Derry to showcase digital talent

Digital Derry's Mark Nagurski, left and Colm Long, , Facebook's Director of Online Operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa who have launched plans to create 100 Digital Start-Up companies in Derry-Londonderry. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 20.10.11

Digital Derry's Mark Nagurski, left and Colm Long, , Facebook's Director of Online Operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa who have launched plans to create 100 Digital Start-Up companies in Derry-Londonderry. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 20.10.11

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Digital Derry is planning a four-day technology festival, showcasing all the city has to offer in the field.

Mark Nagurski, who is spearheading the project, said: “Culture Tech is a four-day festival of digital culture and technologies which will take place here in the city between August 29th and September 1st. The programme combines both an industry conference and a very public - and free - programme of events across games, TV, music and the web.”

Mark is no stranger to all things technological having worked in the digital content sector for many years, aiming to position the city as a key hub for the industry, specifically in areas such as games, TV and animation which blend both technology and culture.

He said: “My background is actually in business development and partnership development. A couple of years ago I started working with a number of digital media companies, helping them build contacts, and this eventually turned into running events for, and with, the digital community in Northern Ireland. Around two years ago the Chamber of Commerce, ILEX and Derry City Council were investigating the local digital sector and I got brought in to help out. This led on to the publication of the original Digital Derry Strategy, which in turn led to the creation of a Digital Action Team to help drive the sector forward. When the opportunity came up to be a part of actually taking that forward in a meaningful way I knew right away that I wanted to be involved.”

Mark added: “We knew we needed to create an event within the City of Culture programme that celebrated Northern Ireland’s digital community and created a platform for some of the best companies in the world to come here. Outside of that, over the last few years we’ve been to literally dozens of exciting digital conferences and festivals across the globe and have seen first hand the impact that they can have. Naturally you start to think that there’s an opportunity to do the same here.

“Digital has always been a major component of the proposals around the City of Culture programme and Culture Tech is one of the key programme events in 2013, when we hope it will be able to take place on Ebrington Square. We’re already working with some of the cultural programmers to help shape many of the elements of the festival.”

Derry’s Digital Champion has just returned from one such conference, Texas’ esteemed South by Southwest, an annual set of Film, Interactive and Music festivals and this year he brought a distinctly Northern Irish flavour to proceedings.

He said: “This is the second year that Digital Derry has worked with InvestNI and others to take out a trade mission from Derry and it was bigger than ever, including 14 company representatives and The Wonder Villains. When you include 25 more NI companies, a bunch of other bands and all the people from InvestNI and others, there were probably 60 people from Northern Ireland there making connections, demoing products and striking deals.”

To Mark, this is indicative of the significant expansion Northern Ireland has seen in the Digital arena in recent times, saying: “Over the last few years, the number of people starting a digital business in the city has definitely increased - we’ve worked directly with dozens of them over the last 18 months.All this helps put us on the map, create jobs, attract other companies and investors who want to be part of it and encourages others to do the same. That said, we’re still playing catch up in a lot of ways. Great companies like Singularity, Learning Pool, Opt2Vote and others have unfortunately been the exception and we haven’t benefitted from high levels of entrepreneurship. This is changing, and as it does, our focus will move from encouraging people to get started to helping turn the companies that do into bigger and better businesses. This will require a lot more money, most of it from private investors. So, for our part, we think we can help best by building relationships with those potential investors and other companies and organisations that can help us make that leap.”

Culture Tech also hopes to bring another key factor to Northern Ireland’s burgeoning Digital industry; a profile.

“We need attention from the wider digital media world, showcasing what we do well here and the fact that we’re taking this industry seriously. There’ll also be a focus on building connections with some of the speakers and companies from across the globe that we’ll be bringing to the city, this is hugely important if we’re serious about building the digital economy here.”

For a sneak peek of the festival go to www.facebook.com/culturefest