Belfast Telegraph

How Europe's best startups and student art will be celebrated

By Margaret Canning

Excitement is building ahead of next month's Digital DNA, Northern Ireland's biggest tech event. The event on June 6 and 7 in Belfast's St George's Market is being supported by the Belfast Telegraph.

Organisers have now revealed more about their plans for the eagerly-awaited celebration of tech achievements and aspirations.

Digital DNA will be building its own 'set' at the historic market - and now it's come up with a new way of using the setting to bring art, design and technology together.

The event aims to educate delegates on five themes - Marketing, Data, Security, FinTech and Innovation. During the planning stage in late 2016, the team at Digital DNA looked to create a visual representation of each theme within the studio.

These representations are now being constructed by five talented foundation art students from Ulster University's Belfast campus in a collaboration that brings the core value of Digital DNA to the fore - partnership.

The foundation students are from a range of backgrounds covering specialisms from jewellery and sculpting to painting. Now they have pitched their ideas to the Digital DNA team with the chance for the winner to walk away with a £500 cash prize.

Louise O'Boyle, head of foundation art for Ulster University, said: "This is an incredible opportunity for our students to get hands-on experience with how their ideas, creativity and talent will be used in the future after they graduate.

"It's a unique partnership with the art and business world, which rarely sees such collaboration.

"But we're showing now that these two industries or schools of thought are very much able to work with each other to create something spectacular.

"The students were thrilled to have the opportunity and the cash prize has surely been a driving factor in the students submitting their ideas.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the building and design process get underway and of course the final outcome."

Stephanie Jemphrey, Digital DNA's creative lead and a former UU student, said: "Digital DNA is all about collaboration, facilitation and looking outward.

"When approached with the task to create backdrops for our event studios, I saw the opportunity to do just that - to look outwards and how this task could be used to inspire up and coming creatives, to become something bigger than just a backdrop or a piece of coursework.

"I have been impressed by the quality of ideas and level of confidence shown by the students and look forward to seeing the final outcome."

The finalists have had their pitches scrutinised and evaluated and their ideas will be showcased at Digital DNA 2017 on June 6 and 7 in St George's Market.

Delegates will be able to see the installations on display with artists notes available at the front of each studio.

Meanwhile, startups continue to be the beating heart of Digital DNA. Now its incubator organisation is back in partnership with Startacus.

And they're on the lookout for the most impressive startup in Europe to walk away with a £150,000 prize, including £10,000 cash.

In 2016, high potential startups from across Europe travelled to Belfast to take part in the inaugural upSTART pitch event at Digital DNA.

The startup battle is inspired by Northern Ireland's love of boxing - but this time, startups swap the boxing gloves for a microphone and pitch their way to the prize.

The two-day competition will again take place within a boxing arena along with a boxing ring, lighting, judges, bells, all the while playing out over a number of rounds, with one eventual winner who will this year receive a mega cash prize of £10,000, plus an additional £140,000 in business support such as consultancy, software and access to investors.

UK, Irish and European startups from specific industries (data, cyber, fintech, SaaS, Internet of Things, wearables) are encouraged to apply.

But Digital DNA has also left the door open for innovative startups outside such industries to be shortlisted in a wildcard category.

Last year's winner was Romanna Bint-Abubaker, the chief executive of Modlist.

Modlist is an online discovery engine for people in search of modest fashions. It sounds simple, but is described as "devilishly intricate and impressive".

It uses artificial intelligence, neural mapping and smart personalisation to revolutionise the shopping experience.

Gareth Quinn, Digital DNA founder and managing director, said: "Digital DNA has long been a supporter of the entrepreneurial spirit and ethos that can be seen across Northern Ireland.

"We wanted to welcome startups across the UK, Ireland and Europe to be part of this startup culture in Belfast and pitch their innovative products/services to a panel of esteemed judges.

"Last year's winner Romanna has had an incredible journey since her win and we're looking forward to seeing how this year's finalists and ultimate winner can establish themselves further into the ecosystem."

Romanna said: "Digital DNA is a very exciting atmosphere. If you are a startup coming to pitch, you can walk around the room and leave with a lot of good relationships and connections to help you move to the next stage - which is almost like an incubator and accelerator in one."

This year, the prize is made up of £10,000 in cash and a range of investor and networking opportunities as well as access to business support, enterprise software and advice to help the winning startup move to the next stage. It includes prizes from Deloitte Digital, Microsoft, Kx Systems and The House London bringing a wealth of experience and support to an already impressive prize.

Alastair Cameron, co-founder of online startup community Startacus, said: "Last year some excellent foundations were put in place to make sure that upSTART was a high quality startup pitch event.

"This year we aim to not only increase the number of startups pitching, but extend the pitching across two days to make sure that the startups not only get the chance to shine, but also have longer to make meaningful connections and make the most of Digital DNA as an event itself.

Applications are open until May 5. For all the information on upSTART 2017 including the categories, prizes and criteria, visit https://digitaldna.tech/upstart

Telegraph the official media partner for 2017 tech event

The Belfast Telegraph has announced it's partnering with Digital DNA as official media partner for Digital DNA 2017, taking place on June 6 and 7 in St George's Market, Belfast.

It's the second year in a row that the Belfast Telegraph has supported the event.

Digital experts from organisations including Google, Twitter, YouTube, Adobe, Motorola and Microsoft will give their insights into cutting-edge technology and digital trends this summer as Belfast plays host to over 2,000 delegates from over 25 countries.

Digital DNA brings together people from across the globe working in every industry and job role to share knowledge and build relationships.

The event will inform delegates across the five key themes of Marketing, Data, Security, FinTech and Innovation. As digital technology disrupts businesses and organisations from every sector, the event will help find the solutions and tactics to increase efficiency and grow your organisation.

Keynote speakers, interactive workshops, master classes and panel discussions will look at topics like spyware, data protection, content marketing, analytics, cloud storage, bitcoin, mobile payments and responding to consumer and market demands.

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