Building your networks (and trade links) outside of Derry

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I frequently make the point here that we’re very much on the edge of things in Derry - sometimes the cutting edge, but always the geographic edge.

In short, we are the fourth largest city on a tiny island floating off the edge of Europe. It would be great if the world and its cousin were beating a path to our door, but in reality our geographic isolation means we need to work twice as hard to build industry contacts and connections. To do that means getting ourselves out of Derry and taking our respective offerings to the world - some of that can be done online but more often than not it requires us to get on our bikes and physically go.

In the last few months I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to spend time in Dublin, London, Liverpool and a handful of other cities - building connections with the potential to benefit Derry’s digital industries. I’ve also spent an enormous amount of time in Belfast, forging new relationships and building on existing ones. In the next few months I’ll be doing the same at events, conference and festivals across the UK and further afield (see SxSW below).

Encourgaingly, on almost every occasion I’ve been struck by how keen people are to learn more about what’s going on here. The City of Culture win has already given us a massive boost in this regard.

My own AirMiles tally aside, it is this kind of activity that individual entrepreneurs within the city, digital or otherwise, need to be considering too. Products and services developed exclusively for the local market rarely make sense in the digital industries (unless your local market happens to be London, NYC or similar). Accordingly, if your product or service does have potential beyond the Glenshane then you need to be prepared to seek out partners, customers, investors and supporters wherever you might find them.

And there are no shortage of opportunities.

In the next few months there are literally dozens of opportunities for local digital media companies to expand their horizons - from supported trade missions like SxSW and GDC (both below) to conferences, workshops and training opportunities in NI and RoI.

The good news is that many local companies are starting to take advantage of these opportunities - last year nobody (to my knowledge) from Derry took part in the InvestNI trade mission to SxSW Interactive. This year there are at least eight going. However, we are still seriously under-represented at digitally-minded events, trade fairs, conferences, trade missions and the like time and time again.

This is something we can - and should - address.

Two trade mission opps

Games Companies Wanted

Invest NI has been working closely with DCAL and Digital Circle to develop Mobile and Internet Gaming in Northern Ireland. They are currently looking for expressions of interest from the industry in attending this year’s GDC 2011 (www.gdconf.com) which runs from 28th February 2011 to 4th March 2011.

Invest NI may be able to support up to 50% of the economy airfare, up to £75 per night for hotels and up to 50% of the conference pass . Please register your interest by e-mail to digitalderry@gmail.com

SxSW Bursaries

In March, eight representatives from the city’s digital industries (alongside another dozen from across NI) will be attending SxSW in Austin Texas (www.sxsw.com) - one of the biggest digital events in the world - as part of an InvestNI trade mission. For those companies being supported by InvestNI, this is a tremendous opportunity to build connections and hear from some of the leading lights in the digital world.

To make sure that we, as a city, capitalise on this opportunity, Digital Derry are hoping to offer two additional bursary slots, supported by ILEX. These bursary slots are designed to help cover the cost of travel to, and accommodation at, the event for entrepreneurs, wantrepreneurs, students, staff members or digital media professionals - and in particular those who were not eligible to apply for InvestNI support.

We expect a lot of interest in these two places so there will be an official application process announced shortly via the digitalderry.org website. In the mean time, if you would like to keep in the loop, please send an email to digitalderry@gmail.com with your full contact details.

Mark Nagurski is Derry’s Digital Champion based at the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. You can contact him via email to digitalderry@gmail.com