As a computer science teacher Mark Martin isn’t the usual suspect to bag a business award and he knows it. “For a teacher to actually win a London Business Award must show some testament to the work we’ve all put in to make this happen,” he smiles. The work he refers to is Urban Teacher, the startup helping schools get to grips with technology to offer pupils better learning experiences. And given Britain craves education in computer science right now, winning London & Partners’ Paying It Forward award in recognition of those who constantly give back was destined for Urban Teacher. “For the last four to five years since the government began promoting computer science there’s been a big pickup across the whole country,” Martin observes.
This pickup’s demonstrated no better than in the capital, where Martin and his company have worked tirelessly to deliver results. “It’s been an uphill battle but through industry and some of the work through London & Partners – and all the other kind of partners and sponsors coming on board – we’ve been able to break down some of those barriers to make that delivery much easier,” Martin says.
It’s hardly a secret London’s frequently hailed as the tech capital of Europe but its diversity deserves just as much recognition. 40% of the populous come from BAME backgrounds according to Martin and as co-founder of UKBlackTech, the organisation devoted to boosting diversity in digital British businesses, he’s ensuring the tech scene feels it. “What we really want to do is make London the most ethnically diverse tech centre in the world,” he aspires. “And I think that’s a kind of target that we can actually reach.”
But that’s not the only reason London chose Martin. After all, Britain’s facing dour productivity levels right now and future generations are the only long-term cure. “It’s about how do we make more opportunities so that those talent in their bedroom that are building the next Facebook or machine learning can get access?” Martin says. The answer to his rhetoric started with getting the message through the Big Smoke’s sprawling interconnected channels of communication. “Where London is so interconnected – even me speaking to you now – it’s creating those connections and awareness for the wider generation to actually listen and catch on to,” Martin summarises.
Although the Paying It Forward statue glistens in his grip, Martin can still hardly believe it. “London Business Award? That’s totally incredible because you’re now what’s happening now,” he says. “Normally you win awards within your sector, which is education.” Of course, he wasn’t the only lucky entrepreneur to stand on the podium and has simple yet profound advice for readers gunning for the same spot next year. “My main advice to win an award like this is just drive your passion,” he concludes. “It should be an inspiration for the future candidates and also the organisation to say hey, what else can we do? Who else can we bring to the table to really make London a world-beater for business?”This article comes courtesy of London & Partners’ Business Growth Programme. Tailored to your business growth ambitions, the programme offers free impartial business advice and support to SMEs looking to grow across London