There is a revolution going on — the global startup revolution. It should only be a question of time; a short time before Gibraltar becomes part of it.
Our economy has grown as a result of financial services, shipping, tourism and the fact that it is now an e-gaming hub with an integral framework powered by the ICT and data centres sector. The native creativity of Gibraltarians has combined smart strategy and sound business sense to ensure prosperity, despite challenges. Our community represents a spirit of sheer determination with a proud entrepreneurial resolve.
Last year, I founded a startup ‘One Media & Events’, a Digital Marketing and Events Management business. I spent considerable time doing voluntary work with other startup organisations. Setting up social media campaigns brought me to Startup Grind, the largest startup event organisation in the world powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. Startup Grind’s model is very simple; each chapter hosts monthly events, usually from 6 – 9 pm, that consist of networking, listening to and interacting with a speaker and then drinks, food and more networking. There is a small ticket fee involved but this simply adds value to the event, the costs involved should be covered by sponsorships.
The online application process for Startup Grind was not something that I expected to get a reply from, but I did, until eventually, after getting through all of the stages and some serious presentations, I was appointed Gibraltar Chapter Director. Professionally, I am showcasing the services I provide as a business, taking the concept from the idea to a first sold out launch event in March with Mike Balfour who, having hired me previously as a business development manager, was delighted to support me on my new venture.
I started my journey of entrepreneurship at the age of 22 launching my first company in PR and promotional work ‘DM Promotions’. Over the past 20 years, I have combined working for other people with freelancing which has finally brought me to explore the world of startups. As recently as six months ago, it became obvious to me that what the communities surrounding this movement represent is something I needed to be a part of.
Startups are changing the world together. They are challenging the status quo, putting new ideas to work, and holding fast to the belief, the knowledge that anyone, anywhere should be able to participate in this revolution. Every city has the right to participate in the global startup revolution and reap the benefits of job creation, innovation and economic growth. So, how far have we come today in ensuring we become part of it?
Recently, the Digital Currency Summit has seen the Financial Services Commission emerge with strong plans and foundations to attract Fintech, Distributed Ledger Technology or Blockchain and create an environment in which they can flourish. Similarly, the startup events that are part of the monthly Startup Grind series are putting us on the global map but the question to ask is – is this enough?
Locally, we have some retail, tourism or hospitality opportunities for small businesses, but with the lack of physical space, we need to focus our future in digital space. Technology is the industry. It has seen struggling economies like India and Afghanistan grow as a result of building hubs together with financing ecosystems within their communities.
There has to be a starting point at an educational level. In USA, a case study conducted in 2014 by Stanford University professors “Stanford University’s Economic Impact via Innovation and Entrepreneurship” estimated that companies formed by their student entrepreneurs generate revenues of $2.7 trillion annually and have created 5.4 million jobs since the 1930s. Innovation centres as part of University programmes have resulted in billion dollar turnover. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a venture accelerator is a launchpad for student entrepreneurs, including up to $20k in equity-free funding. Its student run $100k Entrepreneurship Competition has led to the creation of more than 130 companies and 2500 jobs.
Early-stage startups are highly dependent on their surrounding startup ecosystem, and so if we create a healthier startup ecosystem, we can generate more successful startups. In the UK, the government offers tax relief and incentives which create a highly favourable environment for businesses and those who invest in them. In addition to the growing diversity of sources of finance, such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, there are schemes and incentives devised to help companies of all sizes secure funding. If your business meets certain criteria, it may also qualify for help with business rates or tax relief for research and development. Perhaps similar incentives need to be implemented locally. See www.gov.uk/business-finance-support.
The challenges ahead are evident but Gibraltar has become a cosmopolitan city buzzing with technology-based businesses. These are providing new recruitment and product outsourcing opportunities. So far, the goals I have set myself out to achieve and support a local ecosystem are through carefully building a strategy behind every event that will produce value to the communityin the long-term. Organisations that provide a backbone to the advancement of entrepreneurship or technology entrepreneurship are special guests at the events. My second guest Alex Capurro, local founder of payment technology business Easy Payment Gateway, was the ideal inspiration for the kids from Young Enterprise. Professor Daniella Tilbury was part of the Female Founder month as a speaker, joined by Girls in Tech and Women in Business. This is how I hope to continue but the hard truth is more support is needed on every level.
Events are a platform to communicate, scaling them up to provide the right balance to achieve results will only be possible through sponsorships. Support from Government and companies that feel a social responsibility to create something new include funding, space and programmes for our startups. To this end, we are introducing a monthly column in the magazine that will provide an opportunity for local startups to introduce themselves. We would like to thank those who are supporting in one way or another; it helps tremendously.
For more information on Startup Grind Gibraltar please visit: www.startupgrind.com/gibraltar.