Digital

10 Reasons why DellWorld 2015 was Awesome!!

Dell senior team on stage during the press conference, answering questions from the audience

Dell senior team on stage during the press conference, answering questions from the audience

On the last morning of DellWorld 2015, Mona Charif, Dell’s VP of Marketing & Communications, asked me during the Influencers’ breakfast what was the one thing that had surprised me most over the course of my couple of days at DellWorld. It was such an easy question to answer. Without any hesitation I answered that it was the quality of the Dell team & the way that their CEO, Michael Dell, is adored by everyone inside & outside of their organisation.

All the other bloggers have written plenty about the technology they saw at DellWorld 2015 and the EMC deal so I’m going to take a slightly different tack & tell you instead my 10 reasons for why being there this year was so awesome:

  1. Meeting lots of other geeks (about 8,500 of them – but in friendly Austin, Texas (home of SXSW) instead of more impersonal Las Vegas which is where many of the other big US conferences take place). Austin is where the Dell mothership is based & it’s great to see the company putting so much back into the local economy.
    In a De Lorean on Back to the Future Day with a hover board - awesome!

    In a De Lorean on Back to the Future Day with a hover board – awesome!

    I also got to sit in & be photographed in a De Lorean car (made by an American in Belfast I might add!) on Back to the Future Day, with a hover board – how could anything be better than that! Awesome.

  2. Meeting Dell CEO Michael Dell, telling him a story & getting to take a selfie with him as a result. What was the story? It was the one about how my friend & former colleague Tim Ramsdale persuaded our mutual employer to buy a Dell server in London in 1989, which wasn’t as easy at the time as you might think.   What did Michael Dell say? – He said in that case you were one of my very first London customers… Sorta makes the rest of it worthwhile doesn’t it…Michael Dell doesn’t really do selfies but after that story it was quite easy – & who can blame him. In my humble opinion & as a person who has started a number of companies in my time I was humbled to meet a man who started his business at the age of 19 & who is still heading it up at 50 – and not just heading it up but is clearly everything from commander in chief to best joker on the block.
    Selfie with Dell CEO Michael Dell

    Selfie with Dell CEO Michael Dell

    Michael Dell is on message across all parts of his business, completely engaging whatever he’s discussing, confident in Dell’s future (just listen to him talk about why he bought Dell back out of public ownership in 2013) & making a massive statement of intent re Dell’s recent purchase of EMC;

  3. Finding out how many members of the Dell senior and middle management team are Irish – that made me very happy & indeed is awesome;
  4. Getting a glimpse early doors of some of the innovations that Dell has in the pipeline via the Whisper Suite demonstration – but sadly I’m under an NDA so I can’t say too much about that. Suffice to say that I loved what Dell is planning on Internet of Things…;
  5. Meeting Dell’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Elizabeth Gore, & finding out we have a lot in common – although Elizabeth is both far more glamorous & far more diplomatic than I am.
    Entrepreneur in Residence x 2

    Entrepreneur in Residence x 2

    We decided that both of us have a “licence to meddle” which is really quite nice. Here’s the link to Elizabeth’s Huffington Post piece about what an Entrepreneur in Residence actually is, in case you’re interested – and yes – she is awesome.  In a strange turn of fate I’m looking forward to meeting Elizabeth’s Dell predecessor Ingrid Vanderveldt at Digital Week Ireland in West Cork next week – it really is a small geek world.

  6. Being at Pitchslam & experiencing Michael Dell turning up last minute as one of the judging panel as a nice surprise for the 5 startup entrants. Honestly, it was lovely of him to do that but if I’d been pitching I’d have died – right there on the spot. Well done to the winners, Goal Control – proof that with a good pitch in the right place you can still win despite pitching soccer to an American audience & having the worst Twitter account on the planet. Must be some lessons in there for all of us;
  7. Observing Americans at play at the John Mayer concert & jamboree on Night 1 of the conference – that was so much fun.
    Cupcake lorry at the John Mayer concert

    Cupcake lorry at the John Mayer concert

    Thank goodness I ignored my long suffering mother in law & didn’t bother packing a dress… Last year’s entertainment was Duran Duran – I’m saying nothing.

