Here’s a story about a different sort of baby…
About 18 months ago, I was working on a plan to bring coworking to the centre of Cardiff.* As part of the project, I was contacting and speaking to as many new businesses as I could find – which, I discovered, was actually quite a few – particularly in terms of creative and tech startups. That was the first eye opener – I’d not thought that there was such a thriving startup scene in Cardiff. The second eye opener was that incredibly busy people would, without fail, take the time to sit and have a coffee with me and share their ideas about coworking, and how it could benefit their businesses and Cardiff in general. I am really grateful for those folk who took the time to do this – I’ve met some amazing people over the last year, and I’ve learnt – and continue to learn – a huge amount. Thank you! The third eye opener was that there wasn’t a startup scene at all. Yes, I know, I just said there was – but bear with me, I’m not going mad (der) – the thing was, it became evident that actually there were an awful lot of startups here in Cardiff, but unless you went looking for them, you’d never know they were there. Not only that, but the support available for creative and tech startups was impossible to find and not that much use when you found it; despite the millions of pounds of government support supposedly available, the best help and advice was to be found on the CardiffStart Facebook group, curated by Neil Cocker, MD and founder of DizzyJam.
It was partly as a result of this that the Startup Social was born – a cunning plan by Gareth Jones to find all the creative and tech business startups hidden away in our city, and bring them together over beer, so they could make connections and offer mutual support to each other, as well as work out what Cardiff needed to make it more attractive to founders and investors. And it was at one of those Startup Socials that CardiffStart was properly born. A bunch of people, sitting around a table, lamenting the fact that Cardiff was not anywhere near living up to its potential as a startup hub – and DECIDING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I remember the feeling of excitement as we talked about what we thought CardiffStart could offer, what it could become, and how we could get it going. The pictures below – they’re my notes from that first night!
Since then, there’ve been hackdays, brainstorms, steering group meetings, more hackdays – and a whole bunch of people and businesses sharing their time, space, expertise and contacts for free. The end result is that CardiffStart is now an officially incorporated Community Interest Company; it’s secured some funding; it’s been picked up by the national press; it’s got a website at CardiffStart.com, and it’s also the home of Cardiff Collective, a fab tool for connecting people who can offer, or who are looking for, advice on just about any aspect of business.
Today saw the first proper CardiffStart event in City Hall – a day of workshops, speedpitching and networking, attended by a couple of hundred people. I was jealously following on #cdfstartlaunch for most of the day because of work commitments – I did manage to make the official launch speechy bit though – and looking around the room, listening to everyone there absolutely buzzing with potential and excitement, was just brilliant. The best bit is, this is only the beginning for CardiffStart – it will go on to offer real support and engagement, and ultimately, I am convinced, will help Cardiff fulfil its economic potential over the next generation.
I have to say, I felt really, really proud to be in at the conception of this baby 🙂