An innovation agency funded by the Welsh government has enrolled 12 tech startups in a new programme designed to stop talented entrepreneurs from leaving the country.
Innovation Point’s Digital Dozen – Wales’s first national tech accelerator – offers founders six months of mentorship and networking to help them secure their next funding round.
“We saw lots of new tech startups coming through in Wales, but no dedicated accelerator programme to support them,” says Colin Batten, who runs the initiative. “What we’d started to see were some of the ambitious innovators going to accelerators outside of Wales.”
Batten, who previously worked as an associate director at techUK, says the “magnetic force of London” comes with “weighty running costs and pretty weighty requests for investment”.
“Increasingly, I think we’re seeing that it’s possible [to grow] outside of London,” he says. “In Cardiff there’s so much support around here now, both from government and the commercial sectors.”
The programme, which launches today, connects startups with investors and entrepreneurs, such as Anthony Rose’s Seedlegals, Jag Singh, Nauta Capital and White Horse Capital, who have funded and built successful technology businesses in the UK.
“We’ve pulled together 20 plus mentors, predominantly from outside of Wales, including serial entrepreneurs who’ve been there and done it, as well as a whole bunch of VCs and angels, to build relationships and really help to open markets for them,” says Batten.
The Digital Dozen includes Properr, a “proptech” firm that aims to simplify how people buy residential property, Geolang, a cybersecurity firm offering information management solutions and University Cribs, a student accommodation service.
Unlike some programmes, the startups participating in Digital Dozen aren’t housed together. “We’re running it as a virtual accelerator to allow people to keep doing their jobs but fast track at the same time,” says Batten.
A board of seven entrepreneurs and investors whittled down the pool of 60 applicants to 15, who were then interviewed before the final 12 were selected. “It was a pretty competitive process,” adds Batten. “But I think what it does shows is that there’s a depth in Wales’s tech scene.”