  8. Getting up close & personal with the Dell team – universally & consistently fabulous & what a great way to showcase them – put them in front of 8,500 members of your community, customers & partners for 3 days. Here’s a pic of two of my favourites – Gloria Cedeno & Ana Coreas, both are from Panama & both work in the marketing & comms team at Dell, Ana in Austin & Gloria back in Panama as part of the LATAM team.

    Gloria & Ana

    Gloria & Ana

  9. Finding out about all the stuff that Dell does around the outside of core business – I signed up for the entrepreneurship, women in tech & edtech streams at DellWorld but when there I heard about so much more that the CEO & company does from Michael Dell’s work as the United Nation Foundation’s first Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship to the work being done with SMEs. Some of it could be called CSR but again there’s so much more. Also – I stayed in Austin for 3 days after DellWorld & everyone I talked to in town from taxi drivers to bar owners (you can immediately see how I roll!) was full of praise for their local big employer.
  10. Attending the Women in IT lunch with 240 other women and hearing from Carey Lohrenz about her experience as a woman in a traditionally male world – she’s a former fighter pilot in the US Navy.  It was really special to spend time with so many other women in IT & the air was buzzing with conversations, and quite a lot of whooping in response to some of Carey’s very amusing comments.  Check her out – she’s awesome.
  11. Receiving confirmation that all the customer facing things we ever did at Learning Pool in the early days were right – from holding an annual conference that was all about connecting customers & showcasing our own team to listening to Michael Dell ask a Pitchslam pitcher this week – But has this ever been done in another industry? & wanting to shout out from the front row – Yes – Learning Pool did that for the online learning space back in 2006…Reinforcement from an industry giant sure feels good! Ok – DellWorld 2015 had a few more delegates than Learning Pool Live but I’m still certain they copied a few of our ideas…

I’ve been a Dell customer for the last 26 years so I really enjoyed being at DellWorld 2015 & learning more about how Dell develops products and partnerships.  The 3 days were informative, interesting & fun.  If you get a chance to attend DellWorld 2016 my advice is Go – you won’t regret it.

Disclaimer: I attended DellWorld 2015 as a guest of Dell & Dell paid for my travel & accommodation.  All of the above views, however, are my own.

Future e-learning trends – my top 3 predictions – or Learning the Norwegian Way

Our fully engaged REN Norge Showday audience

Our fully engaged REN Norge Showday audience

Yesterday I joined the Research & Educational Network Norge e-learning Showday in Oslo to deliver a 30 minute talk on e-learning trends. The event was organised by Innovasjon Norge and hosted by DNB bank. Yes – a bank. But a bank unlike any other I’ve ever been in. It’s in the centre of Oslo and it’s a new banking headquarter housing over 4,000 employees who’ve been brought together under a single roof from 17 previous locations.

Even the crockery is cool in this Bank

Even the crockery is cool in this Bank

But wait – there’s more. In Norway citizens embrace their banks and they also seem to like their banking colleagues. Banks are seen as a positive part of the economy and they do useful things. The DNB HQ in Oslo feels more like a high end accelerator. One that’s been thoughtfully designed & then kitted out with gorgeous furniture and sculptures and artworks. A big bright café in the centre where employees and visitors congregate to chat and have coffee or lunch. Cool Scandinavian egg chairs, acres of blond wood and even hip but matter of fact Figgjo Flint crockery.

Millions of electric candles in a tiny dark mirrored room

Millions of electric candles in a tiny dark mirrored room

Some whimsy is provided in the form of a small mirrored room containing an installation from a Japanese artist. Our host, Trond Markussen, kindly closed Ollie Gardener & I in there & waited for us patiently outside. We stood in hushed anticipation in the darkness and oohed and aahed as thousands of electric candles lit up.

The conference was affordable to attend (about £100). It started at 8am and finished about 2.30pm (Norway has an early start culture with many people beginning their working day at 7am). The programme was a mix of keynotes from the sector, including mine, and 5 minute pitches from the 20 or so companies with exhibition stands in the room. Everything was completely relevant to the theme of the day and we finished up with a quick telephone vote from everyone in the room for their favourite pitch – no judges or elaborate application processes required. Our hosts announced the 3 winning companies and presented them each with a bottle of wine (a valued prize in Norway given the cost of alcohol!) The day managed to be both educational and commercial and the 180 attendees stayed in the same lecture theatre all day. No comings & goings. No-one left early or rushed off after they’d spoken. The exhibition stands were around the perimeter of the lecture theatre and we had lots and lots of short networking breaks. Everyone was chatting to each other and it was hard to tell who was buying and who was selling. People clearly enjoyed catching up and chatting with colleagues they don’t often see in real life – Norway’s a big and sparsely populated country (it’s roughly the same size as Italy but with a population smaller than Scotland). The big corporates (IKT Norway, Statoil, Evry) stopped by with the startups and SMEs and it all felt collaborative rather than competitive.

