Home Articles & Features People of the North: Paul Billington, Commercial Director, The Landing at MediaCityUK

People of the North: Paul Billington, Commercial Director, The Landing at MediaCityUK

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Paul Billington, Commercial Director, The Landing at MediaCityUK
Paul Billington, Commercial Director, The Landing at MediaCityUK

The Landing is MediaCityUK’s dedicated technology incubator hub for high-growth technology & digital start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs, located at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse. It provides workspace (office and co-working), incubator programmes, User Testing Labs, Barclays Eagle Labs, and an exclusive lounge and bar, along with incredible technical infrastructure and connectivity.

The Landing offers incredible connectivity for businesses, and user testing and prototyping labs for websites, apps, VR and tech. It gives digital SMEs and micro-businesses a place to work alongside large media and technology organisations, allowing them to be part of and benefit from the exciting and rapidly growing community at MediaCityUK. Spanning seven floors, The Landing combines all cross-sections of the digital creative industry to create a unique environment where SMEs can thrive. From digital workflow, post production and interactive media labs to meeting, working and social spaces, it offers everything under one roof.

Paul Billington was appointed in October to oversee the delivery of The Landing’s 10-year strategic development plan. Paul’s role will focus on making The Landing the place to be for digital and tech companies to start, scale up and grow, helping them to become high-growth, sustainable businesses. Also under his remit will be links to the Salford community, which The Landing supports with 600 jobs a year, and the recent redevelopment of Floor 7 at The Landing as a tech-led conference facility.

Paul has a wealth of commercial experience and over 20 years of experience and understanding of digital and developing industries in tech. Originally in banking and IT, Paul started a digital agency in 1998, selling it in 2005. Over the years, he has helped many digital and tech businesses, also holding a few high profile interim roles and board level positions in the North West, including Challenger Technology Limited and Prodo Digital.

How long have you been Commercial Director at The Landing and what does The Landing do?

I’ve been at The Landing now for six months after being approached last year to deliver an ambitious ten-year roadmap for the business at MediaCityUK.

I’ve been in the digital and tech industry for 25 years. I used to run a large digital agency,which I started back in 1998 with a couple of friends and eventually sold in 2005. Since 2005, I’ve been involved in a few businesses, both as an investor and at board level. Most recently, I have held a few interim MD roles around business transformation.

The Landing is the tech hub of MediaCityUK and we currently have 118 tech businesses located there which, between them, employ 560 people. Our role is to attract small tech businesses and help them to grow quickly by connecting them to real work though a range of programmes. Alongside our amazing facilities and fabulous location, we offer a package of support that gives tech businesses the best opportunities for success.

We are now even opening up international markets for our businesses through overseas partnerships with other tech hubs.

What or who was the inspiration for the current path you are on?

I’ve never chased the big money, although I’ve had plenty of opportunities. When I sold my business, my priority was to help others and I get a real buzz from doing that.

I am inspired daily by working with incredible entrepreneurs who’ve changed their lives and risked everything to succeed in business and it reminds me of everything I risked when I first started out.There is nothing more fulfilling than being able to create environments that give businesses the platforms to grow quickly, creating jobs and contributing to the local economy.

What is the one bit of advice you wish you’d been given before you started your career?

There are probably 100’s of things. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do so much but I am still learning all the time.There is absolutely no replacement for working hard and I am a 100% believer in that. Having said that, I suppose some advice on work life balance in the early days would have been helpful!

What is the one most important thing you’ve learned during your career?

The correlation between risk and reward. I’ve little time for people that talk about what they could do or, even worse, expect things to just happen. In work, or away from work, if you want things, or want certain things in your life, you need to make them happen yourself. This often involves taking risks and working hard to achieve them.

What do you see as your future challenges?

My role now is very different from the last 25 years. Running the hub is different from running a traditional business structure. Whilst the day to day operation is that of a small business, the objectives are quite different.

The main challenge for business today is innovation. Not so much has changed in the last ten years or so. For example, look at the iPhone. Its functionality hasn’t advanced as much in the last ten years as the previous ten. But, right now, we are on the edge of a massive acceleration in how technology will change business.

The pace at which businesses adopt new technology is critical. And, by that, I don’t mean as fast as possible; I mean at the right pace.

What would you like to leave as your legacy?

I am in an amazing place right now at The Landing as my work can have a massive impact on our business as well as on MediaCityUK, Salford and even Greater Manchester. I would not like to leave this role before developing an ecosystem where businesses stand a much better chance of success by being a part of The Landing’s network.

Away from my career, my ambition has always been to give my family the best start in life and the most experiences that I can.

What is your biggest business achievement/success so far?

I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but we built a business in 1998 which was the largest digital agency in the North West and one of the largest in the UK. We were trading internationally and doing some great work with an amazing team. It was a fantastic achievement and I wish I’d realised it more at the time. Since then, I’ve had a choice in what I do with my life and I don’t consider myself in the rat race. I’m proud of what I do.

When you are not working, what do you do to relax?

Lots of people ask me that as I do enjoy working; I don’t really see it as work but more a way of life. As I’ve got older, I like to invest time in my wellbeing as I find you get more out of life if you’re fit and healthy. I like to travel, cook and, contrary to popular belief, I do socialise sometimes.

Your biggest achievement outside of work?

I played a lot of sport when I was younger and often think about those successes, although I am regularly reminded that was a long, long time ago. I have an amazing daughter and I’d like to think that being able to expand her experiences is also an achievement for me.

What would you be doing if you weren’t Commercial Director at The Landing?

This is the easiest question, I’d be running another business.The type of business isn’t important, it is the constant challenge of growing businesses that gives me the buzz.

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