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The Unedited Version This week we have a very special guest blog from Aaron Taylor, the CEO of GoPrezo. He currently has a column in the Belfast Telegraph and was kind enough to mention us in one of his pieces. Here you have the full in edited version!

The Last Word...


The Prime Minister’s conference at Titanic quarter seemed to be a good event. It captured a lot of attention, not least media attention. I happened to be walking past the event and somehow ended up on BBC News 24 talking about local technology and investment. Always good, but a heads up for a shave wouldn’t have gone a miss - I looked like a cross between Worzel Gummidge and Wolverine, surely the look for any aspiring entrepreneur!

What’s clear at the moment is that there’s a big appetite for what goes on in Northern Ireland - lots of goodwill to see us grow and develop economically as well as politically. A recent example being the incredible response given to the 20 local companies who took part in the recent Trade Mission to Silicon Valley. Organised by Belfast City Counsel and Invest NI, companies such as VenueBooker, Sian’s Plan and the Brewbot making company Cargo, are grasping their chance to display their wares on the big stage.

It really is the season for going out and making the case to global investors right now. David Cameron came here to sell to inward investors, then George Osborne went East to sell to the Chinese and in Washington, Ted Cruz tried to sell something that no one wanted to buy, unless you were a Tea Party loyalist. Anyway, back to these shores.

When it comes to fund raising, combining ambition with absolute faith in the quality of your product is key to getting investors to part with their money (that and a shiny story about what makes you amazing and why they should hand over their hard earned cash). It’s something that we have to do as entrepreneurs, and it’s great when organisations - and Prime Ministers - can do it and do it well.

Northern Ireland has got so much going on in right now. Our cultural, creative and technological output stands up against anything happening anywhere else. But as with all back slapping and bear hugging, usually an elephant lurks merrily somewhere in the room.

At first glance, getting access to capital, especially in a region that has been defined, as being in Market Failure would appear to be everything. But is it really? In reality, money is simply a commodity. You should be able get it from anywhere. The key thing is getting it from the right people who can add value. What Northern Ireland needs now more than anything is not more money. There’s a number of funds open or opening shortly including - the NISPO Fund (with NISPO II on the way), the Co-Investment Fund, the recent funds won by Crescent Capital and Kernel - but what we need now is to focus on networks and gaining visibility in export markets, be that for sales, investment or partnerships. We need people who can open doors, guide, cajole, advise and otherwise raise the ambitions and capability of local businesses to become major global players.

So when the Prime Minister does his bit to bring companies into Northern Ireland, I happily applaud him. But a part of me wants a similar amount of effort to go into pushing local companies into the world-leading tech hubs like Silicon Valley and New York. Invest NI do a great job on this with their teams throughout the Globe along with NISP Connect, who have some impressive plans in place for this next few years, but ultimately until companies take the reins and force people to take notice, it’s going to continue to be a long process.

GoPrezzo is the first Northern Ireland company to go into the RocketSpace Accelerator in San Francisco, one of the top three accelerators in the US. I would love to hear more local accents in the building. Networks, more than money, made the difference for us. If resources got ploughed into this area it would make the difference to dozens of other tech businesses. Great companies like Taggled, another company currently taking part in the Trade Mission, who just need the platform for visibility on a global scale because their product and their content is awesome and as everyone knows, money ALWAYS follows awesome.

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Here at Taggled, the guys are in week three of Movember!

Be sure to support them over on their sponsor page http://uk.movember.com/team/1346461
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