Passionate presenting from Ollie

Passionate presenting from Ollie

I was there with Ollie Gardener of Noddlepod, a social learning platform that I recently angel invested in. It’s like a Slack for learning communities. Another member of the Noddlepod team, Charles Jennings, was also in town. Charles was addressing a group of senior HR Managers about 70/20/10 in a different event two buildings away.

The loft in Oslo where we're holding Noddlepod's 3 Sept event

The loft in Oslo where we’re holding Noddlepod’s 3 Sept event

All of us will be back in Oslo in September because we’re hosting a free networking event that Charles will be speaking at on 3 September. You can register to attend via the link here

I talked about where I think e-learning is going next and my slides are shared below. I finished up with my top 3 predictions for learning over the near term – 24 months – any further out than that is too hard to predict in the EdTech space with the speed technology is moving at. Here they are for anyone that’s interested:

  1. A move from MOOCs to SPOOCs with some new and interesting business models emerging and learning & development teams shifting to become profit centres instead of cost centres;
  2. A dramatic increase in the use of wearables and the Internet of Things (smart watches, smart helmets, iBeacons to be everywhere – send away for your developer kits now!);
  3. Much more usage of mobile and social plus the rise of niche Communities of Practice (check out Learning Pool’s new open source authoring tool Adapt to create beautiful mobile ready content, take a look at Noddlepod if you’re a corporate university or business school, have another go with Knowledge Hub if you work in or around the UK public sector).
With the wonderful women who translated my rambling first from English to Norwegian and then to sign language - wow!

With the wonderful women who translated my rambling first from English to Norwegian and then to sign language – wow!

I nearly didn’t go on stage at all because the two very lovely women who were doing sign language interpretation of all the presentations on the day warned me that I’d better have prepared a well structured and clear talk…I kept them each in view in the corner of my right eye and as long as I could see their hands moving I knew I was doing ok.

Well earned pints for Ollie and Charles at the end of a productive day

Well earned pints for Ollie and Charles at the end of a productive day

So what else did I learn in my 2 days in Norway? Citizens truly have a real say in what happens in their country & democracy can actually work, breakfast is the finest and most lavish meal of the day, big Norwegian corporates do seem to genuinely care about corporate social responsibility and many of them see EdTech as a way to bring about real and fast change in the 3rd world by educating and upskilling children and young people, a pint will set you back about a tenner, public transport can work smoothly, airlines can provide free on board wifi if they choose to, Oslo is guarding its green belt fiercely by creating satellite towns linked to the capital by underground trains, being next to water breathing fresh air and seeing lots of trees is good for the soul, oh – and Ollie Gardener is lucky enough to have very cool parents …

Thanks to Trond Markussen of DNB and Lisbeth Smestad of Innovasjon Norge for inviting me to speak & for bringing together such a great bunch of people & projects for a day. Thanks also to those lovely people who responded to my Twitter call re their favourite future learning trends – Andrew Jacobs, Denise Hudson-Lawson, Megan Peppin, Mark Smitham, Julie Dodd, Matt Walton, Mary Loftus, Joyce Seitzinger and last but not least, Steve Wheeler. Thank you all.

If anyone has any comments to make about near term future predictions on learning trends or indeed about Norway then I’d be delighted to receive them so please do comment below.

Digital Future Gazing – 10 predictions for 2013

Breakfast with bright young things in the Soho Hotel

Yesterday I attended the 4th annual Digital Trends forecast presentation from digital PR agencies 33 Digital & Hotwire in the achingly trendy Soho Hotel.  It’s a world I don’t often stray into – marketeers, PR people, social media agencies, brands, influencing – inhabited by bright young things and beautiful people.  So what was I doing there?  I went because Peter Sigrist, MD at 33 Digital is part of my Twittergang & I wanted to see him present and also because who isn’t interested in future gazing & horizon scanning – especially when someone else is putting up the skittles & inviting everyone else to knock them down.

