Envestors plans Manchester launch – will it kick-start the startup scene?

[UK] Something interesting is going on. North West Business Insider magazine reports (no online link, it’s in the printed title, alas) that Envestors planning to launch in Manchester to take advantage of “wider pockets of wealth”. It’s a commonly known fact that the North West of the UK has a cluster of millionaire business people who may well be interested in putting small amounts into an organised network like this.

Envestors started in 2004 offering high-net-worth individuals the chance to invest between £20,000 and £2m in early-stage businesses, also plans to expand into Jersey. In other words, it’s not necessarily going where a tech scene is – it’s following the money.

Perhaps the recession is forcing it to look further afield? Envestors is better known in London. It has a model which involves identifying a shortlist of early stage businesses that show traction, then preps them for funding by the individual investors it invites along to a very formal pitch session. However, I hope they don’t charge the startups the absolute earth for this (anyone been through their wringer?). One of the problems with the UK – and wider European – eco-system is that too often startups, which are hardly cash rich, are just seen as opportunities to be milked by so-called service businesses. (FYI TCE never charges startups to pitch at our events).

However, there is of course no suggestion that Envestors stoops this low. It won “Private Investor Network of the Year” at the recent annual Investor Allstars awards afterall.

As for Manchester itself, despite having a very noisy tub-thumper in the form of Northern StartUp 2.0, I don’t see a ton of real startup action there. Yes, they have a booming Social Media Cafe – similar to Tuttle. But as I said long ago, the geeks/startups and the social media crowd are two different things and, in London at least, diverged a year ago.

The UK regions that seem to have most of the activity, apart from London obviously, appear to be the North East and Scotland.

Believe me, I don’t say this lightly. I’ve been privately asking people in the tech scene in Manchester about this for months. They just shrug their shoulders and admit it’s mostly all about digital agencies, film and similar firms. Very few consumer web or mobile startups.

Stop me if I’m wrong, but Manchester comes across as a region for financial services, creative agencies and media (e.g. the BBC has a big center there now) and of course the music industry connections. But real tech startups appear thin on the ground, though I’m happy to be slated for that in the comments – I’d like to be proved wrong. I’m just not sure I am.