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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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Interesting facts from the future

Well, I say “the future”… that’s based purely on Gerd Leonhard‘s title of “Media Futurist”. I was recently lucky enough to spend a couple of days in the presence of him and Jeremy Silver at Future Music Labs, part of Creative Capital in Canary Wharf, London.

They both gave fascinating talks at the beginning of the first day, and I took lots of notes. I’ve just been looking back over them and thought there were a few snippits that are worth sharing. This will all appear in bullet-point form, as I can’t remember the exact context of each fact and wouldn’t want to misquote Jeremy or Gerd. Also, apologies if some of the facts don’t make that much sense out of context. They obviously don’t have the great slides that Gerd and Jeremy used to illustrate their points, too. You can see the slides for Jeremy’s presentation here, and Gerd’s here.

If they don’t make sense then let me know – I’ll improve my note taking technique!

Also, I’ll be adding news links to back up as much of this information as i can, when I can.

Jeremy Silver

  • The “value” in creative industries tends to be in digital media.
  • In 9 years the music industry has lost 40 percent of its value.
  • 20 – 25 percent of sales across the board are digital.
  • Games companies are making money!
  • Youtube‘s bandwidth costs $1m a day to maintain, and their daily loss exceeds $1m a day.
  • In the UK £357 is spent on advertising per head of population (from memory, this is annually). 19 percent of this is online, the highest percentage in the world.
  • The UK has the highest per capita spend on music. $82 a year.
  • Consumers are very sophisticated and want to interact with music – e.g. see Rockband & Singstar, Radiohead allowing fans to remix tunes etc.


Gerd Leonhard

  • 92 percent of Google’s revenue is from Adwords.
  • Total fragmentation of the market is certain. Very few models work for everyone anymore. We’ll never see anyone having hits on the scale of The Beatles again. In TV Dallas used to get 70 percent of US viewers. Today the top show, American Idol, gets just 7 percent.
  • Physical Media and productised content is the past.
  • 1.7 million new mobile users in India every week.
  • 6.8 billion minutes a day are spent on Facebook. It is a broadcaster, as are all social network.
  • We’re living in an age of “Attention Challenge”. Distribution is now a default setting.
  • Brand magnetism is everything. If you love them, you’ll buy them.
  • “Money is just a type of information” – www.kk.org
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Twitter – What’s the point?

I admit it. I’m a twitterfreak. In the space of a few months it has become the single most useful business tool I’ve ever used on the web, and has also been great at improving my social circle.

Its growth has been astonishing. Just look at this graph that shows it’s percentage reach over the last 18 months:


Interestingly though, it’s barely made the faintest dent in Facebook’s dominance. And yes, Twitter does feature on the following graph. You just have to look *very* closely…


I can only assume that the majority of Twitter’s users access it through clients such as Tweetdeck and Twhirl, which don’t access the site directly, and therefore wouldn’t contribute to those graphs.

And yet it’s really difficult to explain to non-converts why they should be part of the movement. The following video gives an overview of the social aspect of Twitter. If I’m honest, I don’t see much point in using Twitter if you don’t have any particularly strong passions, or are “in business”. I may be wrong, but I’m not entirely sure how Twitter would be of much benefit on a social level, above and beyond what Facebook and forums currently provide…

However, if you are self-employed, a freelancer, a passionate indulger, or just want to get more involved in your own industry, then you’d be amazed at how Twitter will change your online behaviour. As @biggreensheep says in this Guardian article about Twitter: “If Dave be “the home of witty banter” then Twitter has got to be the home of intelligent social networking. While other social networks rely heavily on gimmicks and apps, the Twitter platform holds community and content in high regard.

Another interesting take comes from @bbmorph: “One (of several) ways I use Twitter is to communicate with people who might otherwise ignore me. As a community of ‘early adopters’, people who have joined Twitter for business reasons want to be seen to be in touch with the technology and the community. This makes it easier to talk to people further up the (imagined or otherwise) rungs of business hierarchy than one would otherwise be able to do.”

But the most succinct viewpoint comes from @digitalmaverick: “I use Twitter because it’s broadened the range of people I can interact with instantly and I get authoritative responses.”

But, if you haven’t already, there’s really only one way to truly grasp the point and scope of Twitter. And that’s to sign up and get involved. But before you do, the most important thing it’s vital to understand is that there are three methods of using Twitter for marketing, PR, and self-promotion.

