Two years ago almost to the day, I wrote a blog post about the Super Connector role. I was just a couple months into this new job, having taken over the reins from Samantha Deakin who was on maternity leave, and joining Ceri Batchelder in post. (As keen followers of TEAM SY will know, Samantha rejoined the Super Connector team after mat leave, and the three of us worked alongside each other from January 2022 until June 2023.) As the end of my time at TEAM SY approaches, it feels like an apt moment to reflect upon how the Super Connector experience matched up to my expectations as laid out in that earlier blog post.
In many respects, the Super Connector role did indeed fulfill the three responsibilities that I outlined: 1) Connecting people, 2) Connecting institutions, and 3) Increasing pre-acceleration and acceleration in South Yorkshire to support entrepreneurs. Taking the latter point first, over the course of the TEAM SY programme, we established partnerships with 17 organisations who all delivered some form of pre-acceleration, acceleration, or one-off business support for entrepreneurs in our region. Together with our partners, TEAM SY has delivered over 5000 hours of support for over 270 South Yorkshire based ventures. You can read more about our impact here.
The Super Connector role was critical in terms of establishing those partnerships and, in many cases, helping to embed partners into South Yorkshire. We were delighted that the TEAM SY programme opened up opportunities for new-to-the-region partners. This was great for our local entrepreneurs, as it made sector-specific accelerator programmes newly accessible. It was also great for those partners who were able to safely explore what it means to run a programme outside of London. A couple of examples: Unrest has set up its northern division (Unrest North) which is currently recruiting for its next cohort, and IndieLab remains committed to providing access to its training for entrepreneurs from outside of London through its regional programmes.
Turning now to the first two responsibilities of the Super Connector role – connecting people and connecting institutions – these of course remained important throughout the TEAM SY programme. What is interesting however, is the different approaches that Ceri, Samantha, and I took: approaches that were driven by our own interests and experiences.
Ceri, master of opportunity-spotting and networking, seeded introductions and conversations that developed into numerous mutually beneficial partnerships and projects – in several instances, Ceri’s introductions led to new hires being made.
Samantha, driven by a genuine desire to see founders succeed and her in-depth knowledge of the startup journey, provided vital one-to-one mentoring and coaching to many founders, and brought bespoke training to the region in both investment and sales.
And as for me, with my interest in the regional economic development agenda, I ensured that TEAM SY was a respected voice in regional policy-making discussions, and that early-stage entrepreneurship and tech-driven innovation were accurately represented in decision-making around the South Yorkshire innovation district and investment zone.
I don’t think Ceri and Samantha will mind me speaking for all three of us when I say that the Super Connector role has been a really good one for all of us, extending our existing networks in South Yorkshire, and building on our love of connecting people and making things happen. It is very validating as well to see that the “Super Connecting” skillset has become more widely recognised in our entrepreneurial ecosystem, with Sheffield City Council hiring for this role as part of the Innovation District work, and with SYMCA referring to the importance of this role in the ongoing development of the Investment Zone proposition.