From education to employment


Mike O’Brien, co-founder of independent Tyneside tech consultancy Opencast, has been named as the Entrepreneur of the Year in the prestigious annual Entrepreneurs’ Forum Awards.

Mike’s award win was confirmed on Friday 7 October at a black tie awards dinner and ceremony at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead. Mike, (pictured centre), was one of five winners on the night to receive their awards from host compere Alfie Joey.

EF’s Entrepreneur of the Year award recognises an experienced entrepreneur “who has shown incredible resilience and strength, particularly this past year, to lead their business to outstanding success through innovation, teamwork and leadership skills”.

Commenting on Mike’s award win, the Entrepreneurs’ Forum said: “Mike co-founded Opencast in 2012 and has grown the business into one of the largest tech companies in the North East. Opencast has been named in the GP Bullhound Top 100 list no less than five times in the award’s nine years and is on track to become a future FTSE 250 company.”

Whitley Bay-born Mike started his tech career as a software developer, working on projects for the NHS and Strategic Systems Solutions (SSS). He worked with Capgemini on financial services projects including for Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and Nomura. He went on to be a founding member of regional tech network Dynamo North East and an early-stage investor in Atom Bank.

Mike co-founded Opencast with Charlie Hoult in 2012 on the back of a vision for a new kind of tech consultancy – a modern, forward-thinking and independent alternative to the traditional corporate model. The pair bootstrapped the business and have built it on the back of revenues from client work. Today Opencast has over 300 permanent staff and operates a hybrid working model from four bases UK wide.

The company works with clients across UK government and global enterprise to design and build user-centred digital and technology solutions with purpose. Opencast works hard to maintain the people-focused culture in keeping with that original founding vision.

Mike said: “I am honoured to have received this award from the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. Winning is testimony to everyone at Opencast and the growth of the business. A massive thanks to everyone who has supported both Charlie and I along the way – and to Charlie himself for his support and partnership over the past decade.

“We’ve always tried to do things differently at Opencast – to work hard and be nice to people. When people said that won’t work I knew that they were wrong. And when they said you can’t put trust in the values of your company, I knew that was ridiculous. I hope that what we have achieved shows what can be done with the right approach.”

Mike’s Opencast co-founder Charlie Hoult was also named as a finalist in the same award category – recognising his work at Opencast, plus growing the Hoults Yard Hubs business space,  Dynamo North East and London recruitment firm Futureheads.

Welcoming Mike’s award win, Charlie said: “It’s always great to gain recognition for growing a business, creating jobs and supporting skills development. Mike is an inspiration to tech folk for how we have grown a business with such breadth and depth, while staying true to our people-centric values and high-quality standards.”

Mike thanked Charlie and congratulated the third award finalist, Steven Rawlingson of Samuel Knight International, as well as thanking law firm Ward Hadaway for their award sponsorship. He also congratulated all the other award winners.

Not-for-profit Entrepreneurs’ Forum was Founded in 2002 and includes hundreds of North East entrepreneurs among its membership.

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