The number of technology companies setting up shop in Wales is rising at an incredible rate. Start-ups in Cardiff and Swansea in particular are popping up every week, as Wales’ big cities redefine the way they make money. And according to industry experts it is only a matter of time until Cardiff develops its first unicorn (a start-up valued at $1 billion).
James Smith, chief executive and co-founder of IT consultancy DevOpsGuys has seen Wales grow from a place of sparse opportunity into a thriving technology hub destined for success. “Wales needs success stories of people who have put a business together and grown it, so others can understand how it was done,” he says. “My view is that, here in Cardiff, we need to figure out how to build a unicorn.”
Smith doesn’t believe his company will be the one to break the $1 billion mark. Instead, he believes that a consumer-facing business will have more chance than a B2B venture of becoming Cardiff’s first unicorn.
In order to achieve greater success, Cardiff needs to make it more attractive than other technology centres around the world. One company that already believes it has done that, is Amplyfi, who turned down the opportunity to start up in London, San Francisco, Boston and Beijing in order to settle down in Cardiff. Chris Ganje, Amplyfi’s American chief executive, said: “Cardiff beat rival locations because of its low costs, a ready supply of graduates from local universities as well as funding and incentives from the Welsh government. Relatively easy access to London, and to international airports, was another factor.”
While official statistics claim that Cardiff and Swansea currently are home to around 17,500 digital jobs, the real number could be as high as 40,000. According to David Warrender, CEO of Innovation Point (set up by the Welsh government to encourage the development of the tech industry), the number of tech companies in Wales is only going to grow. “We think we have got about 40,000 digital economy jobs in the South Wales region,” he said. “I grew up in Wales, went away to university, looked around for things to do in Wales and couldn’t find what I wanted, so I moved away for many years. When I compare that with the opportunities in the Cardiff region for having a career in digital and technology now, [there is] a world of difference.”