On June 7, IEEE Entrepreneurship staff participated in the Digital DNA conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland’s largest tech conference, first held in 2012. In addition to the four stages of speakers, the event highlighted tools and opportunities for entrepreneurs, with a dedicated start-up showcase, pitch sessions with investors, and ample informal networking space throughout the historic St. George’s Market, which has held a Friday market since 1604. The current building, built in approximately 1890, is one of Belfast’s premier attractions, following the Titanic Quarter.
More than 2,000 people from across Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, gathered to discuss the future of tech, including the risks and rewards of AI automation in start-ups, harnessing academic research to drive product development, disruptive tech, combatting deep fakes and disinformation, and more. On a new for 2023 stage, called ReBoot, industry leaders presented the latest developments in engineering, software development, and product management. Organizations fostering youth entrepreneurship and engagement in STEM initiatives shared opportunities for start-ups and corporations alike to help encourage the next generation of tech leaders. Given Ireland’s status as a global tax haven, and the large corporations it’s been able to attract as a result, sponsors of the event included PwC Northern Ireland, Lexus, Sentinus, Synechron, Salesforce, Insider, Aflac, and more.
In addition to the formal agenda, food trucks, exhibitors in two-sided booths, and open networking space that included a range of seating options from picnic tables to plush armchairs, fostered an easy, open, friendly vibe across the St. George’s space.
Members of the all-Ireland community of women founders, AwakenHub, turned out in force, from north and south. Even those who aren’t in tech-dedicated start-ups found value in the conversations.
“I attended Digital DNA Belfast as a serial entrepreneur as I launch my second business, The Curative Mentor, supporting creatives with business advancements in their creative journeys,” Maeve-ann Hanlon, founder of Mimi by the Sea and The Curative Mentor, said. “Whilst not strictly a tech company (or tech expert) I found the event great for exploring opportunities and possibilities through latest technology developments in such a fast paced industry. The opportunities for informal networking on the day were second to none, providing new connections, client opportunities and business exchange.”
CEO of Wilson Keys, and AwakenHub cofounder, Mary Carty, FRSA, said the one-day conference, and events like it, are critical to fostering innovation and community among entrepreneurs.
“Bringing founders together to connect, converse and build relationships is so very important to startup life,” Carty said. “Learning from those who have made the road before you and the ecosystems that support you, makes a huge difference. Every opportunity to share your story matters. Always be ready to perfect your pitch.”
IEEE Entrepreneurship will be hosting several webinars, in-person events, and additional opportunities for networking and learning throughout 2023. A new pilot program for Region 9 aimed at assisting scientists in commercializing their projects is currently underway and applications are currently being accepted for the 2023 IEEE Entrepreneurship Impact Award. There are additional opportunities at IEEE EuroCon. Want to brush up on your networking savvy before attending an in-person or virtual event? Chintan Oza is a member of the IEEE Entrepreneurship Asia-Pacific Region Leadership Team offers some smart advice on how to be a great mentor or mentee.