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TechNation and what it means for Cardiff and Wales

1_Full_TNi-South-Wales-AWLast week TechCity UK, the organisation set up by UK government to promote the tech and digital economy, released TechNation, a report about how the tech clusters around the country are performing and how they relate to each other.  This detailed analysis, produced in conjunction with the company data startup DueDil, was intended to inspire our next generation of tech entrepreneurs and demonstrate how the UK is not just about London alone. I must admit to being surprised at the figure that we employed over 28,000 in the digital industries in our beautiful, brilliant part of the world.

I’d encourage you to download the report, and check out the South Wales pages. It makes for fascinating reading. The key stats about the South Wales cluster (inc. Cardiff and Swansea) have some very positive things to say, so I’ve highlighted them below.

FACT: Firstly, from 2010 to 2013 the growth of digital companies in South Wales was 87%. This high growth, albeit from a low base, puts us in the top five fastest growing clusters in the UK.

WHAT’S NEXT: While much of this growth can probably be linked to the strong population growth of the region, and the country-wide movement towards digital, we have no doubt seen benefits from a much-improved community supported by several organisations and hubs (of which more shortly).

 

FACT: The three areas highlighted as strengths of our area are health tech, data management, and eCommerce.

WHAT’S NEXT: While data management and and eCommerce offer great opportunities for our region (and no doubt the presence of the DVLA and their open working practices, and Companies House etc have had an impact on us being a “data hub”), there is a great opportunity in health tech, and associated sports tech. How many other UK cities can you mention that have a Premiership standard football ground, World Cup rugby stadium, Ashes cricket ground, a Ryder Cup golf course 10 minutes out of the city, and very easy access to seas and mountains. Surely there can’t be many better places in the world to build the next Hawkeye or RunKeeper. The PR benefits of positioning Cardiff as the sports and health tech capital of the UK would be incredible, and with Sport Wales trying to create a “sportopia” in our country, and Cardiff being the second biggest spender on health and fitness apps. On top of that, we have the multi-million pound Life Sciences Hub, and the brilliant startup Nudjed.

 

FACT: Access to private finance is an issue. South Wales performs relatively poorly in the Tech Nation report on this front.

WHAT’S NEXT: Depending on who you speak to, you’ll get a different answer about how much of an issue it is, and what type of level or amount of funding is the problem. The message that I seem to hear most is that getting angel or seed funding isn’t that much of an issue. If you’re good enough, you’ll find ways to find the cash, or the cash will find you. It’s the very early stage, but not risk-averse, that seems to be the real problem. How do we get young or first-time entrepreneurs onto “the ladder” so they can validate their idea and learn the ropes? The Digital Development Fund is a great initiative from Welsh Government, and there are a few other small funds. But broadly speaking they require a disproportionate amount of time and effort if we’re talking about validating ideas. The point of startups is that sometimes we don’t know what the business model is yet. We identify a means of solving a problem, and then identify revenue streams as we go along. Neither Google or Facebook, as two huge examples, had a “business” when they started. They had an idea, and they built their parachute on the way down. We need to find ways of funding our brightest and best with small amounts (under £50,000?) without them having to jump through huge hoops of red tape, and proving things they can’t possibly know just yet. It needs to be administrated by people who have a deep understanding of the needs of tech startups, and what makes them most likely to succeed or fail.

 

FACT: South Wales is good for social networks. Not Twitter and Facebook, but actual physical networks of real-life human beings.

WHAT’S NEXT: We should be proud that South Wales is a friendly place, where people know each other and don’t feel excluded. I think the works of Swansea Start, Welsh ICE, Tech Hub Swansea, FoundersHub, Indycube and Cardiff Start all deserve a pat on the back for the work they’ve done in bringing these communities together. We should throw our support behind them, whether that’s attending their events, or recommending them to friends. Swansea, Newport and Cardiff shouldn’t be thinking about how they can outstrip each other, but how we can compete with the likes of Glasgow, Frankfurt and Boulder.

