Tech in Wales: The July 2016 roundup

tech in wales

Nicholas Fearn brings you the latest news from the Welsh tech sector.

Although summer is usually a relatively quiet month for the tech industry, in July, Wales proved this isn’t always the case. There were a plethora of notable announcements, from the launch of a mobile network designed for the Welsh people to the multi-million pound purchase of a data centre firm.

Welsh technology excellence was also recognised at the Wales Startup Awards, with a number of startups and entrepreneurs announced in the shortlist.

In other news, a Cardiff-based e-commerce app confirmed a successful investment round. Here’s our round-up.

British provincial network launches

A small tech business launched the UK’s ‘first’ full-scale mobile network designed for a particular region or devolved country of people.

Developed by RWG Mobile, the network has been created based on the needs of Wales and its citizens. It went live on July 18th and was in the works for 12 months.

With the network, customers are able to register five different phone numbers under profiles such as personal and work. They work on smartphones and tablets. The network is the brainchild of qualified accountant, Andrew Davies.

Davies said: “If you think of a European country, you will be able to easily identify its mobile network, like France Telecom, Deutsche Telecom or Eircom.

“No other country in the UK has its own mobile network, so we set out to create a communications provider that reflects and understands the needs of the Welsh population.”

A multi-million acquisition

In other news, Newport-based data centre firm Next Generation Data was bought by InfraVia Partners in a deal thought to be near £100m.

The company, which operates the biggest data centre in Europe, opened in 2010 and covers 750,000 sq ft at the old LG Semicon plant in the Welsh city.

It houses a private connection to the National Supergrid, which provides 180MW of renewable energy. This, the firm says, has helped it attract clients such as IBM, BT and the Welsh Government.

The deal will help the firm further growth and expand its UK operations, including the opening of a new site and transatlantic fibre network. It’ll also be stepping up efforts in North America and Asia.

Simon Taylor, NGD’s chairman, said: “We have become the UK’s first choice for blue chip organisations requiring spacious world-class data centre facilities for reasons of power, energy efficiency, security and price.

“With the additional financial resources of InfraVia we will be able to take our business to the next level by maximising repeat and new business opportunities as global organisations continue to demand more data centre space and power for accommodating increased cloud computing deployments,” he added.

Recognising Welsh tech talent

July also saw the shortlist of the Startup Wales Awards announced, and a number of Welsh tech businesses made the final cut – celebrating the success of the industry.

Launched this summer, the awards recognise and celebrate the achievements made by startups and entrepreneurs in Wales. They’re sponsored by Natwest and innovation centre Welsh ICE.

There are 14 categories in total, covering a wide variety of sectors in Wales, with a particular focus on technology and innovation.

In the digital startup category, the Codez Academy, DevOPs Guys, Dragon Spark Productions, Futurism Ltd and Pow Virtual Running have all been nominated.

Tech firms Delio Tax’OD are competing in the financial startup gong, and social media company Echosec has been nominated for global startup of the year, in recognition of its operations in Canada.

Go2GP has been listed in the sciences category, while Aspire2Be, Learnium, Veeqo and Zone Art Network are up for Welsh technology startup of the year.

The awards were established by Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, founder of the Wales Fast Growth 50, and Liz Brookes of Grapevine Events.

Jones-Evans said: “Liz and I are absolutely delighted at the response we have had to the first ever Wales Startup awards. From over 250 initial entries, we now have 57 finalists across eighteen categories, including creative and digital start-up of the year and technology start-up of the year.

“The quality of all entries was extremely high and I am particularly delighted that we have had a strong response not only across all sectors but, more importantly, from all parts of Wales. Certainly, if these new firms are anything to go by, then entrepreneurship is flourishing within the Welsh economy,” he added.

A new media suite

Welsh ICE, a centre for business and innovation based in Caerphilly, launched a ‘state-of-the-art’ film and video editing suite for resident production companies.

The centre is home to 10 film and video companies, and they had been asking for relevant facilities for some while. Welsh ICE teamed up with Truth Department Films to make the 300 sq ft AVID editing suite possible.

It’s available for both members and non-members of the centre to rent, and as well as having access to high-end editing equipment, they’ll also be able to get expert advice and support from a team of specialists.

Jamie McGowan, community manager at Welsh ICE, said: “We already have so many film and video production companies at ICE that it seemed like the obvious next step to create this state of the art AVID suite.

“As well as allowing our members to use it, we hope that it will attract more of the south Wales creative community to ICE to see what we have to offer.

“Since Welsh ICE opened, just over four years ago, we have attracted many creative companies and have supported them to grow and flourish. With the addition of this new facility, we can only see this increasing,” noted McGowan.

Paperclip secures investment

Paperclip, an app for trading unwanted items, raised between £150-200K in its second investment round since appearing on Dave’s The Money Pit late last year.

The money was raised through a number of individual investors and organisations, including Finance Wales, professional poker player Andrej Kuttruf and Turkish tech entrepreneur Emre Fadilloglu.

Spun out of Startup Weekend London 2014 by Rich Woolley, Alan Small and Ziad Al-Ziadi, the app was launched last summer and has since attracted thousands of users from around the country.

Funds will be used to develop the app and launch it in other countries. The company has also opened a new office in Cardiff, where some of the core team – including CEO Rich Woolley – will work.

He said: “Everyone has stuff they don’t want in their houses. Why not take two minutes out of your day to add everything around your house that you’re just not sure about?

“It will be fun refining the product based on what people want, and growing it into something that enriches people’s lives. There are a lot of opportunities with the emergence of the sharing economy, too.”

Alan Small, co-founder and COO of Paperclip, added: “There are a number of ‘handheld eBays’ beginning to gain prominence this year, and it shows that there is appetite and infrastructure to redefine the way we treat our unwanted items”

“At the moment users are able to browse items in their area and make offers of cash or up to three items for with cash to swap – we’re looking forward to refining the app and expanding in Wales and London this year,” the co-founder concluded.