As it turns out, the bright young things were also well informed, fun and sincere & the event was very enjoyable.  I considered what impact the 10 predictions may have on my own public sector world – and my musings on this are below.  You can access the report in it’s entirety here www.digitaltrendsreport.com – it also contains some very cool b & w photographs.

Peter wants to encourage lively debate about the forecasts so feel free to join in on Twitter.  Use #hw33trends

  1. Internal Social Networks – yep – I like this one.  We’ve been using Yammer for years at Learning Pool & we know many of our public sector customers are trying to get started with something similar.  Our experience has been that it helps our dispersed team keep track of each other & it savagely reduces internal email.  In bigger organisations it allows everyone to communicate with each other on a more level playing field and it lets senior teams understand their own organisations better.  The challenge next will be to see if internal social networks will foster new ways to achieve business objectives and even sales.  We’ll see.  For anyone starting out with an internal social network, make it easy for your team to use & be patient.  There’s bound to be a few mistakes along the way but everyone learns and your organisation becomes more resilient as a result.
  2. Data Porn – the age of the data geek is finally here, Big Data has arrived.  The PR agencies are excited about the release of the 2011 Census data in early 2013.  This time around the data will be there in a format where everyone can access it & slice & dice until the cows come home.  What does this mean for the UK public sector?  A recent Policy Exchange report estimates that fully capturing the big data opportunity to drive up efficiency and cut out waste in the UK public sector could be worth a total of between £16 billion and £33 billion
    a year.  What’s keeping you folks?  For anyone out there who’d like to know more about what Big Data is, there’s a new e-learning course in the Learning Pool catalogue that we developed with the Cabinet Office & explains Big Data for public sector beginners.
  3. Digital Health – in 2011 global healthcare costs totalled £3.8 trillion according to McKinsey & in the US costs were 20% of GDP.  This prediction is about government encouraging people to measure & monitor their own health data to ultimately help them to help themselves to become more healthy.  I think whether we like it or not this is definitely on the cards.  I heard Nick Seddon of think tank Reform talk about this idea at length at July’s CIPFA conference and given that he was previously at Circle Healthcare he probably has a good idea about the way things are moving.  On a more positive note, people these days want to take charge of their own health.  We’ve seen that in our own team during 2012 with a number of people finally kicking the cigarette habit & the proliferation of bicycle purchases.

