Belfast Telegraph

Friday Night Mashup: Industry experts and tech heads to descend on Derry for fourth installment of event

Londonderry set to host the next installment next month

By John Mulgrew

The Maiden City is set to play host the fourth incarnation of the ever-growing Friday Night Mashup as the tech event hits Londonderry next month.

A number of top speakers including digital entertainment guru JonMichael "JB" Bukosky and a host of live music acts are set to attend the bash - which will take place at Londonderry's Ebrington Square area as part of Culture Tech.

The event - which is sponsored by the Belfast Telegraph among others - is hoping to draw an even bigger crowd than last time around.

One of the founders, Aaron Taylor - who runs smartphone app developer GoPrezzo - said the 'mashup' had "continued to grow into an unstoppable force".

"It highlights the brightest and the best of Northern Irish tech, entrepreneurship and creative industries, all the while connecting and inspiring them to go out and make a name for themselves on a global stage," he said.

And as with previous events, the the event will include a competition where start-up companies pitch their ideas to the live audience, who vote on the night to crown a winner.

Tech-heads, start-ups and some of the world's top industry executives packed into Belfast's Titanic Dock area for the biggest Friday Night Mashup event earlier this summer.

It drew its biggest crowd in June - with over 400 people packing into a grand circus-style marquee.

And while traditional expos often focus merely on the tech and a certain degree of formality, Friday Night Mashup offers a chance for like-minded individuals to meet with other big thinkers, technology enthusiasts, investors and media.

In the shadow of Belfast's most famous and iconic man-made structures - Harland and Wolff's cranes Samson and Goliath - US industry executives from Intel, as well as home-grown talent, joined entertainment from Northern Ireland's very own illusionist David Meade.

The next event will take place on September 18, at 81, Ebrington Square.

Q&A with California-based internet entrepreneur Wilson Kriegel

You were in Northern Ireland in June for the first Mashup, what are you impressions of Northern Ireland and its business community?

I think it's an eager environment for entrepreneurs, learning and growth.

Any preconceptions or reservations about Northern Ireland before coming here? Does it have an image problem?

No, I don't think there is an image problem, rather an awareness problem. To attract investment, talent and businesses, one needs to market its asset to a target market and I think much more could be done to amplify the value, resources, intellectual capital, facilities and government support the region has to offer.

How would you compare the quality of the startups you saw in June with their counterparts in the US? Different attitude, or ambitions?

I think there is always a need for leadership from established start-ups and individuals of the region, to deliver focus and demonstrate the ability to both service local and regional markets and then look to the EU and US. Start-ups succeed with talent, leadership and focusing on solving daily problems. I think American start-ups have a perceived advantage of the market size, but what's under-appreciated is the fact that the competitive landscape is much harder and many more start-ups fail.

In terms of tech and entrepreneurship here, is there anything you think we're really good at, or could improve upon?

I wouldn't claim to know enough about the educational and internship, or business path of the region to speak to that. But at its foundation, that's where intellectual capital is created from and thus the culture and focus of entrepreneurs and start-ups.

What advice would you give an entrepreneur from Northern Ireland seeking to break into US markets?

You likely can't solve a local problem by being remote, unless you are heavily funded. Building a business requires a lot of personal engagement with clients and/or customers. But you don't have to break into the US to be a successful start-up, if you can show value at a local or regional level first.

If you were starting out fresh, what area of technology would you get into? What is the exciting, and next big growth area in your sector?

Smart Wearable, Mobile Commerce, Social Content and I'm actually starting a new C role at an exciting and fast-growing mobile content and social company; so I'm where I want to be at this stage of my career and based on the opportunity this company has.

Finally - if you had to give policy makers in Northern Ireland three suggestions on how to promote entrepreneurship and growth of the private sector here, what would it be? What can policy makers do here that worked in the US?

Find ways to invest in talent; such as educational subsidies for leading students, training, internships, experiences abroad in established start-ups. I would also suggest connecting high school and college students with leadership and training programmes to guide them on their career path. Bottom line, build the foundation of the culture and education – talent needs to feel empowered and believe they can succeed and take on the risk in solving problems. This is more valuable I believe than just giving money outright to first-time entrepreneurs. This scales better over time, impacting a region and society. But it does require patience.

Click here for tickets to the event and more information!



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