What makes Northern Ireland the best place to start a business?

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While London, Manchester and Edinburgh are all good locations to start a company, the best place to take a start-up from zero to £1 million in revenue is Northern Ireland, writes Ian Browne, COO of IgniteNI.

Where do you think the best place in the UK to start a company is? London? Manchester? Edinburgh? While all undeniably great locations, the most successful place to take a company from zero to £1 million in revenue is Northern Ireland.

Companies in the region have a 50% greater chance of hitting this milestone than the UK average. The real question is why?

There is no one answer but in the world of technology start-ups, success is limited by only two constraints – talent and capital. Northern Ireland is standing out as a region with an excellent technical talent pool, something which has not gone unnoticed by global technology firms who are locating their software engineering teams in the area.

Most recently the US insurance marketplace, Everquote, announced the creation of a new 70 strong development team, headquartered in Belfast. On the same day Netflix began production of their upcoming blockbuster series “The School for Good and Evil” at the Belfast Harbour Studios.

Northern Irish technology firms are also growing with both Kainos and First Derivatives both becoming public companies in the past decade. These companies are supported by a government that has made long term commitments to the ecosystem, another core reason why the region tops the start-up league table.

Both foreign and indigenous companies are driving the talent supply chain and it is a boon for the start-up ecosystem which is now developing muscle memory in sectors such as insurtech, fintech, cyber, media, education, and healthcare. New companies are being formed with industry experience at the core, led by strong, creative, and technical founders. The influx of foreign firms helps increase knowledge transfer and they bring a globally connected network of ideas, customers, and talent.

The world of capital is starting to notice. While Northern Ireland is a fantastic place to start a company, the challenges of scaling are always going to exist in a regional economy. To grow, you need a bigger market and access to capital. IgniteNI’s mission is to help with that. We have worked with over 100 early-stage companies in the past three years helping them not only push towards the £1m revenue barrier but also adopt a professional approach to raising investment and scaling their businesses. We believe that start-up ecosystems are built from the bottom up.

We want to provide budding local entrepreneurs with access to a global network of experienced founders, operators, and investors all of whom operate on a give first principle. This better equips early-stage companies to deal with the challenges of taking their ideas to a successful commercial outcome.

The rapid increase in talent is starting to attract external investment to the region with Ignite portfolio companies raising over £15m in risk capital funding over the past three years. A significant portion of this investment is coming from outside the region – from tier one investment funds in London, Europe and North America.

This is putting Northern Ireland on the global start-up map. It will continue to get better. Northern Ireland exists in the Goldilocks Zone of Brexit, positioned to take advantage of more equitable trading with the UK, EU and US. To take advantage of our unique position, we recently partnered with Dogpatch Labs to ensure that we can collaborate with entrepreneurs across the entire island of Ireland, as well as the UK.

It is an incredibly exciting time for the ecosystem. It is a time of opportunity. We see the pipeline of entrepreneurs in real-time and with over 900 founders reaching out to us during our latest recruitment process, the quality is mindblowing.

Talent and capital are starting to create a flywheel effect which we believe will make Northern Ireland a global start-up hub for the next decade.

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