4 min read
Meet Gary Davidson: our Northern Ireland Entrepreneur Engagement Manager
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 have been embedded in the local tech ecosystem for the past few years, offering guidance around the benefits of R&D tax credits. It’s a fantastic scheme available to innovative startups and sometimes can be the difference between keeping the lights on.
Living in Northern Ireland all my life has allowed me to truly understand our local pain points. I’ve been welcomed into one of the most exciting co-working spaces in Belfast (Ormeau Baths) and have developed strong relationships with key stakeholders while nurturing a passion for helping others.
I honestly love witnessing open innovation become reality and I’d do everything in my power to help entrepreneurs scale on their exciting journeys. Startups have named me as 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 ‘matchmaker’. One thing that I love doing is connecting dots, always going into conversations thinking how I can help entrepreneurs. Being potentially able to connect entrepreneurs with powerful stakeholders across the UK is a powerful function. In my time here I’ve made introductions for companies such as GoFyt, 3rd Digital, Bluesona, The Floow (in Yorkshire) and more.
I even had a shoutout on the Best of Belfast podcast 24 minutes in. It mentions an introduction I made for GoFyt, one that came at a pivotal moment as they were finding it difficult to survive. The introduction I made for them, and investment they secured around that time, changed their fortune.
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 there.
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 providers such as Clarendon Fund Managers and Techstart NI. 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.