At Tech Nation we’re creating a national network connecting ambitious digital tech entrepreneurs across the UK.
Whether you’re a founder looking for connections or support, a stakeholder embedded in a local community or are simply interested in what’s going on in a region, our Entrepreneur Engagement Managers (or ‘EEMs’ for short) are on the ground in towns and cities and ready to help.
In this series of articles, we’re telling you more about our EEMs’ roles and views about tech in the country. Here we speak to Gary Davidson, our Northern Ireland Entrepreneur Engagement Manager based in Belfast.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been embedded in the Northern Irish tech ecosystem for the past few years, offering guidance around the benefits of R&D tax credits. It’s a fantastic scheme available to support innovation within startups and scaleups, and sometimes it can be the difference between keeping the lights on.
I’m witnessing so much innovation in our ecosystem, which makes me want to do more to help it – and that’s why I joined Tech Nation. I love witnessing open innovation become reality, and I’d do everything in my power to help entrepreneurs scale their journeys. I’ve been called a ‘matchmaker’ or the ‘fixer’ – I’ll take that as a compliment!
What wins have you had since starting? What impact have they made?
I wouldn’t call them wins; I’d say I’m just doing my role as a ‘connector’. One thing I love doing is connecting dots; I always go into conversations thinking about what connections I can make to support a founder’s scaling journey. Sometimes that might be potential clients, NI/UK-based investors, or later-stage founders.
A personal goal for me in 2020 is connecting with more UK/US-based investors interested in Northern Ireland dealflow; NI has a lack of capital at the scaling point, and I’m keen to work with our existing ecosystem to showcase our tech talent to create more interest globally.
Have you met any exciting companies?
Northern Ireland has a strong startup culture with new companies emerging all the time, especially in fintech thanks to the new Danske Bank Fintech Hub based in the heart of Belfast.
One of the most notable and exciting startups I’ve met to date is Jonathan Black at Blockception. He’s a young tech entrepreneur in his 20s who’s involved in the Minecraft space, managing a team all over the world remotely from Derry. It’s hard to believe Jonathan started formulating his business idea in his early teens – he’s a real success story to come from Northern Ireland.
What challenges are founders facing in your region?
Every conversation with a local tech entrepreneur ends with discussing challenges around access to capital and talent. Northern Ireland is lucky to have a growing VC network with funds such as Clarendon Fund Managers, Techstart NI, Cordovan Capital and Crescent Capital.
However, scaling companies still look outward to London or the US for larger investments due to the lack of an angel network here. Innovation within Northern Ireland is growing every year and needs to be fostered to further strengthen our competitiveness at a global level and, more importantly, showcase Northern Ireland’s tech scene. I’ll do everything in my power to make sure local tech entrepreneurs feel connected with the wider tech UK network.