Belfast Telegraph

Belfast tech sector is ‘similar to early days of Silicon Valley’, expert tells Digital DNA event

Simon Bailie, chief executive of Digital DNA, with Lord Mayor John Finucane
Simon Bailie, chief executive of Digital DNA, with Lord Mayor John Finucane
Raj Ramanand on stage
Ciara Conlon
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Belfast's tech sector is showing some of the same characteristics as Silicon Valley in its willingness to take risks, tech event Digital DNA has heard.

The two-day programme celebrating the digital tech sector in Northern Ireland kicked off yesterday, drawing an estimated 3,000 people to the St George's Market event.

Guests heard from Signifyd, one of the newest foreign direct investors to set up in the city.

The company makes software which can eliminate the dangers of fraud in e-commerce.

Its annual flow of $100bn in e-commerce transactions through its systems make it second only to e-commerce giant Amazon in volume terms.

Founder and chief executive Raj Ramanand said that the company ultimately hopes to have 200 staff in Belfast. It's currently based in flexible offices at River House in High Street - but he said he expected there would be room there for a 200-strong workforce.

He said the city's tech sector was growing rapidly, partly due to the assistance of economic development agency Invest NI. But he added: "Tolerance for failure is big. I think that's built in the DNA with lots of industries being done here in the past and the ability to say, 'It's okay to take risks'."

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And he said people in Belfast were often happy to challenge the status quo and were quick to change jobs. He said there were also large numbers of accelerators growing around Belfast to support early-stage companies and "people willing to work together to foster the culture of innovation".

He said the large volume of computer science and engineering graduates was also a major draw.

"The most important thing in all of this is that the culture that Belfast brings is very similar in many ways to what we see in Silicon Valley - the ability to take risks and the tenacity to make things happen and not give up in the face of fears or competition."

As well as company leaders such as Mr Ranandan, there were also panel sessions exploring challenges and opportunities in tech. Other key speakers included Elaine Whyte from PwC, who discussed the potential for drone technology.

Simon Bailie, chief executive of Digital DNA, said: "The energy in the room is palpable: deals are being done, new contacts made and minds are being expanded. This is what Digital DNA is all about and we want to thank our sponsors for helping make it all happen. This event puts Northern Ireland's tech community on the map."

The event also heard from author and leadership expert Ciara Conlon, who discussed positive habits and rituals for the workplace.

Ms Conlon, who has advised many of the Republic's biggest companies, advises firms on how to ensure their staff are productive while also maintaining a good work-life balance.

She said: "While I completely promote and value flexible working, it's inevitable for that future of work that we have to let people live their lives and have more balance in their lives. We need to help individuals set the boundaries ... As part of that I advise compa nies not to send emails after 7pm or at weekends to try and facilitate people so that they are able to switch off."

Belfast Telegraph