Tech in Wales

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

With the annual Digital Festival taking place, May proved to be an opportunity for the Welsh technology community to come together and celebrate the progress achieved over the past few months.

Other notable milestones included the opening of a new innovation centre in North Wales, the appointment of the first Welsh FinTech envoy and the launch of the Tech Nation report.

Digital Festival attracts 2,500 techies

The Digital Festival, which took place at the Wales Millennium Centre on the 21st and 22nd of May, attracted 2,500 technology professionals, entrepreneurs and investors.

Organised by Innovation Point and sponsored by FinTech giant GoCompare, the event covered topics such as the Internet of Things, 5G, digital transformation and investment.

Keith Tear, who founded European internet service provider Easynet and grew it into a $1.5bn company, was one of the event’s keynote speakers.

Now running Accelerated Digital Ventures, he said: “We’re a £200m fund and our remit is to send 80% of our funding to the regions, like Cardiff.

“We get thousands of applications every year for funding but the single biggest thing missing thing in every application is vision. What does this look like when it works? What are you aiming for? The second thing is execution.

“So, if you can combine thinking big-vision with acting small-execution that persuades an investor that you can do this. And three – don’t get ahead of yourself, don’t think you’ve succeeded before you have.”

Facial ID firm celebrates first year in business

Facial recognition technology firm Credas ended the month by celebrating its first year in business. Its technology is designed to speed up identity verification.

Having begun with just two employees, it’s grown to a team of 14 people over the past few months. It’s also signed up more than 50 customers, spanning industries such as estate agency, accountancy, legal, recruitment and construction.

Rhys David, CEO of Credas, said: “It’s been an exceptional year for us and we’ve managed to surpass all expectations we had for our first year in business.

“We’ve got a great product team in place, and behind it all is an exceptional team – we really believe we have developed the best facial recognition and identity verification technology in the marketplace and are fulfilling a genuine business need.”

New innovation hub for Wrexham

Economy Secretary Ken Skates headed up north to open Wrexham’s first innovation hub, which will generate 100 new businesses and 260 jobs over two years.

Funded through the European Regional Development Fund, the hub will operate as a pilot project and attempt to raise £1m of private investment.

Overall, there are 20 fully-funded spaces up for grabs, and successful applicants will receive one-to-one mentoring and a full-time desk for a year.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ken Skates said: “I am proud that the Welsh Government has invested £1m in the establishment of Wrexham’s first Enterprise Hub.

“This kind of local business support which drives innovation and entrepreneurship really can be economically transformational.

“I am pleased to have been able to allocate £5m for the establishment of four additional business hubs in regions across Wales. Those hubs will very much follow the model and learn from the experiences of this first hub in Wrexham.”

Wales shines in 2018 Tech Nation report

Cardiff was highlighted as a fast-growing technology hub in the latest Tech Nation report, alongside cities such as London, Bristol and Manchester.

The Welsh capital’s technology industry generated £641m in revenue last year and currently employs 21,508 people. Meanwhile, 78 new technology companies launched in Cardiff between 2016 and 2017.

It highlighted companies such as Wealthify, DevOpsGuys and Amplyfi as potential technology unicorns, while WeBuild Bots, Bipsync and Backbase were identified as startups with heaps of potential.

Gareth Jones, founder of Welsh ICE, said: “The Tech Nation report has established itself as a well-regarded barometer of the landscape in the UK, so the news of continued growth in SE Wales is certainly well received.

“Cardiff’s tech community has evolved massively in the last five years, but still has some way to go. Institutions like the Development Bank are upping their game, and legal firms are getting the kind of deal flow that captures their attention.

“We now need to add a bit more intensity to ensure the interest pays off and creates the right conditions for future generations.”

Gerard Grech, chief executive of Tech Nation, added: “Tech Nation 2018 is the first major milestone of Tech Nation, the organisation now working across the country to build networks that support ambitious entrepreneurs and shine a light on the achievements of our tech sector.

“The UK’s tech sector is growing almost three times faster than the rest of the economy. What started as Tech City is increasingly Tech Nation.”

Wales’ FinTech envoy named

Technology entrepreneur Richard Theo was named as the first FinTech envoy for Wales by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Theo has been tasked with putting the country’s growing FinTech sector on the map and positioning it as a hotspot for international companies. He’s also the founder of Wealthify, an online investment service. Open to everyone, it requires no prior investment knowledge or experience.

Hammond said: “The financial world is being transformed by the fintech revolution, so it’s vital that each corner of the UK can harness its power,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve invited Richard Theo from Wealthify – one of Wales’ greatest FinTech success stories – to be our envoy for the region.

“I’d like to congratulate Richard on his new role. His extensive experience in the industry makes him the ideal candidate, and I am certain he will build on the success of the existing envoys in helping the UK to remain at the cutting edge of the digital revolution.”

Theo added: “It’s a huge honour to be appointed as the Government’s FinTech envoy for Wales and to have a chance to help support the growth of FinTech in our region.

“Wales already enjoys considerable FinTech success and is well placed to become a leading FinTech centre. It is a fantastic place to do business, benefitting from a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial culture, low operating costs, excellent connectivity and a great lifestyle.

“It is already home to a wide range of accelerators and incubators, and a phenomenal network of tech, FinTech and financial services businesses.”