1 – HowToUseTwitterForMarketingAndPR.com
2 – Just constantly write about yourself and don’t “follow” anyone else.
3 – Somewhere in between. Twitter is a dialogue. A conversation. It’s not about “broadcasting”. It’s about call and response, engagement, and genuine interest in a community. Like any self-regulating community, if you see it as an opportunity to self-promote and nothing else, you’ll very quickly find that no-one is listening.

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Agility

Here’s an article I wrote that’s just been published in Enterprise Magazine. Thanks to Rob and Dan for their insight. You can download the whole issue here, which includes a rather dashing photo of me! 🙂 And while you’re at it, keep up to date with tiptop news via their Twitter account.

It’s 5am and I’m wide awake. My mind is clearly more eager than my body to start the first working day of 2009. I’m thinking back over the last year and how I can improve over the next 12 months.

2008 was an odd year for me. I achieved a lot, bringing more people together through my networking events, and worked on some brilliant projects with some amazing people. Yet with my key “revenue generators” I often felt hamstrung by a lack of resources, both in terms of talent and finance. Needing to find people to carry out work for me, and sourcing the capital to pay for it all meant that things often seemed to move incredibly slowly. A lot of this stems from the fact that much of the work I do has the internet at the very heart of it, but I’m neither a web developer or designer. It would be technically impossible for me to build these ideas on my own.

I spoke to Dan Zambonini, technical director of internet development agency, Box UK. He thinks that being a solo entrepreneur isn’t the issue it once was. “Luckily, with the web now as it is, there are plenty of online websites that can match up idea people with doing people. Technical people love to do interesting things, so if you know the right people, you’ll often find someone who’s willing to help you out for the sheer pleasure of it.”

Dan believes that there’s a growing demand for smaller, smarter online services that do one thing well, rather than trying to do everything. The idea being to get them up online as soon as they work and improve them as they go along, using your first customers as your testers too.

“Especially now with online services….it’s easier than ever to realise sophisticated ideas with less effort. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr; all started off much simpler, and have added features as they’ve been demanded”.

For some, being agile isn’t a desirable quality but an absolute prerequisite. “Digital PR has to be lightening quick because that’s the way the web works – the window of opportunity in online media is so much smaller”, says Rob Mosley from boutique digital advertising and PR agency Nonsense. I asked him for a good tip on getting projects up and running quicker. “I think debate is the biggest enemy to getting stuff done quick. If you get into a habit of making decisions fast, so you can get on with making things, you’re 80% of the way there. Obviously our clients need to trust us a lot for us to do this, and they also have to accept that we’ll make the odd mistake… which is still better than missing the boat”.

So what are my new year’s resolutions? Find smart and quick people to work with who are keen to get involved in exciting one-off projects, turn my ideas around faster, don’t worry about them being perfect from the start, tweak them as I go along, and feel more fulfilled that I’m not constantly languishing in “development hell”.

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Even Google feels the pinch?


In these dark days of the so-called credit crunch it appears that even Google is having to tighten its belt, shutting down a number of services. Although several of them never got out of invite mode, it’s sad to see the likes Jaiku and Notebook being given the boot.

Hat-tip: Paul Bradshaw

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Even Google feels the pinch?


In these dark days of the so-called credit crunch it appears that even Google is having to tighten its belt, shutting down a number of services. Although several of them never got out of invite mode, it’s sad to see the likes Jaiku and Notebook being given the boot.

Hat-tip: Paul Bradshaw

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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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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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In the Mux

I remember Muxtape.com. It allowed you to make an online mixtape from a huge list of songs. It was a simple, brilliant idea, although I never used it. And I remember that it got shut down earlier this year, which is sad. But today I stumbled across the founder’s statement about what happened. It’s a very well written piece that has lots of insight for anyone in the music industry or anyone in the world of digital startups, or licensing, or working with other peoples’ intellectual property. Hell, it’s useful for anyone. Read it here.

Also, I came across OwnGig. Looks like an interesting take on the whole crowdsourcing thing, which is an increasingly popular trend. Anyone wanna pitch in with me to get Stevie Wonder to perform live in my kitchen?

Finally, I’ve just learned about the Project Triangle. Never heard of it before. Useful little tool for prioritising tasks and knowing where your product might sit in the market.