Tech Nation appoints ex-Sage CEO Stephen Kelly as chair

Former civil servant joins the board of the UK's tech startup incubator

The former CEO of Sage Group, Stephen Kelly, has been appointed as the chair of Tech Nation.

Kelly, who also previously worked as the chief operating officer for the UK's government, replaces Eileen Burbidge, who stepped down earlier this year. 

He joins existing board members Gerard Grech and Tim Luke and brings a wealth of startup experience to the role. Kelly is often sighted as a key figure in the turnaround of software firm Sage Group and has also been a prolific investor of early-stage tech startups, such as Kimble, one of Tech Nation's Future Fifty companies. 

"I'm really thrilled to be joining Tech Nation," Kelly said in a statement. "Throughout my career I've worked with scaling tech companies of all sizes, in both the UK and the US, managing and mentoring expanding technology businesses. I know the challenges well. 

"I've been privileged to start and lead some fantastic technology companies and currently sit on the boards of two fast scaling tech companies, including one Future Fifty alumni. I've seen what it takes to build great teams and cultures whilst managing exponential growth." 

Tech Nation is a government-backed body that helps to foster the country's startup sector. It was set up in 2011 by David Cameron as Tech City, rebranding as Tech Nation in 2017. The organisation says it has already contributed £436 million to the UK's economy through its scale-up programmes.

Kelly was placed on gardening leave from Sage in August, following a slump in sales. The Tyneside-based firm struggled in 2019 and Kelly, along with a number of senior figures were shipped out. 

He takes over from Burbridge, who called time on her five-years as the chair of Tech Nation in January. 

"Stephen's experience both as a tech entrepreneur and scaling mentor will bring deep experience to the board, and I have no doubt that with his leadership alongside Gerard and the team, we will see tremendous impact from Tech Nation and sustained growth for the UK tech sector," Burbidge said.

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