Capitalising on Cardiff’s tech boom

Cardiffoffersaskilledworkforceandfundingfortechcompanieslooking forlike-minded innovators.

Once the biggest coal exporting port in the world, Cardiff has transformed itself in recent years from being an economy reliant on industrial production to a booming and shiny digital tech hub.

According to Tech Nation’s A Bright Tech Future report on jobs and skills, published in the summer, the Welsh capital is considered to be one of the fastest growing tech hubs inthe UK. As of 2017, there were more than 26,000 workers in the city’s digital economy, with 21,500 in digital tech roles across all sectors, which accounts for just under half the number of people employed in digital tech throughout Wales.

Importantly, demand for Python developers in the city has grown over 3,000 per cent since 2015 and for data scientists and devops engineers has roughly tripled.

Growth is being driven in part by Cardiff’s impressive quality of life and affordablecost of living. Separate researchfrom Tech Nation – the latesteditionof its annual report on the state of tech inthe UK – foundthat 71 per cent of startup foundersand tech professionals believe these factorsmake the city an ideal place to start a business.

Simon Thelwall-Jones, who heads the technology ventures team at theDevelopment Bank of Wales, explains:”As an equity cluster, Cardiff is a real tech hotspot with a thriving business community that isattractingthe attention of innovative and high-growth companies.

“Atthe Development Bank webelievetheright funding for high-growthtechcompaniesisessential,particularly whenlooking to build traction,commercialiseproducts and attract talent. As along-terminvestor,our equityfundingcanmakeall thedifference.”

The Development Bank of Wales works with companies from their startup stage through to exit, offering entry equity investment of between £50,000 and £2 million, and up to a maximum of £5 million per round.

The aim is to give them a competitiveadvantageand create long-term value.An example of a business thatreceived its support is OpenGenius,the Cardiff-based company behindthe task management app Ayoa, whoseprevioussoftwaresolutionswerereliedon by employees at Apple, Microsoftand Disney, to name a few.

In2017,it became the first Welsh company to be accepted on the London Stock Exchange’s accelerator training and networking programme. Atthe start of thisyear,it announcedit had received£1.1million in equity investment,including £500,000 fromthe Development Bank of Wales.

OpenGenius’founder ChrisGriffithsbelieves the investment will help the company expand its international customer base. The company also has aspirations to float on the stock market in the near future.

According to the British Business Bank’s small business equity tracker, there were 30 equity deals made in Cardiff in 2018. This is more than in Manchester and third behind Edinburgh and Cambridge in terms of the number of deals made outside of London.

The figures are cause for optimism. But to capitaliseonCardiff’s tech boom, there needs to be continuedfinancialsupporttohelpinnovation flourish, and attract and retain talent, hence the importance of the Development Bank of Wales.

Mr Thelwall-Jones concludes: “Attracting more venture capital, corporate and specialist investors to Wales, and supporting the development of equity clusters is what we’re all about.

“Wales really has got it all: the talent, the funding and the ambition to succeed. In fact, the number of equity investors operating in Wales between 2017 and 2019 increased by 350 per cent. That’s the highest increase inany area.”