Belfast leads way in start-ups, but must not get complacent
With over 9,000 digital jobs and counting, Belfast is an exciting example of a city on an upward trajectory thanks to the burgeoning number of tech companies which have launched in the city over the past few years.
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Belfast has earned itself a great reputation for start-ups, but it's important that a city in transition doesn't become complacent, plateauing through a digital revolution when it should be leading the parade.
I highly doubt this will be the case for Belfast, an ambitious city eager for growth. According to a recent survey completed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), over 80% of small businesses in Northern Ireland intend to grow. There is an appetite to scale up but it can be a challenge to take your company to the next level of growth. This is where an accelerator programme such as IgniteNI can provide the much needed support to inspire companies to think globally.
The IgniteNI accelerator is designed for technology start-ups that want to raise between £250k and £1m in the next 12 months.
Ignite has invested in more than 120 companies since 2011, helping them to raise more than £30m in investment through accelerator programmes in London, Manchester and Newcastle. This year we're incredibly excited to be working with Invest NI to run our very first accelerator in Northern Ireland, starting on March 26.
The 12-week full-time programme is aimed at established tech companies, with a team in place, who are ready to take the next step in their growth.
There's a convertible loan of £15,000 available for all companies taking part in the programme, provided by Invest NI. The terms of the loan are incredibly founder-friendly, and you only have to start repayments once your company reaches £1m in annual revenues. For firms who have already raised, or who are revenue generating, then it's up to you whether you take the investment or not.
All companies joining the IgniteNI accelerator will get desk space in the Ormeau Baths co-working space for nine months from the start of the programme. Being surrounded by a community of like-minded entrepreneurs is incredibly important for a growing firm, and you'll be in good company sitting beside start-ups like Flyte, Trov and Modius.
As part of the programme we'll be taking two founders from each company out to the US to meet investors, mentors and founders in San Francisco and New York. We'll also spend time in London and Dublin, meeting with our network of experienced entrepreneurs, operators and investors who will share their knowledge and network with you.
At the end of the programme, we'll organise a series of lunches that will bring the CEO of each company together with the most active early stage angels and VCs from across the UK and Europe. The lunches give the founders and investors an opportunity to learn more about each other and see if there's an opportunity to work together.
Investors at recent lunches include Passion Capital, Balderton, Techstars, 500 Startups, DN Capital, Forward Partners, ADV, Northstar, Backed.vc, Episode 1 and ProFounders along with early-stage UK angels.
We want to invest in teams who have the right combination of domain expertise, technical ability and business experience to make their company a success.
Tell us about why you're passionate about the idea, what relevant experience you have, and why you're going to be more successful than the competition. You don't need to know exactly how you'll make your first million, but we want to see that people are willing to pay for your solution.
Ignite is an accelerator programme operating from Ormeau Baths, Belfast