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Enterconf: Entrepreneur's pride over how Belfast has moved on

A Belfast-born entrepreneur and business guru has praised Northern Ireland's own tech sector as "absolutely fantastic", during her return to the city after more than a decade working across the globe.

Nell Watson is the woman behind a series of innovative firms, and worked as a futurist for one of the world's most interesting global think tanks.

"I grew up here in Belfast, and it's great to come back and to share some of the lessons I've learned along the way is fantastic," she told the Belfast Telegraph during the first day of the EnterConf event.

"There's nowhere like it on earth. When I went on crazy journeys around the world 10 or 15 years ago, it was like a whole other country and culture.

"Culturally we've progressed so much. There's a lot of charming elements of Northern Irish culture. People who visit here very quickly discover the warmth of spirit, and the ingenuity in the community.

"Traditionally that has been applied to things like textiles and agriculture, but now, I look at some of the start-ups we have here and I'm incredibly impressed by what I see."

She was speaking on the first day of EnterConf, drawing the movers and shakers from the world of enterprise software to the Titanic Quarter's T13, including Evernote's Europe general manager, Cristina Riesen.

Nell Watson's career has been varied, and included teaching post-graduate computer science at the age of 24.

She later co-founded a graffiti arts company, and is also an advisory technologist to start-up firms, accelerators, and venture capital funds.

"I've had a strange career in the UK, US, Libya and all over the place. I'm a self-taught computer scientist and started a couple of different companies, including a computer vision company called Poikos.

"Back in 2013 I was invited to join the Singularity University summer programme. That was a fantastic experience which blew my mind." The California-based think-tank is a hive of top thinkers, scientists and philanthropists - trying to tackle some of the world's greatest problems.

"Singularity University has this mission to improve the lives of a billion people in the next 10 years," she said.

Meanwhile, the father of the electronic signature, and the man behind the 1,400-strong global software firm DocuSign, said a low corporation tax rate was one of the reasons he opened up his new Dublin office.

Tom Gonser said Dublin offered "the whole package" along with a "favourable" tax rate.

"I think there is a whole package (in Dublin). It's a great tech area, great colleges and obviously favourable tax," he said.

"I think the decision wasn't just based on tax, but obviously that has a factor to it.

"There's a whole bunch of reasons why you open an office in a particular place. I think the same could be done here."

His firm helped solve the problems of having to manually sign important business documents - digitising the entire process.

EnterConf is set to draw a week-long series of talks and pitches to an end today.

Belfast Telegraph