It’s clear we have a lot to be proud of, but also a lot of work to do. It seems like a long time ago that I wrote this post about what we could do to improve the Cardiff startup scene. It seems to have grown and matured significantly in the three years since I wrote it. Some of the growth has been organic, because the sector is growing anyway. And some of it is because Cardiff is growing phenomenally rapidly. But a lot of it is because of these great communities that are driving a sense of pride and community in the startups we’re building.

Long may this fantastic growth continue.

– – – – –

Thanks to Gareth Jones for proof-reading this and his useful thoughts before I clicked “Publish”.

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Passion, perseverance, and stuff


I saw the film Anvil a few nights ago. It’s a documentary about a rock band who, thirty years on from being on the verge of greatness, are living in near-obscurity and decide to give it one last push before giving up for good. It’s an absolutely brillant (and hilarious) film and I was incredibly touched by their perseverance, their passion and their lust for life. And it reminded me that perseverance is that rare quality that is usually the one factor that many people are missing out on when looking for success.

I often advise people on small business and creative industries, and tell them to look at the top DJs and producers in the world: Carl Cox, Pete Tong, Sasha, Roger Sanchez, Eric Morillo, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy etc – I’m fairly certain that not one of them is under 40, and I know that some of them are over 50. (edit – I’m reliably informed by Ian -see comments below- that Liam from the Prodigy is a spritely 37). The average age of the freshest, hottest 3 DJs in the world (Tiesto, Armin van Buuren and Paul van Dyk) is 37.2.

Being a DJ is usually considered to be a youngster’s game. These guys are clear evidence that if you’re good enough you might make it, BUT if you’re good enough AND you’re willing to stick at it long enough then you’ll definitely improve your chances of making it. I suppose it’s a case of having the talent, and using the perseverance to maximise the likelihood of getting your break…

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer”. ~Albert Einstein


A few bits and pieces…

————————

We’ve recently announced details of Ignite Cardiff #2, and with that in mind I thought I’d link to this article explaining how to “Deliver a Presentation like Steve Jobs”.

14 Tools Of Highly Effective Twitter Users
– I particularly like the first tool. I’d be more inclined to find out how annoying I am though, rather than vet others before following….

This looks quite interesting if you’re based near South Wales and are in the creative industries, innovation, enterprise etc. I’ll probably be there.

This link is either the greatest link ever for a procrastinator, or a fascinating archive of the things that amused us over the early years of “the internet age”.

Very interesting take on what’s “killing” the music industry. Not illegal downloads, according to the author. Surprised to see that the value of music being shipped is more today than it was in 1993.

My Dad’s been very ill recently, and I’ve been “hanging out” at an online forum where people exchange experiences and support about the illness that he’s suffering from. One post struck me as absolute gold: A woman has become very housebound and insular in the last year, not wishing to leave the house. But in the recent snow her husband and kids persuaded her to go out and make a snowman with them. The phrase that convinced her to get out there? “Let’s go make some memories“.

Life is short, and all we really have at the end of it is our memories, so go make some.

* The pic at the top is of my girlfriend and I, mid-jump, making some snowy memories a few weeks ago. That blurry shot is the best of about 15 attempts to get a shot of us mid air in the snow, using a self timer!

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Wifi map – update

You may remember that at the weekend I wrote about a new wifi hotspot map i’d put together for Cardiff. It took me 30 mins, and zero stress. And I don’t have any particular technical web skills to speak of.

Well, within an hour or so of finishing and telling the world about it, two friends had set up maps in exactly the same way for their towns (Exeter and Bristol). It gave me an idea for a truly user generated, UK wide wifi map where the regional maps are owned by the people that set them up, allowing them to promote them independently, and take all the credit in their local web community. So I set up www.wifi-in-uk.co.uk to act as the portal, and have already had a Birmingham map added to the fold.

I’m looking for people to set up maps all over the country. If you’re interested, then head over to here and you could have a map for your town in a matter of minutes.

Just goes to show – with about 2 or 3 hours work in total, you can easily get web ideas up and running. Even without any technical know-how….

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The interwebs is, like… amazing!


Seriously. I never stop being amazed.

