Why com­mu­nity is ev­ery­thing in tech

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - Bytris­tan­wat­son, chiefex­ec­u­tive­ofig­nite

It’s not unusual to hear peo­ple who work in the dig­i­tal and tech­nol­ogy world re­fer to the tech “com­mu­nity” when speak­ing about the in­dus­try they work in. That might sound strange when they’re talk­ing about one of the fastest grow­ing parts of the global econ­omy — a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try which em­ploys mil­lions of peo­ple and where the com­pe­ti­tion for IP, talent and cus­tomers is un­doubt­edly fierce.

But for the early stage tech com­pa­nies we work with at Ig­nite, the im­pact of the com­mu­nity around founders can make a huge dif­fer­ence to the jour­ney they go on and the suc­cess of their com­pa­nies.

Once a founder or found­ing team has proved their con­cept and has a work­ing prod­uct they’re sell­ing, the chal­lenges of growth start to come thick and fast, and that can be very daunt­ing.

Whether it is rais­ing fund­ing, hir­ing peo­ple to build a team, de­vis­ing mar­ket­ing strate­gies, find­ing premises or try­ing to gain in­sight into your mar­ket and com­pe­ti­tion, founders of start-ups that en­joy early suc­cess quickly find there’s a lot on their plate.

It’s hard to do it all on your own.

So, when I say com­mu­nity I mean hav­ing a group of like-minded peo­ple around you who are go­ing through a sim­i­lar jour­ney and ex­pe­ri­enced men­tors who have been there and done it be­fore and can of­fer real busi­ness ad­vice to help you learn new skills and ei­ther solve prob­lems or ap­proach them from a fresh an­gle.

This week we’re open­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for the sec­ond Ig­nite NI Ac­cel­er­a­tor in Belfast, an in­ten­sive 12-week pro­gramme aimed at es­tab­lished early stage tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies who want to start scal­ing. The sort of com­pa­nies who have a pro­to­type of their prod­uct, some cus­tomers on board and plans to raise be­tween £250,000 and £1m in the next year.

Of course, we know com­pa­nies at this stage of their lives need fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives more than any­thing, and so for the 10 we ac­cept, the pro­gramme comes with £15,000 of in­vest­ment, plus an ad­di­tional £5,000 for com­pa­nies re­lo­cat­ing to Belfast from out­side of North­ern Ire­land and nine months of­fice space at the awe­some Ormeau Baths in­no­va­tion hub.

But for the 10 com­pa­nies who came through our first Ac­cel­er­a­tor last year it was the added ben­e­fits that they were most en­thu­si­as­tic about.

They got coach­ing from ex­pe­ri­enced men­tors, founders and in­vestors to help them fast for­ward their busi­ness de­vel­op­ment.

Peo­ple like Bai­ley Kur­sar, ex-head of mar­ket­ing at Monzo, David Pritchard, ex- CEO at Opentable Europe and Pa­trick Collins, COO at Team­gate, not to men­tion our en­trepreneurs-in-res­i­dence Chris Mcclel­land and Ian Browne.

Last year we had teams from Lon­don, Dublin and as far away as New Zealand (via Cam­bridge) join the ac­cel­er­a­tor, and this mix of dif­fer­ence per­spec­tives all added to the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

We also took the teams out to Lon­don and San Fran­cisco to meet ex­perts, founders and in­vestors in com­pa­nies like AWS, Google and Stripe, and gave them the op­por­tu­nity to pitch to over 50 top tier ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and busi­ness an­gels af­ter coach­ing on how to make their pitch re­ally sing.

Our com­pa­nies saw real suc­cesses dur­ing and af­ter the pro­gramme.

For ex­am­ple, spare parts plat­form Cad­share, which al- lows man­u­fac­tur­ers to source spare parts closer to where they are needed, was able to at­tract £500,000 worth of pri­vate in­vest­ment.

Landed, an au­to­mated re­cruit­ment plat­form is cur­rently work­ing in the Caribbean mar­ket, se­cured Ho­tel Choco­lat as a new client while on pro­gramme.

And Lo­cate a Locum, which is revo­lu­tion­is­ing the phar­macy mar­ket with its au­to­mated book­ing plat­form is now be­ing used by the four largest phar­macy chains in the UK and dou­bled its work with Boots Phar­macy dur­ing the three months with us.

The most re­cent Tech Na­tion re­port showed the num­ber of dig­i­tal busi­nesses in North­ern Ire­land has dou­bled in the past five years, with nearly 100 set up last year and around 9,000 peo­ple work­ing in the sec­tor.

As well as ac­cess to fund­ing and the prox­im­ity to large com­pa­nies the re­port cited “a help­ful tech com­mu­nity” as one of the main fac­tors driv­ing growth in Belfast.

We’re re­ally ex­cited to see which tal­ented new tech com­pa­nies ap­ply to be part of our cor­ner of the tech com­mu­nity in 2019.

THE Repub­lic’s Cen­tral Bank has agreed to buy two build­ings un­der con­struc­tion at the Dublin Land­ings de­vel­op­ment, be­side its head­quar­ters on Dublin’s North Wall Quay.

It will sell a prop­erty at nearby Spencer Dock on foot of the deal.

The bank said the pur­chase “will se­cure the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s long term ac­com­mo­da­tion needs”.

It has the best part of 2,000 em­ploy­ees.

It said the deal would pro­vide “ad­di­tional ex­pan­sion ca­pac­ity”, adding: “Nec­es­sary mod­i­fi­ca­tions will be made to en­sure the cam­pus ful­fils the Cen­tral Bank’s fu­ture needs and al­lows for the op­ti­mal work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

@tris­tan­wat­son

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