and community sector organisations such as Virgin, Cisco, Centro, E.ON Energy Solutions Ltd, Coventry University Enterprises, Birmingham City University, Birmingham Science Park (Aston) and Marketing Birmingham. By developing the city's digital infrastructure and digital services, it is determined to see Birmingham become a Smart, Connected City which will be critical in enhancing the region’s economic opportunities, as well as promoting greater social inclusion, enterprise and wellbeing.
About Virgin Media Pioneers:
Virgin Media Pioneers was formed by Virgin Media in 2010 as an online community for young entrepreneurs. Over 2,000 members now interact, using videos and blogging to create a peer-to-peer support and mentoring service. Virgin Media Pioneers also offers original content including the Pioneers TV series targeted at early-stage entrepreneurs as well as connecting people from all walks of life who are passionate about business across a range of industries - from fashion to digital to catering. Regular free events and unique opportunities are also held, such as the Spark Your Ideas event series, which during 2011 saw Pioneers at six locations across the UK meet for networking, expert training and inspiration from leading business speakers and successful entrepreneurs.
Matt Roberts, aged 28, founded Bean2Bed in Birmingham in 2004 with a simple aim; to take the humble bean bag from the 70s, jazz it up and re-introduce it to the 21st Century. Then put one in every home. A Bean2Bed is an innovative, space-saving dual purpose piece of furniture that transforms from a bean bag to a bed in thirty seconds. Each bean bag contains a fold-up bed inside the cover and is filled with high-grade memory foam that moulds to the body. The company manufactures everything in the UK and delivers across mainland Europe. Celebrity customers include Geri Halliwell and Jasper Carrott.