One of Northern Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs, Brian Conlon, Chief Executive and founder of First Derivatives, was the keynote speaker at the 15th annual InterTradeIreland Venture Capital conference held in Belfast today.
The conference this year concentrated on the theme of ‘Growing Successful Businesses’, and brought together an audience of more than 300 delegates comprising entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business angels, other investors and start-ups who may be seeking investment.
Attendees heard about the meteoric rise of Newry-based First Derivatives which was set up in 1996 with a starting capital of just £5,000 – 20 years later the company is now one of only two plcs in Northern Ireland. Under the watchful eye of Brian, the company floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2002 and is now the largest publicly quoted technology company on the island of Ireland.
Success like this doesn’t happen by accident and Brian shared his valuable experiences of growing the company which now employs more than 1,500, people with a keenly engaged audience. His early training as an accountant and knowledge of global financial markets gave him the confidence and experience to guide the company through its early years.
Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister, Jonathan Bell, who officially opened the conference, said: “The Venture Capital conference continues to be highly relevant for the development of the Northern Ireland economy. High growth businesses are a key driver of economic growth, not just because they generate significant employment, but also because their dynamism stimulates competition and innovation throughout the economy as a whole.
“Supporting ambitious entrepreneurs to develop innovative start-ups is critical to our future prosperity. InterTradeIreland is providing businesses with an opportunity to access investment and increase their propensity for growth. Working together we can foster, develop and enhance our reputation for entrepreneurial success.”
Margaret Hearty, Director of Programmes and Business Services at InterTradeIreland said; “Starting the process of securing Venture Capital funding can seem very daunting and overwhelming. The latest quarterly Business Monitor Report has revealed that almost half of companies (45%) felt that they were in a good position to apply for funding, but 77% had no knowledge of other options open to them including venture capital, crowd funding and private equity.
“With so many different opportunities now available the conference aims to highlight the range of funding options, hear from companies who have benefitted from some of them, discuss how best to access them and offer practical advice on how to ensure that a potential funding option or investor is the right match. The vibrant and buoyant venture Capital and Business Angel sector is a positive sign of a growing modern economy with research consistently showing that Venture Capital backed businesses achieve stronger turnover and profit than firms without.”
InterTradeIreland offers SMEs a number of equity supports including masterclasses in pitching, business planning workshops, regional equity advisory clinics and the very successful All-island Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition which was also launched for 2016 at the Venture Capital conference.
Another local contributor to the conference, and past Seedcorn regional winner, was Philip McAleese, CEO of successful Newtownards-based cycling technology company See.Sense, who shared his experience of two successful crowd-funding campaigns on Kickstarter. His second product, ICON, met its funding goal in under a day and went on to achieve nearly 1,000 backers and more than £80,000 in just 30 days. See.Sense has gone on to win multiple business and design awards and now employs 10 people.
Margaret finished, “The economic outlook is bright with innovation and availability of Venture Capital at very high levels. The conference is an excellent way for smaller, start-up companies to ‘get in front of’ the right people and has once again proved extremely popular within the investment community, having been booked out well in advance. With business confidence continuing to grow, innovation is blossoming, leading to the development of attractive entrepreneurial prospects for primed venture capitalists.”
The InterTradeIreland Venture Capital conference was kindly supported by Crescent Capital, Mills Selig and Kernel Capital.
For more information on the InterTradeIreland Venture Capital conference, including presentations from the event, please visit http://www.intertradeireland.com/vcc