    Peter Sigrist, MD of 33 Digital, revealing the first 5 predictions

  4. When businesses learned to be good – I like this one too & definitely agree that this is on an upward & escalating trajectory.  This topic even formed part of the CBI’s recent annual conference which included an entire panel session titled “Growing with Society – the need for new Business Models” led by Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman.  Modern businesses are becoming more transparent, more connected (and in a way where serendipity starts to play more of a role) and more community focused – both internally & externally.  For the public sector, I predict that the coming years will see a complete blurring between government, the private sector and the not for profit space as a new type of organisation emerges to deliver services to citizens.
  5. Smaller can be better – the rise of the niche social network and a move away from Facebook & Twitter.  This one is all about creating communities of interest where the measure is not the size of the community but the degree of engagement.  It’s what we’ve been doing for a few years at Learning Pool with our own specialist Learning & Development community and this is a fairly well developed idea within the public sector with many niche Communities of Practice available in recognised places like the LGA’s Knowledge Hub.  Peter talked about examples of “sub compact publishing” such as Bobbie Johnson’s “Matter” project – very interesting and described as – basically the opposite of all the received wisdom about online publishing — they only publish long pieces, they don’t publish very often, and they expect people to pay for content.
  6. Sentient World – this is where it starts to get a bit scary.  Social media gave interested parties the ability to listen to what we say; the sentient world will give them the ability to see what we’re doing.  Foursquare has launched a service for business this past week and one of their original co-founders is apparently working on a version of tweetdeck for Foursquare.  One for the public sector to sit back & think about I believe as we watch the early adopters.  Sometimes called the Internet of Things, to the layman it’s sensors & transmitters within inanimate objects connected via the internet – fridges that order more milk, shoes that can tell you how to get home, a lamp that when you switch it on in London lights your sister’s lamp in Co Tyrone so that she knows you’re at home, mirrors in shops that tell you more about the coat you’re trying on, thermostats that learn which rooms you don’t go into so they leave them colder.  I loved the story about the Fitbit & the leaderboard & this is something we will definitely be trying out in Learning Pool as the New Year kicks off.  Who can walk 1,000 miles first?  My bet is on Eddie Ryce.
  7. The Rise of Storytelling – every FTSE100 company now has a community management team.  Two years ago none of them did.  This is about using compelling stories with a beginning, a middle and an end to bring audiences to you, get them to stick around & ultimately to buy more stuff from you.  I see lots of examples of public sector organisations pushing out stories about the places they are in & the people they serve.
  8. The Un-Boxing of TV – yep – agree with this.  I can’t watch tv any more without Twitter banter running in parallel & everyone I know is the same.  Can’t think of a public sector application of this one as all that is televised is council meetings & I don’t think anyone watches them anyway.  Maybe use this medium & idea to push out campaigns about public health or to encourage more engagement in local democracy?  I have a horrific metric for you however – 70% of trending topics on Twitter are TV related 😦
  9. Selling’s from Mars, engaging’s from Venus – remember that you can only manage what you measure.  It’s easy to measure sales.  Engagement isn’t as easy to measure.  We had a good laugh about Twitter campaigns that have backfired & one that we discussed was the Waitrose campaign that asked people why they shop at Waitrose – cue hilarious results (Harrods is too far to go midweek, because I was once in the Holloway Rd branch & heard a dad say “put down that papaya Orlando”, Asda doesn’t stock peacock/unicorn feed, if you buy a full tank of helicopter fuel you get 10% off champagne and so on).  Rather than backfiring I think that campaign was a resounding success.  I think the public sector understands that if you want citizens to engage, you have to hold conversations on topics they are interested in but perhaps we don’t see enough of this happening.
  10. The User Experience of Social – this one is about thinking through the entire user experience that people have when they interact with us in more than one place.  In my opinion no-one does this right.  I’ve recently been accessing estate agent websites on my smartphone when I’m out & about & they are a curse – every last one of them.  This is about waking up to the fact that channels do not contain siloed audiences – the same people are using multi channels.  Everyone including the public sector needs to think a lot harder about UX from multiple devices & including more”helping hand services” that align service offerings & save time & energy for the user.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed yesterday’s event, even if I can’t extend the Soho Hotel breakfast to you.  I saw Jon Foster of Futuregov yesterday & we were debating whether or not local authorities really should start thinking more like brands.  We concluded that they probably should.  It’s certainly time for everyone to take better control of their conversations and interactions in a more holistic way.

As always, I look forward to your comments & your own predictions for Digital for 2013.

10 things crowdfunding investors want most from digital media investments

Tim Brundle presenting at Culturetech

There was a lot to like about last week’s CultureTECH festival held in Learning Pool’s hometown of Derry.  So typical of Derry that our city’s event managed to combine both culture + technology.  Many attendees agreed it was the culture element that elevated the festival way above the millions of other web summits that every man, woman & dog hosts.  A lovely taster of some of the magic we expect to see for 12 months during 2013 when Derry becomes the first ever UK City of Culture.

I enjoyed listening to many of the speakers on Friday (especially Andrew Dubber (who advised us to invent the future rather than trying to predict it), Fiona McAnena, Sir Nicholas Kenyon and of course lovely Ben Hammersley) but the speaker who gave me the most insight into one of the topics I’m most interested in was Tim Brundle.  Tim is Director of Innovation at the University of Ulster where over the past few years he’s made investments of between £5k & £328m in over 60 tech companies & seen returns on investment of 0.8x to 42x.  I suppose what I’m trying to say is that he knows what he’s talking about.

It’s a well known fact that everyone suddenly wants to be in digital.  According to this presentation, by the end of 2011 87% of the top 100 VC firms had digital media funds or portfolio investments.

For the purpose of this blog I’m going to share with you the 10 things Tim believes people investing through crowdfunding schemes are looking for in digital media investments.  While Tim was talking I thought about our own company and how attractive we would have been starting out if we’d been scored against these criteria.

