Neueda boss Monaghan in call for support for Northern Ireland small business
The head of a top Belfast IT company has said Northern Ireland needs new policies to ensure the cash paid to major contractors trickles down to small businesses.
Brendan Monaghan, chief executive of Neueda, was speaking after delivering a keynote speech on day two of the Digital DNA conference at George's Market yesterday.
The annual event offers tech start-ups the chance to mix and network with a range of international businesses and exporters.
In a talk discussing 'disruptive technology', the Neueda founder described "the chasm" faced by many new start-up companies here in bridging the gap between an early base of clients to securing enough customers to sustain their enterprise.
"I'm distraught at the number of times I see really good start-ups run out of money, run out of road, because they haven't got enough money to bridge the gap," he said.
Mr Monaghan told the Belfast Telegraph: "The issue for companies is customers and your route to customers.
"Initially when small companies start off, they'll have one or two early adopters, they may be people they know, companies they work with, but getting to a critical mass is a struggle.
"This chasm that people talk about is something that is well known, it exists."
Set up in 2004, Neueda specialises in IT consultancy, analytics and software development to clients including BT, Bloomberg and the New York Stock Exchange.
Last year it announced 165 new jobs at the company.
Mr Monaghan said while there are plenty of workspace solutions for new companies, they need access to customers.
He suggested that current funding models here don't support businesses reaching a bigger customer base.
"I think that in Northern Ireland, the funding models we have in place don't recognise that, don't give the companies enough runway."
Mr Monaghan pointed to moves by the Government to secure a more even playing field for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
In April the Cabinet Office in London announced proposals to exclude suppliers from major Government procurements if they cannot demonstrate fair and effective payment practices with their subcontractors.
The Conservative Government has set a goal of 33% of procurement spend going to small businesses by 2022.
"That's a way of getting the cash to flow down," said Mr Monaghan.
"It's not happening here - we don't have a government, but it is definitely an initiative that we need to introduce and bring on board."
The chief executive gave the example of a £300m contract for a major health project.
"It's going to go to some big company, maybe in America or Europe," he said. "But if the Government mandated that 30% of that was going to SMEs - to local companies - it would have a massive knock-on effect.
"If it's health you're building a cluster of really good skills in a market that has global demand, as opposed to giving grants.
"It's a much simple way of doing it."