Before I tell you this story you have to remember that I have no technical skills in the coding department (I can just about make some text bold in HTML), but I’m a relatively heavy user of the internet and I like to think I’m pretty quick at picking up new apps etc. So what I achieved in a fairly short space of time could be done by my nan (albeit maybe a bit slower).

So, it’s midday on Saturday (about three quarters of an hour ago) and I need to find a place in a certain area of Cardiff that’s got free wifi. I’ve often been confronted by this problem before, and there doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive list anywhere online. Anyway, earlier in the week I’d written a piece for Enterprise Magazine about business agility, and how the web affords us the opportunity to turn ideas around very quickly (I’ll post the article up here once the mag hits the streets), and thought I’d put my learnings into practice:

Step 1: Used Twitter to ask for tips.

Step 2: Received advice from Oli Mould, who follows me on Twitter.

Step 3: Realised how insanely easy it was to set up a map on Google Maps that was publically editable so the world could share their knowledge about wifi hotspots in Cardiff.

Step 4: Set up map, putting a few of my favourite places on there.

Step 5: Make the map public.

Step 6: Register www.wifi-in-cardiff.co.uk (6 quid) and point it at the Google map.

Step 7: Tell my friends on Twitter and ask them to retweet (share with their Twitter followers).

Step 8: Watch Twitter start to buzz with “retweets”, and then marvel that the whole process took me 30 mins.

Thirty minutes from start to finish. Even I’m amazed. And very chuffed!

Anyway, I just thought I’d share that with you. If you’re based in Cardiff, please chip in and share your wifi hotspots!

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cardiff creative industries entrepreneur free free wifi home working internet laptop productivity remote working startup technology uk wales web 2.0 wifi

The interwebs is, like… amazing!


Seriously. I never stop being amazed.

Before I tell you this story you have to remember that I have no technical skills in the coding department (I can just about make some text bold in HTML), but I’m a relatively heavy user of the internet and I like to think I’m pretty quick at picking up new apps etc. So what I achieved in a fairly short space of time could be done by my nan (albeit maybe a bit slower).

So, it’s midday on Saturday (about three quarters of an hour ago) and I need to find a place in a certain area of Cardiff that’s got free wifi. I’ve often been confronted by this problem before, and there doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive list anywhere online. Anyway, earlier in the week I’d written a piece for Enterprise Magazine about business agility, and how the web affords us the opportunity to turn ideas around very quickly (I’ll post the article up here once the mag hits the streets), and thought I’d put my learnings into practice:

Step 1: Used Twitter to ask for tips.

Step 2: Received advice from Oli Mould, who follows me on Twitter.

Step 3: Realised how insanely easy it was to set up a map on Google Maps that was publically editable so the world could share their knowledge about wifi hotspots in Cardiff.

Step 4: Set up map, putting a few of my favourite places on there.

Step 5: Make the map public.

Step 6: Register www.wifi-in-cardiff.co.uk (6 quid) and point it at the Google map.

Step 7: Tell my friends on Twitter and ask them to retweet (share with their Twitter followers).

Step 8: Watch Twitter start to buzz with “retweets”, and then marvel that the whole process took me 30 mins.

Thirty minutes from start to finish. Even I’m amazed. And very chuffed!

Anyway, I just thought I’d share that with you. If you’re based in Cardiff, please chip in and share your wifi hotspots!

Categories
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Convergence

I love taking photos, and I’ve got a very decent compact camera that I used to take with me everywhere. But it hardly ever leaves the house now. Why? Because my mobile phone takes photos like this over Sunday breakfast in a cafe:

Don’t get me wrong. The camera on my phone is very limited, and can’t compete with the sort of pics I take with my “proper” camera:

But in 99 percent of cases it’s more than good enough to record a moment in time. It got me wondering about technological convergence, and how portable items such as cameras and phones are slowly and steadily merging into one thing. My first digital camera (circa 2000) wouldn’t have been able to take a picture as good as that one at the top. But my phone now has GPS, web and email facilities too. All of which I use on a regular basis. I even subscribe to podcasts on it too, which I download via my home network using the phone’s wifi capabilities. So, where will it end?

