Digital media firm has China in its hands after trade trip
Belfast-based digital media and technology firm Navada Group is set for expansion after a successful nine-day trade trip to China.
Chief executive Matthew Scott said his firm has been "flying the flag for Northern Ireland business" on the visit led by Business Secretary Vince Cable.
Navada is now hopeful of upping the current headcount of four at its Donegall Square West offices on foot of prospective deals negotiated with Chinese firms.
The trade visit saw the firm roll out its new 'hyperlocal' mobile technology application Vadoo in meetings with China's top broadcasters, entertainment firms and business leaders.
The Vadoo app, which is developed by the firm's new digital technology arm Navada Futures, allows broadcasters to interact directly with audiences on their mobile phones – the holy grail of digital advertising.
With the traditional TV advertising market "collapsing" globally, Mr Scott said "digital media advertising is soaring" and broadcasters in China are looking to tap into the fast-moving mobile media market.
Vadoo "allows broadcasters to get into the phones of their audiences" – mining them for valuable information about media usage and lifestyle preferences, while "adding value" for the consumer, said Mr Scott.
Mr Scott has a long track record in 'hyperlocal' and web TV. He previously worked for Bob Geldof's multimedia giant Ten Alps before founding Navada in 2012 with business partner Jeremy Forsberg,
"Our app allows broadcasters and media publishers to personalise and make content relevant for the end user," he said. "The benefit of using our application will be that while users are engaged via a truly intelligent platform, media owners and retailers will have a benefit of intelligent data for their own targeting and engagement with consumers. This is gold dust for broadcasters in the local TV space."
"Vadoo is an umbrella app for every day life, pulling in social, geo-location, interactive media, events, voucher codes, second screen and messaging," he said,
Unlike in the US and Europe, Mr Scott said China's TV firms have been slow to engage with their audiences through interactive apps so Navada saw an opportunity to grab a slice of the lucrative Chinese digital media market of 1.3bn consumers.
"China is riding the crest of a wave and we want to be on it," said Mr Scott. "China has thousands of local TV channels and provides the perfect test bed for our new Vadoo platform."
He confirmed that Navada held talks with Chinese state broadcasters Future TV and CCTV and also with Badoo – the Google of China – during the trade trip.
The Navada boss has also been filmed for a documentary about the trade trip to China by over 30 UK firms that will feature on Chinese television – with a potential audience of up to 300m people – and has attended trade events with some of China's broadcasting, creative and tech giants.
China's booming economy is a prime target for exporters from these shores, but firms here still lag behind the rest of the UK when it comes to effectively targeting sales to the region.
At present, China accounts for 1.3% of all exports from Northern Ireland – said to be worth around £110m a year – while the UK average stands at 4.3%, according to the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC).
Navada is in China as part of a Technology Innovators Forum (TIF) together with BBC Worldwide, Universal and UKTI.
Navada Group was launched initially as Firebrand Digital Strategies in 2012 and now has offices in Belfast, Newcastle and London.
Meanwhile, China could hold the key to driving Northern Ireland's economy in the coming years as the CBBC says there are massive opportunities for Northern Ireland's aviation sector and food industry to capitalise on China's ongoing economic growth.