  1. Business Model is first up and most important – people want to believe that they’re going to get money back.  Giving thought to your business model & revisiting it from time to time is something every business should do & I’ve written on this topic before.  For new businesses and teams seeking investment it’s incredibly important to spend time getting it right as a small change in your business model can make big differences in the shape of and priorities within your eventual company.
  2. Location – most people seeking a project to invest in via crowdfunding look for something that’s local to them.  With the internet I’m not sure why that would be.  Even if you’re close by you won’t be able to influence what they do – but I guess it’s something to do with local knowledge & familiarity.
  3. What Tim calls True Grit in a team.  I heard him say a few times during the course of the day that early start up success does not necessarily guarantee success in subsequent ventures and because of this crowd fund investors want to try out with newbies.
  4. Goes without saying investors look for a Smart Idea.
  5. More interesting is that they look for an idea that will generate a Big Splash.  This means something that people think can be rolled out quickly, catch on fast & generate rapid user adoption.
  6. Investors look for a product that is Beautiful – doesn’t everyone?
  7. Kentucky Windage – a term which originated in rifle shooting & is about compensating for your shot when using a hinky shotgun by trying to second guess where the bullet is going to go.  In this instance it’s about how people try to second guess what the route to market of a new product is going to be.
  8. Personalisation – people base attractiveness of the investment around what the product or idea means to them, how it appeals to them & how they imagine use of it would enrichen their lives.
  9. The product itself is quite low down in the list of considerations but crowd funding investors are interested in whether or not it appears to be Authentic and Real.
  10. The last one I like.  Does the idea or product have a Future & Enduring appeal.  Tim told us the well known story about Zhou Enlai’s take when asked about outcomes of the French Revolution 200 years earlier – of course he believed it was “too soon to tell”. 

I’ll leave you with this pic of Tim & me taken on Friday night after a fabulous day at CultureTECH.  We’re very lucky to have someone like this in and around the Northern Ireland investment scene and so accessible to companies starting out.  I know Tim has been a great help to many fledgling startup tech businesses and like me, he love, love, loves to see teams pitching.

I’ll finish by expressing my thanks to Mark Nagurski and the entire Digital Derry Action Team for giving us such a great event last week and for sealing the exciting twinning deal with London’s Tech City.

From Wall Street to Hollywood – everyone wants to be in Northern Ireland

Jay_roewe

Last week I was lucky enough to be at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC to listen to the great and the good pitching Northern Ireland as a business destination.  I was in Washington as part of the St Patrick’s Day government delegation and my role was to be part of the team promoting and celebrating Northern Ireland’s many treasures for businesses and tourists alike.

The on-the-road double act conducted these days by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is an impressive effort.  Both Ministers competently and in a single voice extol the benefits of starting or basing business in modern day Northern Ireland listing our young and well educated workforce, the fact that 60% of our population is under the age of 40, our good transport links with the rest of the world, our cost effective operating environment, our focus on the important emergent digital sectors, our high speed connectivity (especially to the US) and our soon to be highly competitive corporation tax rate.

The photo above is of Jay Roewe (Senior VP of Production from Santa Monica based HBO).  Also speaking at the event was Brian Conlon (CEO of highly successful indigenous company the Newry based First Derivatives).  Although Brian’s story is a great one, it’s Jay that I’m going to focus on in this blog – as I thought everyone might be interested in knowing the reasons he gave for selecting Northern Ireland as the place where HBO based and filmed their new series “Game of Thrones”.  Some of his reasons may come as a bit of a surprise to you.

Jay was at pains to point out that HBO is first and foremost a business and that all decisions the company makes are carefully considered in terms of the business benefits they generate.  These were the reasons why HBO selected Northern Ireland ahead of any other location:

  •  Our senior politicians were willing to travel to HBO on the US West Coast to make the case in person and this helped Jay “sell” Northern Ireland to his senior team
  •  The Northern Ireland film industry workforce is young but keen and very willing to learn quickly
  •  Belfast gave HBO easy access to UK & European crew and actors
  •  Belfast is a small city and this made the logistics of moving 200+ people around on any given day very straightforward
  • The cost analysis exercise carried out by HBO showed Northern Ireland provided the best value for money
  • Belfast’s Paint Hall in the Titanic Quarter (where ship components were once painted) is a unique venue with extraordinarily high ceilings.

There were a few more points that to me were less predictable or expected:

·         HBO liked the fact that Belfast has great restaurants and comfortable lodgings for its West Coast staff.

