Belfast Telegraph

Digital DNA showcase kicks off in Belfast

Belfast hailed as UK leader in the field of tech start-ups

By Ryan McAleer

Experts from across the world have gathered in Belfast to share knowledge and to network as the city continues to build its reputation as an emerging hub for technology.

Fresh on the back of a series of software companies announcing operations in Northern Ireland, thousands of delegates joined local businesses and international players inside St George's Market for the Digital DNA event.

Simon Bailie, commercial director at Digital DNA, said the two-day event is both a showcase for Northern Ireland and a chance to make deals.

"In every corner of St George's Market there are brilliant ideas coming forward, connections being made and deals being done."

Hoping to inspire the next generation of new tech start-ups, a talk dedicated to advising budding entrepreneurs on getting their project off the ground heard from both the funders and the success stories.

Listing the range of help available for new companies, John Miller - a client manager at Invest NI specialising in high-potential start-ups - said Belfast was now regarded by many in the industry as having one of the best "ecosystems" in the UK for new start-ups.

"If people are determined to go out and do it, there are opportunities for assistance," he said.

Rachel Gawley of Belfast-based AppAttic, which develops tech solutions for the health industry, said she had benefited from the Propel programme run by Invest NI.

She said the economic support agency had also been crucial in funding overseas trips which have helped her company reach new markets.

"In terms of customers, we are now looking at Italy as well as Northern Ireland. We're just back from Texas and we're in London," she added.

Offering advice based on her own experience of securing customers or funding, Ms Gawley urged those present not to be discouraged: "Don't be disheartened by the 'nos', sometimes there's good reasons or sometimes it's not for them," she said.

In recent weeks tech firms, including Cork company Teamwork and US software firms Slice and HHAeXchange, have announced new operations in Northern Ireland.

HHAeXchane is creating 50 new jobs in a software centre for its work in technology for healthcare and homecare services.

Slice now has an operation employing 50 in its online and mobile payment platform for pizzerias, while Teamwork will employ 85 in its development and support hub in the city.

And at Digital DNA today, speakers will include Ciaran Quilty, vice-president for the small and medium business division at Facebook; Joanna Jarjue, who reached the final five of business reality TV show The Apprentice in 2017, and Aoife Caulfield, a sales manager at Twitter.

Gareth Quinn founded Digital DNA in 2013.

This year's event is supported by principal partner, business advisory firm PwC.

Other sponsors include IT firms Allstate and Convergys, Belfast City Council, Danske Bank and IT giant Kainos.

Belfast Telegraph

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