Tech in Wales: The September 2017 roundup

Nic Fearn, editor at Tech Dragons, brings you the top tech news to emerge from Wales throughout the past month. 

So far, 2017 has been an exciting year for the growing Welsh technology industry, and September was another month of growth.

It also saw the the Digital Festival take place in Cardiff, which attracted thousands of technology professionals and entrepreneurs to the capital.

We look at the top tech stories from last month.

Big hires for Swansea firm

September proved to be a big month for Swansea-based tech firm Veeqo. The e-commerce platform received £500,000 from the Welsh Government to accelerate business growth.

With the money, the high-growth company has been able to secure three new high-profile hires from the likes of billion-dollar tech companies and as far away as New York, London and Berlin.

Cerys Davies is one of the firm’s latest additions. Heading up human resources, she relocated to Swansea after spending the previous 12 years in New York leading the North America HR department for internet giant Trustpilot.

Meanwhile, Tom Weeks has been appointed to lead global sales and will be a key player in helping commercially expand Veeqo into a variety of markets, including heading into the US.

Previously, he spent four years at Ve Interactive.

Mark Robertson is the company’s third high-profile hire. Now leading channel sales and strategic partnerships, he previously worked for BCSG where he helped it become one of only 13 companies to be listed on the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 three years in a row.

Matt Warren, CEO of Veeqo, said: “Outside the main startup areas like Silicon Valley and London it is more challenging to find the right talent as we scale the company, but this proves it can be done and I am really excited about the future.

“I’m delighted about being able to bring Mark, Cerys and Tom to Veeqo. Their experience and abilities are a fantastic addition to our team and will no doubt help drive us forwards flying the flag for Welsh tech startups.”

New board for Welsh tech support organisation

ESTnet, the official technology network for Wales, appointed several new board members in a bid to accelerate growth in the country’s constantly evolving tech ecosystem.

Christian Coates, managing director of software house and technology consultancy Method4 Ltd, joined IQE corporate systems manager Chris Meadows as co-chair of the ESTnet.

In order to ensure the board reflects the diversity of the industry it serves, the organisation also appointed two new business leaders as co-optees.

The co-optees are Nia Davies and Ben Dowding, who both bring with them significant expertise in high-tech electronic design, development and manufacturing.

Nia is managing director of Welshpool-based Davlec Ltd, a family-owned electronics manufacturing company working in high-end catering equipment, Hi-Fi and healthcare electronics.

Meanwhile, Ben is the co-founder and managing director of Flintshire-based electronics and specialist technical consultancy Taylor Dowding Innovation.

Commenting on the latest board appointments, ESTnet managing director Avril Lewis said: “This announcement marks a significant chapter for the ESTnet and the developing story of the tech sector it serves.

“The newest members of our board demonstrate the diversity of tech businesses that exist across Wales, from exciting new starts to growing SMEs operating across a range of fields. Their insights will play a crucial role in shaping the future of our industry.”

Major Cisco partnership

American tech giant Cisco has teamed up with the University of South Wales and Welsh Government to help develop the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

The company is working with the Newport-based National Cyber Security Academy, which was launched in 2016 to contribute towards closing the cybersecurity skills gap.

It’s supporting the NCSA programme in several ways. They include sharing insights on competency and skills, providing technical software resources and offering practical experience opportunities.

The partnership is benefiting current USW BSc (Hons) applied cybersecurity, computer forensics and computer security undergraduates, providing them with the opportunity to experience real-world projects.

Students have access to a well-balanced education that’s based on theory and real-life experience. They’re also benefiting from industry-specific projects and potential future employment opportunities with Cisco.

Scot Gardner, chief executive of Cisco UK & Ireland, said: “We are thrilled to be working with the University of South Wales on this initiative.

“Wales has a significant part to play in combating the cyber security threat. With a focus on business innovation and skills, particularly in initiatives like the NCSA, the country’s focus on cyber security is helping address a business critical issue, not only for Wales or the UK, but globally.

“We see this as an important step in not only building on a great relationship with specialists in Wales, but supporting and investing in the development of skills across the UK.”

Funding success for PropTech startup

University Cribs, an online platform for student property rental, completed a Sseed funding round totaling £450,000. The firm announced the news at the Digital Festival.

It’s created a search engine that simplifies the way university students find and secure affordable housing. Letting agents and accommodation providers can use it to market their properties too.

The company raised investment from investors working in a range of related industries and is looking to accelerate business growth.

With the capital, University Cribs will expand its geographic reach further by forming partnerships with letting agents and student property providers across the UK.

The firm will also invest in product development. It was founded by university friends Jack Jenkins and Dan Jefferys, along with fellow business titan Christian Samuel.

2,000 techies descend on Cardiff

More than 2,000 technologists and business minds from across the UK descended on Cardiff for the opening of the Digital Festival at Tramshed.

A host of big names shared keynote talks around themes that are set to shape Wales and the world over the coming years – including the Internet of Things.

Speakers included the likes of Fortune and TIME lauded digital strategist Inma Martinez, techUK president Jacqueline de Rojas; as well as Red Letter Day entrepreneur and Dragons Den star Rachel Elnaugh.

Ken Skates, cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure, commended the spirit of the industry. Opening the event, he said: “Businesses in Wales are undoubtedly at the forefront of the tech revolution.

“The Welsh Compound Semiconductor Cluster is the first cluster of its kind in the world, developing the technology that will shape the way we live our lives tomorrow.

“The cybersecurity solutions developed in Wales have an international reputation and help safeguard our citizens and businesses; and the technology being developed in Wales is changing the way we bank, shop and access vital services.

“Digital festival is celebrating everything Wales has to offer the technological revolution, and it’s great to see industry leaders, start-ups, and everyday tech lovers come to the Welsh capital for the event.”