I pondered this as I ran across the clifftops of Penarth before dawn this morning (not a regular occurrence – I couldn’t sleep). I watched the sleepy, blinking lights of England across the channel and wondered about the tankers in the shipping lanes. How would they benefit from convergence? Nothing sprung to mind, but then I know absolutely nothing about shipping. I realised that convergence is driven by portability. It’s about making stuff smaller, and reducing the amount of items to save our overwhelmed pockets and bags. Tankers, by their very nature, have plenty of space aboard. I suppose it’s not such an issue….

My phone is smaller than a pack of cards, but in most cases it means I don’t have to carry a laptop, camera, satnav, gaming console, radio etc.

As I mentioned recently we live in incredible times. And we’re seeing the world change right in front of our eyes. My good friend John Rostron pointed this out yesterday, as he wrote about the slow, inevitable decline of CD sales. Technology is moving very, very quickly. We are literally watching the world change day by day. It’s a fascinating time to be alive!

Oh, and big thanks to Mr Rostron (who’s also co-organiser of the Swn festival) for my brilliant Swn t-shirt. It’s a doozie, and a Howies one, too. I really must remember to pay him!

p.s. Play a musical instrument?

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cardiff creative industries entrepreneur geek interesting internet media Music Industry remote working technology wales

Convergence

I love taking photos, and I’ve got a very decent compact camera that I used to take with me everywhere. But it hardly ever leaves the house now. Why? Because my mobile phone takes photos like this over Sunday breakfast in a cafe:

Don’t get me wrong. The camera on my phone is very limited, and can’t compete with the sort of pics I take with my “proper” camera:

But in 99 percent of cases it’s more than good enough to record a moment in time. It got me wondering about technological convergence, and how portable items such as cameras and phones are slowly and steadily merging into one thing. My first digital camera (circa 2000) wouldn’t have been able to take a picture as good as that one at the top. But my phone now has GPS, web and email facilities too. All of which I use on a regular basis. I even subscribe to podcasts on it too, which I download via my home network using the phone’s wifi capabilities. So, where will it end?

I pondered this as I ran across the clifftops of Penarth before dawn this morning (not a regular occurrence – I couldn’t sleep). I watched the sleepy, blinking lights of England across the channel and wondered about the tankers in the shipping lanes. How would they benefit from convergence? Nothing sprung to mind, but then I know absolutely nothing about shipping. I realised that convergence is driven by portability. It’s about making stuff smaller, and reducing the amount of items to save our overwhelmed pockets and bags. Tankers, by their very nature, have plenty of space aboard. I suppose it’s not such an issue….

My phone is smaller than a pack of cards, but in most cases it means I don’t have to carry a laptop, camera, satnav, gaming console, radio etc.

As I mentioned recently we live in incredible times. And we’re seeing the world change right in front of our eyes. My good friend John Rostron pointed this out yesterday, as he wrote about the slow, inevitable decline of CD sales. Technology is moving very, very quickly. We are literally watching the world change day by day. It’s a fascinating time to be alive!

Oh, and big thanks to Mr Rostron (who’s also co-organiser of the Swn festival) for my brilliant Swn t-shirt. It’s a doozie, and a Howies one, too. I really must remember to pay him!

p.s. Play a musical instrument?

Categories
cardiff creative creative industries developer entrepreneur free wifi geek ignite internet oreilly startup technology wales

Ignite, Gratitude and Erotic Squirrels

My last post, which was basically about having gratitude for the amazing technology we are surrounded with and not taking it for granted, came back to bite me a few hours later. I found myself in a cafe with my friend Steve, both of us moaning and complaining that we couldn’t get onto the free wireless there. I’d become a hypocrite in such a short space of time!


But that’s beside the point. I’m currently sitting in the office, watching the rapidly fading winter light outside, absolutely shattered after hosting the latest Nocci event. It was a “co-production” with Cardiff Web Scene, and was an Ignite event. As explained in one of my recent posts, Ignite is a rapid presentation evening. We had six speakers, all of whom had just five minutes in which to get their idea/passion/thoughts across to the audience.

