THE WELSH VALLEYS TAKING OVER THE SILICON VALLEY

By Justin Pike, Founder and CTO, myPINpad

The world’s hotspot of technological revolution, better known as Silicon Valley,seems to generate an endless supply of innovation.

From Hewlett-Packard to Google, from Apple to Intel, the San Francisco Bay has been the cradle of so many companies that define our modern life. The emergence of successful enterprises and huge wealth in the area has been the result of constant investment and risk-taking businesses’ appetite since the end of World War II.

A unique mix of academia, private sector and US government research investment, coupled with a population of entrepreneurs has created the oldest high-tech community on Earth, which is uniquely provisioned with a steady stream of well-trained engineers, researchers, business people and marketers.

It may seem incredible but on average 51 new tech companies are launched every month[1], but while success is highly admired, there are others who ‘don’t make it’and do not hit the headlines. The truth is that three out of every four start-ups fail and many never attract funding beyond the initial stage[2].There are also 6,282 seed, or angel-funded, start-ups in San Francisco that have gone at least a year without raising a Series A round[3].

Nonetheless, the environment has positioned itself as a breeding ground where serial entrepreneurship, creativity, talent, knowledge and good ideas boosted innovations in all possible levels.

Yet, Silicon Valley is not alone as a hub of technological innovation and as the established ‘homeland’ begins the inevitable consolidation process, smallstart-upsare challenging the giants around the world, including in South Wales, UK.

As a founder of a company with its roots and developers in Cardiff, I can say that, even though small on a global scale, Wales is a smart country that takes every opportunity it has to optimise resources, designs and processes.

Justin Pike
Justin Pike

Strong in both landscape and culture, the principality first made its mark on the world in Britain’s industrial revolution. The hard won coal that was mined from the Valleys of south Wales fuelled the heavy industry and cotton mills that made Britain the dominant economic power in the World.

The post-industrial decline was long and painful. Yet, today South Wales is emerging as a tech force to be reckoned. It boasts 28,000 people in digital employment and it is one of the top five UK’s fastest growing “digital clusters” alongside Bournemouth, Liverpool, Inner London, and Brighton and Hove.[4]

To be more precise, digital businesses in the area increased by 87% between 2010 and 2013, compared to a UK average of 53%, and, in the last two years, 18% of new companies formed in the region were digital companies, compared to a UK average of 15%[5]. The majority of these digital companies are based in Cardiff or Swansea and 98% expect their revenue to grow next year[6].

According to a recent report published by the Welsh Government, employment in the sector is forecast to grow at 1.37% per annum up to 2020, over twice as fast as the average employment growth. Within Wales, Cardiff is currently one of the top 3 priority sectors with the highest average weekly earnings (£611), significantly above the figure for the whole economy (£539).[7]

The combination of job opportunities, salaries and quality of life is helping to drive growth in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry.. In addition, the community is small enough to be interconnected, influential and supportive, but large enough to allow for the freedom to develop, expand and learn from the huge range of related industries in the immediate area.

With several major universities in and around the city, the wealth of talent is growing. Meet-ups, tech events, talks and conferences are all taking place in the city, giving related, but wildly diverse businesses a chance to meet, chat, share thoughts and create business connections.

The cluster has a wide range of talent focused on HealthTech; Data Management & Analytics; and, E-commerce, as well as great TravelTech, games development and FinTech companies. These are some of the key sectors that will keep on developing nonstop in the near future.

For instance, a recent report by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that the UK’s cyber security sector alone is worth around £2.8 billion and forecast to be worth over £3.4 billion by 2017[8].

Cybersecurity is not only about having an antivirus. Nowadays, we work, play, shop, socialise, bank, and pay taxes online. We save our music, photographs and personal data in the cloud. We communicate by text, voice and video online. There is a whole cyber infrastructure behind it that needs to be secure in all possible angles.

In a rapidly changing world, especially in payments, mobile devices are becoming a ubiquitous tool on which to perform numerous tasks not least making payments. In the case of myPINpad,we care about making the payments environment as safe as possible. Our solution allows for secure digital commerce transactions on mobile phones, tablets and personal computers via simple PIN authentication; in essence we deliver secure authentication to such transactions on what have historically been unsecure devices.

We based myPINpadin Cardiff mainly because my business partner and I are from Wales, but also because of the fantastic support we receive from the Welsh governmental agencies, both at a national and local level. We found in Wales a supportive community for technology companies which has helped us grow and expand to overseas market.

We have now operations in Canary Wharf, Australia and China too. And we still believe the Welsh Valleys has great potential and will continue to realize this in the years to come.

[1]http://www.wired.com/2014/04/no-exit/

[2]http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/aug/17/silicon-valley-the-truth-about-living-with-the-it-crowd

[3]http://www.wired.com/2014/04/no-exit/

[4]http://www.techcityuk.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Tech%20Nation%202015.pdf

[5]http://www.walesonline.co.uk/business/business-news/tech-city-report-hails-south-8673252

[6]http://www.techcityuk.com/south-wales/

[7]http://gov.wales/docs/det/publications/140930icten.pdf

[8]https://www.gov.uk/government/news/welsh-secretary-urges-businesses-to-seek-technology-strategy-board-support-to-boost-growth-and-innovation

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