Belfast Telegraph

Rumble Labs owner blames lack of start-ups for app firm closing

By Audrey Watson

Belfast app developers Rumble Labs have revealed they are closing down. The tech firm's co-founder Simon Hamilton confirmed that the Hill Street-based company was closing, adding that a slowdown in start-ups over the last couple of years had "affected our pipeline" of work.

Rumble Labs began in 2009 as a website-building company, but quickly began to focus on web and mobile apps.

It also began working more with start-ups, both locally and internationally, and grew to 14 people.

"With the focus more on apps, we worked with a few clients with the view to acquiring some equity in return for our skills input, but that mostly didn't work," Mr Hamilton said.

"One we did move forward with, however, was make your own music video firm, Rotor. We saw great potential in the product and team.

"Unfortunately, raising money here in the UK and Ireland has proved to be very tough though, but we're still hopeful and still trying," he added.

"Globally, the market for app creation and development is growing at a huge pace, but it's hard to know whether things would have been better if Rumble Labs had been based in Dublin or London, rather than Belfast.

"We often found that customers from London and the like seem happier to pay good money for good work. We had high standards, and had no problem competing on the global stage."

One of the current problems Northern Ireland faces, according to Mr Hamilton, is a skills shortage.

"The demand is very high in Belfast at least for mobile and web developers," he said.

"Salaries have been driven up 50% and more over the last few years, but there's still an expectancy when we export our services that we're cheaper.

"That puts a tight squeeze on margins for service companies such as Rumble, and needs to change. We need to start aiming higher."

Simon believes the slowdown in start-ups has been partly due to the gap between the Northern Ireland Spin Out (NISPO) 1 fund closing, and the NISPO 2 fund being awarded.

"Rumble Labs worked with quite a few start-ups who were funded either through grant or equity in NISPO 1, and when it closed, we saw a noticeable downturn in new business," he said.

"As such, we began to lose staff, mostly due to financial instability in the company. We downsized organically or unintentionally as we tried to climb back out of a hole, but it was too deep," he explained.

Despite his company's closure, Mr Hamilton is still optimistic about the tech sector in Northern Ireland.

"Absolutely," he said. "But we've a long way to go, and need some direction.

"I think we're missing out on some key opportunities to nurture talent and grow the sector.

"We'll know we're winning when people start to flock to Belfast to work in tech start-ups."

Owner blames lack of start-ups for app firm closing down

Belfast Telegraph