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Tech in Wales: The February 2017 roundup


Nic Fearn, editor at Tech Dragons, rounds up the most prominent news to emerge from the Welsh tech sector throughout the month of February. 

So far, 2017 has been prosperous for the Welsh technology industry.

From the announcement of a new £1m innovation hub in North Wales to a tech event hosted by the Duke of York, the industry is certainly booming.

We look at the best news stories from the past few weeks.

Royal approval

Towards the end of the month, royalty descended on the Welsh tech scene. Delegates from business, academia, creative industries and technology attended Cardiff’s first Pitch@Palace event, hosted by the Duke of York.

Several of Wales’s brightest tech entrepreneurs were given a public platform to share their stories and potentially win a place in the upcoming Pitch bootcamp.

Robert Lo Bue and Neil Cocker, who both founded leading tech community Cardiff Start, organised and led the event.

It took place at the Tramshed Tech co-working space, which is based in central Cardiff.

With the themes of the event being human tech and augmentation, Vision Games, Helpful Peeps and Alkosens were crowned the three winners in the welsh section of the event.

Speaking to Tech Dragons, the Duke said: “At some point, a business of repute is going to have to London to do something. But that doesn’t mean that it has to live there. It can be based anywhere.

“In fact, I’ve seen some very good technology companies in places like Cornwall, where they have good access to fibre. And the lifestyle is different.

“As far as I am concerned, the more places we can go around the country in order to find technology, the better. It is easier for us to go around than them.”

New innovation hub

Welsh Economy Secretary Ken Skates and co-working organisation Welsh Ice announced plans to launch a £1m innovation hub in North Wales.

The centre, which will be based in Wrexham, is expected to create approximately 260 high-skilled jobs and kickstart 100 new businesses over the next few years.

Although an exact launch date hasn’t been announced as of yet, plans are underway, and the facility will be delivered by Business Wales and Welsh ICE.

Skates said: “I am delighted to announce funding for the new incubator in Wrexham to harness, support and encourage the fantastic entrepreneurial talent in the region.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are vital drivers for the economy and I want to continue to create the best environment for entrepreneurs across Wales and will be using the pilot to inform my future economic priorities.

“The importance of providing space, community and support for aspiring entrepreneurs is key to success and I am keen to build on and complement the existing infrastructure across Wales.”

Gareth ICE, CEO of Welsh ICE, said: “We are excited to start to work more with the community in Wrexham and partners at Welsh Government and Business Wales.

“To help anyone with an idea for their own business, no matter how big or small, to make positive steps towards launching their own start-up.”

Monitoring Brexit hate crime

There was some exciting news from Cardiff University, too. Researchers from its Social Data Science Lab were awarded £250,000 to try and tackle hate crime on social media.

The centre is to help the UK government identify and stop hate crime being spread on social media sites. It’s being funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, and will develop a monitoring tool that displays a live feed of hate speech.

This tool, once created, will provide government officials with a way to investigate hate crime on websites such as Twitter and develop policies to stop it.

Professor Matthew Williams, the principal investigator on the project and co-director of the Social Data Science Lab at Cardiff University, said: “Hate crimes have been shown to cluster in time and tend to increase, sometimes significantly, in the aftermath of “trigger” events.

“The referendum on the UK’s future in the European Union has galvanized certain prejudiced opinions held by a minority of people, resulting in a spate of hate crimes. Many of these crimes are taking place on social media,” Williams added.


Mortgage comparison service

Rateswitch, a new online mortgage comparison platform, launched in a bid to help UK homeowners find the best deals and save money on their monthly bills.

The company provides homeowners with an online platform to help them save costs on their mortgages, and it’s already been valued at £1m following pre-launch investment.

Easy to use, British homeowners can use the platform to regain control of their monthly mortgage costs and find the best loyalty deals online.

It was founded by Lee Flavin, a Cardiff-based mortgage adviser, alongside marketing professionals Jason Stallard and Lyanna Tsakiris. They want to make finding a mortgage easier.

Flavin, CEO at RateSwitch, said: “It’s been a long-held mission of mine to not only raise greater awareness of the unnecessary costs SVRs bring, but to provide homeowners with a tangible solution to the problem, so we’re absolutely delighted to be partnering with Finance Wales on this.

“We’re very excited to join the current wave of start-ups striving to simplify complex processes within the mortgage industry and believe our existence will go a long way towards helping homeowners save money on their mortgage quickly, and with minimal hassle,” the CEO concluded.

Tech firm eyes up £100m turnover

DevOpsGuys, a high-growth IT consultancy and software development firm, announced it’s targeting a £100m turnover after raising £1m from Santander.

James Smith and Steve Thair set up the business in 2013 as a tech development blog, before turning it into a fully-fledged tech company.

It’s grown rapidly since, picking up two awards for ‘Creative and Digital start-up of the Year’ and ‘Cardiff Capital City Region start-up of the Year’ at the Wales Start-Up awards.

The firm works with the likes of Admiral Group PLC,, BAE Systems, DEFRA, Nokia, Fitness First, Waitrose and Travelodge, and now has over 70 staff members.

James Smith, CEO and co-founder of the firm, said: “The last three years have been extremely exciting as we have grown from a start-up company into a successful business.

“The funding and support from Santander has allowed us to hire new members of staff and grow as a business by targeting new contracts while fulfilling existing agreements.”

Ashley Charlton, relationship director at Santander Corporate & Commercial, added: “DevOpsGuys is a fantastic example of how entrepreneurial spirit can translate into commercial success.

“James and Stephen have combined their individual experience in IT development and operations over the past 25 years and utilised a gap in the market for their skillset,” Charlton noted.