We had a great turnout of over 90 people, all of whom seemed to enjoy the free beer (thankyou Skillset!), had a great laugh at the presentations, learned some genuinely fascinating stuff, threw paper airplanes (see video below) and networked and chatted late into the night. Check the Nocci site over the next 24 hours for all the pics.


Thanks to everyone who came. We hope you had as much fun as we did (but without the stress about getting a microphone to work!). If anyone has any thoughts/feedback/ideas then please let us know, as we’re already starting to think about the next one. And if you’d like another presentation on “erotic squirrels” then you really should drop that particular presenter a line…. 😉

Before I finish I must particularly mention my co-conspirator, Claire Scantlebury, for being a joy to work with. And Wayne Full from Skillset for all his help. He’s a star.

Oh, and if you’re having a tough week then maybe you fancy slapping someone around the face with a fish…? Or you might prefer to go water zorbing with some glamour models. Anyone fancy buying this one for me?

Categories
cardiff creative creative industries developer entrepreneur free wifi geek ignite internet oreilly startup technology wales

Ignite, Gratitude and Erotic Squirrels

My last post, which was basically about having gratitude for the amazing technology we are surrounded with and not taking it for granted, came back to bite me a few hours later. I found myself in a cafe with my friend Steve, both of us moaning and complaining that we couldn’t get onto the free wireless there. I’d become a hypocrite in such a short space of time!


But that’s beside the point. I’m currently sitting in the office, watching the rapidly fading winter light outside, absolutely shattered after hosting the latest Nocci event. It was a “co-production” with Cardiff Web Scene, and was an Ignite event. As explained in one of my recent posts, Ignite is a rapid presentation evening. We had six speakers, all of whom had just five minutes in which to get their idea/passion/thoughts across to the audience.

We had a great turnout of over 90 people, all of whom seemed to enjoy the free beer (thankyou Skillset!), had a great laugh at the presentations, learned some genuinely fascinating stuff, threw paper airplanes (see video below) and networked and chatted late into the night. Check the Nocci site over the next 24 hours for all the pics.


Thanks to everyone who came. We hope you had as much fun as we did (but without the stress about getting a microphone to work!). If anyone has any thoughts/feedback/ideas then please let us know, as we’re already starting to think about the next one. And if you’d like another presentation on “erotic squirrels” then you really should drop that particular presenter a line…. 😉

Before I finish I must particularly mention my co-conspirator, Claire Scantlebury, for being a joy to work with. And Wayne Full from Skillset for all his help. He’s a star.

Oh, and if you’re having a tough week then maybe you fancy slapping someone around the face with a fish…? Or you might prefer to go water zorbing with some glamour models. Anyone fancy buying this one for me?

Categories
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Ignite!


Well, in an attempt to re-ignite my blogging (I’ve honestly been sooo busy of late) I’m going to talk about Ignite.

It’s a “constrained presentation” format, much like Pecha Kucha. It’s a way of making Powerpoint presentations more dynamic, more interesting and more fun. And Nocci, my network for the creative industries, is co-presenting the very first one in the UK alongside our friends at Cardiff Web Scene.

The presenter has only 20 slides, and they rotate automatically after 15 seconds. Ignite was started in Seattle in 2006 by Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis. Since then hundreds of 5 minute talks have been given across the world. There are thriving Ignite communities in Seattle, Portland, Paris, and NYC and it is an internationally recognised format for producing dynamic, high energy and engaging presentations, with topics as wide ranging as “How to produce a low-budget horror movie”, “Did today’s architecture cause the financial crisis” and “How to use public transport without going mad”.

If you would like more information then just come along on 3rd December to the fantastic new Sodabar in Cardiff at 6.30pm to watch some cool presentations. If you’re on Facebook then please let us know you plan to attend by clicking “Attend” on this Facebook event. And you can find more information about it, or how to apply to do a presentation on the Nocci news pages here.

Hope you can make it. It’s going to be really exciting!

p.s. If you like the sound of it then have a look on Youtube for examples. There’s tons there….