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Tech in Wales: The March 2018 roundup

Cardiff Wales

Nic Fearn, editor of Tech Dragons, rounds up the latest technology news to emerge from Wales throughout the month of March 2018.

March happened to be yet another month of opportunity for the Welsh technology industry. There were a plethora of exciting milestones, from the opening of a new school of technology to the announcement of 50 new high-skilled jobs for the sector.

Here’s our round-up of the best Welsh tech news stories from the past month.

EdTech firm raises £500,000

Simply Do Ideas, a high-growth education technology based in Cardiff, closed a £500,000 investment round backed by the Development Bank of Wales.

Founded in 2015, the company develops solutions to help people build and test their ideas. Lee Sharma set up the firm “after seeing the frustrations that startups and existing organisations faced in taking a raw idea through to execution”.

Since launching, it’s created a range of cloud-based, B2B software-as-a-service and business-process-as-a-service platforms.

And last year, the firm was chosen as one of Innovation Point’s Digital Dozen, a group of Welsh technology companies that are set to generate a combined turnover of £100m by 2020.

The company will use the money to expand its product portfolio and reach new customers. “Our plan is to become the de facto choice for organisations looking for a simpler way to support early-stage innovation,” revealed Sharma.

“With the support of these funds and the fantastic investor group behind us, we will continue to grow our market share and cement our position between industry and academia.”

Barclays opens Cardiff GreenTech lab

Banking giant Barclays opened the doors to a GreenTech lab in Cardiff, which will support companies and entrepreneurs developing sustainable technologies.

Located at Brunel House in the centre of Cardiff, the facility provides firms with around-the-clock access to shared office space, a mentorship scheme and networking opportunities.

Earlier this year, Barclays brought its Eagle Labs programme to Wales following the opening of centres in Salford, London and Edinburgh. It sports 120 seats and an R&D centre.

Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas, chair of Barclays Green Banking Council, said the lab will boost the Welsh greentech sector.

She said: “Barclays, like so many of our clients, recognises that addressing environmental challenges is not only a necessity but a compelling economic opportunity.

“We have already successfully launched a suite of pioneering green financial products and so we are delighted to be able to build on our expertise by launching new, innovative Green labs to support this vibrant growth sector.”

PropTech startup gets new chairman

University Cribs, a platform where students can find affordable housing, appointed seasoned entrepreneur David Murray-Hundley as its new chairman.

Murray-Hundley, who specialises in scaling firms, will help grow the firm. He’s already supported the likes of Borrow My Doggy, E Fundamentals, Crowdstacker and My Training Passport.

He met the company’s founders, Jack Jenkins, Daniel Jefferys and Christian Samuel, when they took part on Innovation Point’s Digital Dozen accelerator programme.

Jenkins said: “David sat on the judging panel when we initially pitched to be a part of the Digital Dozen accelerator. We were looking towards our next Seed funding round after a promising year, and I think he took a shine to us.

“We feel David’s appointment as chairman will help us deliver this for our shareholders. This move will become integral to our transition from a startup to a structured scaleup business.”

Murray-Hundley praised the company, saying: “Working with University Cribs on the Welsh accelerator, I’ve seen how the company has adapted to a challenging and constantly changing market.  

“This funding round is a positive milestone on their journey, but there are some challenges ahead. I’m hoping I can use a few grey hairs to help them tackle those proactively.

Dutch FinTech to create 50 jobs

Dutch FinTech giant Backbase announced plans to create 50 new jobs in Cardiff after receiving investment from the Welsh Government.

Speaking in March, Economy Secretary Ken Skates said the company will be expanding its research and development facility in the Welsh capital. It already has offices in Europe, the US and Asia.

The company develops omni-channel banking software. It’s offering positions across areas such as software development, software testing and client support.

Chris Whitcombe, CTO of Backbase Wales, said: “The partnership with the Welsh Government was instrumental in bringing Backbase to Wales, not just in terms of making it easy but the relationships they have been able to introduce us to.

“The tremendous pool of talent in the fintech sector and the better work life balance available were also factors in our decision to invest in Wales.”

New school of technology opens

The Cardiff School of Technologies, which will recruit two thousand students by 2024, was formally launched at the Welsh Assembly last month

Based at Cardiff Metropolitan University, the institution is aimed at supporting the needs of the Welsh technology sector. It’ll offer courses in areas such as data science, cyber security, mobile computing, artificial intelligence and systems engineering.

Speaking to an audience of politicians, business partners and leaders, entrepreneurs, students and academics, Cardiff Met vice-chancellor Cara Aitchison said the school will accelerate the growth of Welsh tech.

“This new proposal has been developed following extensive research and consultation, and will have significant impact on the economy of the City and the wider Cardiff Capital Region,” she said.

“The proposed new school is focused on education, research, innovation and higher-level skills in digital media and smart technology, data science and informatics, and systems engineering and design technology.”