·         Jay also added that the warm spirit of the Northern Ireland people and the warm welcome given to HBO was a positive factor.

I’m sure HBO was also swayed by the availability of Martin McGuinness’s brother as an extra for Game of Thrones.  Martin described his brother as having long grey hair and standing on the back of a cart – we’ll all keep an eye out for him Martin.  I know I for one can’t wait to see Game of Thrones and it makes it even more exciting that it was filmed here.

 

A blog about appreciation

Matt_with_tuttle_group

Today’s blog is an appreciation blog.  Often we find ourselves just taking people for granted and not giving them enough appreciation for what they do for us – so this is an attempt to redress that balance in some small way.  I’d just like to say a big thank you on behalf of all of us who work in Northern Ireland’s emerging digital and online content sector to Matt Johnston (@cimota) for the tireless work he does on behalf of us and to promote our sector and our companies. 

I’ve spent the last two days in London with Matt.  We decided it was time to go and tell a few more people about the many talented people and small businesses that work in our chosen space in Northern Ireland.  Over the course of those two days we’ve promoted Digital Circle and its companies to:

·         The Technology Strategy Board

·         A group of social entrepreneurs

·         The Royal Society of Arts (RSA)

·         Everyone present at Friday’s Tuttle Club in London’s Centre for Creative Collaboration

·         The gathering of entrepreneurs and start up companies at Dominic Campbell’s City Camp London get together at the Hub King’s Cross

We’ve been blown away by the amount of interest there’s been in Digital Circle and at every event Matt’s had a stream of people wanting to ask him about the workings of the Digital Circle, how it started out, what the future plans are and what the Digital Circle members have gained from being part of the community.  It appears that what we have in Northern Ireland is quite unique in terms of small and micro businesses actually engaging, collaborating and helping each other out.

So this is my way of saying we appreciate you Matt and all you do for us.  The non-stop networking, the liaison with our government departments and Invest NI, the constant promotion of our companies, the search for opportunities for all of us and the signposting, the bright ideas you have, the introductions you make, the tweeting you do (I couldn’t believe how many people at Tuttle nodded when you revealed your Twitter name – they’d all come across you), the sheer volume of stuff you wade through so that we don’t have to and the dry good humour with which all of the above is delivered.

Please join me in appreciating Matt and post up your story in the comments of how he’s helped you or your company.

If you’d like to know more about the Digital Circle or join our community, you can do so via this link http://digitalcircle.ning.com/

 

Mark Nagurski, Derry’s own Martha Lane Fox – 10 things the two Digital Champions have in common

This week Mark Nagurski started his new role as Derry’s first Digital Champion.  There’s been a lot of interest in and around the appointment and it’s become a whole lot bigger & more prestigious since Derry’s win of the UK City of Culture 2013 competition.  “Digital Champion” is a job title we’d never heard of 5 years ago but it’s becoming increasingly popular.  Other job titles of a similar ilk and in the same type of space would be Brian Halligan’s appointment as “entrepreneur in residence” at MIT or the appointment of Lloyd Davis as “social artist in residence” at the University of London’s Centre for Creative Collaboration.

Mark’s remit is to spend the next two years promoting the burgeoning creative digital sector in the North West of Ireland.

Now I realise that Martha’s job as the UK’s Digital Champion is on a much bigger scale than Mark’s but I thought it would be a bit of fun to spot some similarities between them beyond their shared job title – so here goes:

1.       They are both internet entrepreneurs and have been deeply steeped in the internet and what it means for business and society forever

2.       Neither of them studied a technology subject at university – Martha studied Ancient & Modern History at Oxford and Mark studied International Relations at the LSE

3.       They were both born in the 1970s so they’re both still “young”

4.       They’ll both talk to anyone

5.       They both write extremely well & are articulate in conversation

6.       They love starting things and are serial entrepreneurs

7.       Neither of them have sisters

8.       They are both grafters and will work their backsides off for a cause they believe in

9.       They believe in themselves and their own abilities

10.   They know what they’re talking about and command respect from their audiences and peers.

Good luck in the new role Mark.  I for one am delighted with your appointment and I can’t wait to see the success and opportunity you’ll bring to Derry and the NW in the next couple of years.


Mark_nagurski
Mlf