Belfast Telegraph

MoneyConf: Tech guru hails role Ulster's young people are playing in the thriving start-up scene

Broadcaster and businessman, Max Keiser
Broadcaster and businessman, Max Keiser

By John Mulgrew

Young entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland are setting up their own technology businesses to help "level the playing field", US broadcaster and businessman Max Keiser has said.

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The no-holds-barred financial journalist said thriving start-up firms like those in Belfast were being set up to avoid the "constrictions and restrictions" found in other workplaces.

"There's a thriving start-up scene.

"Like everywhere, there's an emerging tech scene and start-ups," he told the Belfast Telegraph, during the second day of MoneyConf at T13 in the Titanic Quarter.

"This generation recognises that politicians are not helping them, and they have to create their own future, and technology is allowing them to do that."

"I see it all over the world. All over the world, this next generation realises technology gives them a way out of the constrictions, and restrictions that are being imposed upon.

"Hopefully this next generation won't be as vested in a sectarian struggle, and will have a different vision of the future of this city.

"This next generation is finding opportunity in technology to level the playing field.

"There are no governments friendly towards giving this upcoming generation what they need to succeed - they are doing it themselves."

Aside from his popular Keiser Report - which airs on Russian broadcaster RT - he's also just landed £1m towards a new cryptocurrency start-up called Bitcoin Capital.

And he did it through crowd funding in just three weeks.

Meanwhile, Chris Larsen, chief executive of Silicon Valley payment firm Ripple Labs said Northern Ireland's very own burgeoning technology sector was "super exciting".

"I think it's terrific, and pretty clearly this could be a huge tech centre," he said. "(Belfast) is not unlike what's happening in San Francisco, it was a port city but it's not any more - now there are other things going on.

"I went to school in Denmark and travelled around a lot, but never got to come here because of the Troubles. It's exciting. People here are helping customers invest, and I think it's terrific."

John McDonnell of Belfast-founded firm Bitnet took to the stage at the MoneyConf event to discuss the growth and merits of the emerging bitcoin currency.

"Bitcoin was created for the internet, to work on the internet, as opposed to reverse legacy payment systems to work on the internet," he said.

"Bitcoin is a stored value, where consumers push the value - and it's digital cash. It's compelling, because you don't need a bank, you don't need a card issuer."

Meanwhile, Dublin-based CurrencyFair has witnessed around £3bn going through its system over the last six years.

Set up by Australian Brett Meyers, the firm provides a marketplace for people to transfer funds from different currencies, but avoiding the often sizeable charge traditional banks take when moving money around the globe.

He left Australia around 15 years ago, before moving to Dublin and settling, creating his firm in 2009.

"We help people move money from their bank accounts - ex-pats and small businesses," he said.

"If you are moving less than £10,000 you are never going to get a good deal from your bank."

The firm now has a workforce of almost 80 staff, adding two to three new jobs each week.

Kevin Dallas of Worldpay said the MoneyConf event was a "great opportunity to network" with other firms from across the globe.

It counts Ulster Bank and Danske Bank among its business partners.

"I'm really excited that they did it (the festival) in Belfast - bringing this group, to this city, at this time is perfect.

"We have all been really impressed."

Belfast Telegraph