Tech in Wales: The July 2017 roundup

Tech in Wales Cardiff

Nicholas Fearn, editor at Tech Dragons, brings you the latest news to emerge from Wales’ burgeoning technology sector.

The Welsh technology industry continued to grow and generate more exciting milestones throughout the month of July.

From massive growth at a Pencoed-based Sony facility to the first exit of the country’s own tech Seed fund, here’s what happened in Wales’ technology sector last month.

Big growth for Sony facility

The Sony UK Technology Centre, which is based in Pencoed, celebrated unprecedented growth which resulted in staff and production numbers soaring.

Over the past few years, the facility has seen its staff numbers grow by 200, and this has taken its total of employees to 540.

Last month, the award-winning factory reached the 10 million Raspberry Pi manufacturing milestone – and in only five years. It’s played an instrumental role in the journey of the third best-selling general purpose computer.

First contracted to make 10,000 of the low-cost, credit card-sized computers on a yearly basis, the factory can now produce up to 100,000 Pis per week. Steve Dalton OBE, managing director of Sony UK TEC, commended his team.

“The last five years has seen unprecedented growth across our Pencoed facility, something we are understandably incredibly proud of,” he said.

“Our growth has been intrinsically linked to the success of the Raspberry Pi and we are delighted to reach the 10m manufacturing milestone.”

First exit for national Seed fund

Cwmbran-based technology company Hudman became the first exit for the Wales Technology Seed Fund after being acquired by software giant Advanced.

As a result of the deal, equity investment company Finance Wales sold its share in the firm. Hudman provides cloud software for the manufacturing, engineering and construction industries.

Launched in 2014 by the Welsh Government and Finance Wales, the £7.5m fund provides early-stage tech companies with investments ranging from £50,000 to £250,000.

Companies must demonstrate that their business plan is technology-focused and that they’re located in, or willing to relocate to, Wales. It’s already made 40 investments in 29 companies.

David James, managing director of Hudman, said: “This acquisition opens up an exciting new chapter for our software and is a result of the hard work by everyone at Hudman.

“Following investment rounds in 2015 and 2016, we have continued to invest heavily into the development of our ERP solution and we are extremely pleased that this has been recognised.”

New appointment for ambitious tech firm

Open Genius, the software firm behind apps like iMindMap and DropTask, announced the appointment of a new chief financial officer.

Niall Daly, a chartered accountant with more than 30 years’ experience working for some of the biggest IT businesses, is now leading the company’s financial department.

Headquartered in Penarth, Open Genius recently became the first Welsh company to be accepted onto the prestigious London Stock Exchange ELITE programme.

It’s designed to help ambitious companies prepare for growth through access to long-term financing opportunities. Other companies on the programme include Mumsnet and Hybrid Air Vehicles.

Chris Griffiths, CEO of OpenGenius, said: “We feel very lucky to have recruited Niall into this role. This is such crucial time for the business as we look to accelerate our growth and prepare for a flotation in 2018.

“The next 12 months is going to be an exciting ride for OpenGenius and we are thrilled that Niall is going to be part of it. He also brings more than the traditional CFO skillset with him and will be involved in developing product concepts, branding and messaging.”

High-growth firm relocates

TicketSource, which happens to be one of the fastest-growing companies in Wales, moved to new offices in Penarth to accommodate its growing team.

Last year, the online ticketing and box office management system was named the 20th fastest-growing company in Wales at the Fast Growth 50 Awards – following an increase in revenue of 180% from 2013 to 2015.

Launched in 2004, TicketSource is now used by more than 20,000 event organisers throughout the UK, USA and Europe. In 2016, it handled sales for 75,574 events.

Alexander McLauchlan, co-founder and marketing director at the firm, said: “After 13 years in business it’s gratifying to see TicketSource growing faster than ever, and mostly as a result of word of mouth.

“We have always prided ourselves on our high standards of service and our personal touch, which has led to very high rates of client referral.  In fact, personal recommendation by existing users is still the most likely way for new users to hear about us.

“Going forward, our goal is to continue to build on our past achievements; seeking out the latest technologies and making them available in a cost-effective format to event organisers and venues of all types, sizes and budgets.”

Firefighter wins top innovation award

In July, a firefighter who created a head-mounted video camera system to show how commanders handle emergencies was honoured with a top People’s Choice innovation award.

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, who now works as an assistant commissioner with London Fire Brigade, conducted this research project at Cardiff University while stationed at the South Wales Fire Service.

Working with the university’s school of psychology, she showed how commanders often rely on intuition under pressure, regardless of whether a situation was complex or routine.

The research team fitted fire officers’ helmets with GoPro cameras to gain crucial insight, and the findings have led to the development of a new policy to change the way officers deal with incidents.

She said: “We are delighted to win this award. I wish to dedicate this award to all London firefighters who have been working so hard to help everyone touched by the Grenfell Tower incident.

“The driver for this research was to keep firefighters safe. Recent events have demonstrated to the world just the kind of high-pressure, high-risk situations in which our firefighters find themselves.”