There’s a chance the new Facebook or Twitter could be founded here in the city, thanks to the new Digital Derry Co-working office space, which opens in Magazine Street next week.
The centre at Magazine Studios is a bold attempt to try to harvest the brightest new talent in the city – and get them working together.
The driving force behind the scheme is Digital Champion Mark Nagurski, who says the whole idea is to bring creative people from different backgrounds together to get them working.
“One thing we identified early on was that there are a lot of bedroom entrepreneurs, freelance web designers, developers or people designing games working in their bedrooms,” he says.
“Now working from home is a fantastic way to save money, but it can also disconnect you from what is going on elsewhere.
“A lot of the progress and the momentum that is made in the digital space and a lot of the business that get started are happy collaborations.
“What people with one particular idea or concept need to turn that into a viable business is to meet up with people who have complementary skills.
“And that’s where the Co-working space comes in.”
The project has been set up by the Chamber of Commerce, the University of Ulster, ILEX and Derry City Council.
At its heart, the idea is extremely simple. The office in Magazine Street is there as a low-cost way to help people set up and establish new businesses in the digital and technology sector.
Broadband is provided as well as office space, meeting rooms and even a 40-seat cinema.
Already the first client is set to move in when the offices open next week – a motion graphics company from Belfast looking to expand its operations.
“One of the reasons Derry was an attractive option was because this facility is here,” says Mark.
“Obviously they will have use of the offices but more importantly for them it was a quick and easy way for them to tap into the local community immediately without having to set up meetings or conferences.”
Another key consideration is the low cost, with the cost of renting commercial space a major handicap for new businesses.
“We are running this on a membership model rather than a rental one,” explains Mark.
“People can come and use it for a monthly fee whenever they like and no-one is stuck to a long-term contract.
“There’s no hassle with things like broadband connectivity because all of that is already in place.
“It’s a great place for a new business to kick off. Someone who wants to start up a new business is not going to want to be paying £400 or £500 a month in rent from day one.
“They can come here, get started, have an address and have meeting with clients for less than £100 a month.
“And that will have its own knock-on effect, which is one of the most important aspects - this will be attractive to people who have great ideas and provide them with a natural meeting place with other people who can help take those ideas forward.”
Mark’s own expertise in the business field is also part of the deal. He’s there to offer his own expertise in taking fledging business to the next level, with advice on accessing finance and marketing strategies.
“I have been working with various companies on a consultancy basis,” he says. “This gives me a chance to work with lots of companies all at the same time.
Derry has a lot of potential in this area, but it is still just potential.
“There are a few success stories out there but most companies are very small, just one or two-man bands and potential has to translate at some stage into growing businesses.”
The Magazine Studios development is a part of a recent expansion for the Nerve Centre.
The Nerve Centre was established in 1990 as a focal point for youth culture in Derry/Londonderry and is considered one of the UK’s most dynamic and innovative multimedia centres. The Nerve Centre promotes creative collaboration and fusion between artists and provides a cultural outlet for many young people who feel excluded from what is traditionally regarded as the ‘arts sector’.
The Nerve Centre believes that the establishment of Magazine Studios will act as a catalyst for its enterprise and innovation strategy by promoting an increased number of new business start-ups, encouraging collaborative projects, facilitating knowledge transfer and supporting digital content companies from the social economy sector.
And who knows - the next ‘Social Network’ could be shot in Derry!
Anyone interested in further information can contact Mark Nagurski c/o Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, The Old Fire Station, 1a Hawkin Street. Telephone 02871 262379 or email email@example.com.