A community hub for technology start-ups, Cardiff Start, today launched in the Welsh capital.
The hub will help very early stage start-up companies in Wales by connecting them with other like-minded individuals to “share knowledge,” hopefully leading to investment opportunities.
The initiative was created from a small group of like-minded entrepreneurs who recognised a need for support in the region. It provides a network for start-up companies to talk to fellow entrepreneurs and gain knowledge about the sector they are about to set into.
Cardiff Start co-founder Neil Cocker said: “We saw lots of opportunities here but no formalised structure or vehicle for conversation.
“Cardiff Start is all about sharing knowledge and just bringing everyone a little bit closer to start conversations,” added Cocker, who has his own start-up – an ecommerce merchandising platform, called Dizzy Jam.
The initiative which already has around 300 non-paying members from the digital and technology sectors, currently communicates on Twitter and Facebook.
Central hub for technology issues
“The network is getting stronger every day,” said Cocker. “If a bank came to us with a technology problem, we could facilitate that, but the real beauty of what we do is that we try to act as a central hub, rather than have a prescriptive approach.”
Cardiff Start launched today after a small amount of funding from the Higher Education Council for Wales through Cardiff University.
The organisation held its first official workshop event in Cardiff City Hall which had talks from tech entrepreneur Rob Fitzpatrick and angel investor David Hulston. The event was sponsored by several organisations including the No Cities project and KPMG.
Cardiff Start has been likened to initiatives such as the government-backed Tech City Organisation in London, though Cocker stresses Cardiff Start is more like a communication network which will also run networking events and workshops alongside.
“I’ve got no great desire to run these kind of initiatives myself, we think of ourselves as more of a central umbrella,” he said.
Last week Cocker, along with other representatives from UK start-up clusters, was invited to meet Joanna Shields, CEO of Tech City at 10 Downing Street, where they discussed the state of the regional start-up scene across the country.
“I think Tech City is great, they seemed to be very proactive," he said. "I was sceptical before the meeting that it was just going to be just a way for them to demonstrate that Tech City is not all about London, but they’re quite serious about it.”
Cocker said that the aim of the meeting was to open up the channels of communication between start-up clusters across the UK, while allowing the regional clusters to leverage Tech City’s marketing power.
“I understand that, if I was an investor, tech writer or anything in London, why would I need to go outside of the M25?” he added.
Innovation growing outside London
However Cocker stressed that there is so much innovation occurring outside of London, and small growing companies should not feel like they have to move to the capital in order to succeed.
“I actively want them not to move to London; we’re a small but potentially very powerful city in Cardiff,” he said. “I can be in [London] Paddington in two hours; it’s not a valid excuse.”
Jeremy Thomas, senior manager at KPMG Cardiff, said: “Cardiff Start will hopefully reduce the brain drain out of Cardiff to other major conurbations and attract and retain talented entrepreneurs and students to base themselves here.
"In the long term, initiatives like Cardiff Start will help to secure Wales’ economic future. The digital, technology, biotechnology and creative media sectors are the future for the country and their growth will take up the slack caused by the decline of our more traditional manufacturing and heavy industry sectors.”
As a corporate sponsor, KPMG will work with the initiative to help start-ups understand any legal, tax and financial related barriers they come across in the early days of growth.
“While the established clusters of London and Cambridge tend to get the headlines, we need to start to think of the UK as one big cluster of entrepreneurs, investors and advisors,” added Tim Kay, lead of KPMG’s new Tech Growth Team.
“The different backgrounds and skills of these clusters, if combined, can drive the UK to the forefront of innovations and business creative.”
The idea of a start-up community network has been also taken on by neighbouring city, Swansea, which is hoping to launch its own Swansea Start in the near future.