Tony Moretta, chief executive of Digital Jersey, explains how the organisation is helping to position the Island as a launchpad for a digital future
PART of our job at Digital Jersey is to connect our island community of coders, creators, inventors and investors, to enable them to build Jersey’s digital future together.
While we never cease to be amazed by the sheer wealth of talented creators, founders and tech visionaries we have in the Island, bringing that idea to fruition can be complex. That’s the case no matter where you are in the world.
And access to funding and investment is a key part of that.
In Jersey, we are fortunate to have one of the most enviable and frictionless places in the world in which to do business. We have some of the fastest connectivity on the planet, a business-friendly government, easy travel links to the UK and Europe, and a growing digitally skilled population.
And – thanks to having a world-renowned, sophisticated financial services sector right on our doorstep – accessing the investment capital needed to get a great idea off the ground is not as difficult as it might seem. But it does require sound support and advice.
In 2022, we helped local entrepreneurs across several of our initiatives and incubated exciting new start-ups in our Digital Jersey Hub, and this year we intend to do even more.
Why is this important? Because technology is integral to every business and touches every aspect of Island life; it’s changing the way Islanders bank, farm, shop and interact.
As a result, supporting the next big idea, giving it access to funding and the guidance it needs to flourish, can be a win-win for the Island.
We understand that it’s the daring entrepreneurs and innovative start-ups who make exciting things happen, which is why Digital Jersey gives so much support to these ‘disruptors’.
One way we do that is through our Springboard programme. Initially launched as a reward-based crowdfunding tool in 2020, it has evolved to become a holistic support platform for local digital entrepreneurs.
By providing access to seasoned experts and partners including Jersey Business, Infinite Lightbulb and TEKEX, who run regular clinics and workshops, Springboard aims to give those with future-changing ideas the ability to finesse those ideas and make them investor-ready.
That means making sure those innovators have tested their products and services and put together a comprehensive business plan to give themselves the best shot at making it impossible for investors to say no to supporting their ambitions.
It is helping to connect the dream-makers with the all-important funding they need but, at the same time, giving them the all-round supporting framework they need for the longer term too.
And it’s proving to be a big success. Through Springboard, in 2022 we introduced more than 20 digital businesses to investors and we have connected 30 people with seasoned digital mentors through our mentoring programme. It is exciting that we are able to play a part in bringing about real, innovative, positive change to Jersey in all sorts of ways through digital innovation.
A more recent addition to Jersey’s start-up ecosystem is our Tech Start-Up Bootcamp, which we launched last year in collaboration with JT, Natwest International, PwC and TEKEX.
The response was really strong and reflected the ambitious nature of Jersey’s tech entrepreneur landscape, with almost 40 applicants from a range of digital innovators.
Applicants for the bootcamp came from broad and diverse backgrounds, while one in three were female entrepreneurs. Their digital businesses were wide-ranging too, spanning investment platforms and fintech products to digital health solutions, gaming apps and mental-health technology solutions.
Although originally the Bootcamp offered to support a total of five digital entrepreneurs, applications for the scheme were so strong that 12 were ultimately shortlisted. Seven of those are now taking part in the programme, with the remaining five being supported by Digital Jersey in different ways over the course of the year.
They will benefit from a comprehensive 12-week programme designed to provide them with the best possible opportunity to explore and develop their digital business ideas. As well as taking part in workshops, masterclasses and one-to-one sessions, the bootcampers will also be given a personal mentor, tailored to their idea or business, and be given full access to facilities at the Digital Jersey Hub, including accessing the Sandbox to test their products.
And at the end of the programme, they should be in a strong place to pitch their business and access the finance and wide-ranging support they need by making it an attractive proposition to investors.
Collaboration and connectivity
Combined, these initiatives underline what Digital Jersey does best – facilitate connectivity and champion collaboration. By doing so, we can empower entrepreneurs to not only help them access the investment and financing they need but to surround them with the best people to help them on their journey too, and put them in a strong position to realise their ambitions in the longer-term.
We understand that we are not the architects of our future digital society but those innovators, and the investors who can help them realise their dreams, are right here in our community.
The success of our Springboard and Bootcamp initiatives are a reflection of that, illustrating that Jersey can be the launchpad for a digital future.