Since several games I use a tweak, which allows me to sell prisoners to tavern keepers. It saves some time, since you don't have to search for ransom brokers. I'm also able to take 20 prisoners, to make things go faster. The best troops for catching prisoners are slavers, and early to mid game they tend to make my whole army. It still is a lot of grind to setup industries in all cities, so I also increased the amounts I'm able to bet on the tournament.
In essence, I don't think there is anything in native which could speed up early game for you.