There are over 14,000 millionaires in Northern Ireland. Business Expert Michelle Lestas, host of InBiz at Belfast 89 FM talks to Marty Neill, CEO of Airpos who has raised £3m in investment for his Businesses over the years. Michelle and Marty talk about the process and where angle investors these days are potentially looking to invest.
[Michelle Lestas]: inbiz at Belfast 89 FM, the feature that’s all about business and for business in and around the city. You’re very welcome to today’s feature.
We’ve talked a few times in this feature about the opportunities that come about through investment in start-up companies, and today I’m joined by Marty Neal who is the CEO of AirPos in the Cathedral Quarter, and Marty has raised not one or two pounds but three million to date in Venture Capital.
Today we’re going to discuss a little bit about both sides of that coin both for the start-up businesses getting investment but also for any of you out there that are are looking to dabble in investment. So Marty, you’re very welcome to the program today.
[Marty Neal]: Hi Michelle
[Michelle Lestas]: Three million into your business. So tell us a little bit about that. How easy, difficult was it.
[Marty Neal]: In 2009 I guess the ecosystem for start-ups in Northern Ireland was non-existent. We kind of stumbled into the notion of how start-ups are funded, how they grow and we started what was Northern Ireland’s first technology accelerator, which was called Start Six in 2010. We set about trying to grow six small companies and trying to raise funds, mostly internationally, mostly from Silicon Valley in San Francisco. That was the beginning of my start-up journey.
[Michelle Lestas]: Were we attractive to Silicon Valley at that time do you think or was that just not on their radar?
[Marty Neal]: They were in Ireland of course, you know it’s Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland, some would know that they were in Northern Ireland and still in Ireland. They were here for a reason, because they had seen the growth of technology companies and start-up companies in Dublin. Massively successful people in Silicon Valley who all had Irish roots and effectively came back here to pay it forward as they say. Which is how that actually works out there, if you’ve had success you are duty bound to pay it forward.
[Michelle Lestas]: I remember at that time actually you couldn’t see the skyline in Dublin for cranes and I always think that that’s a real telling story about what’s going on in terms of development and growth. But then here we are, we’re sitting in 2022 and how are you finding the landscape now Marty. If I can forward now as a start-up business and I was looking for that type of investment, you know has the mood changed, is the culture different, are we much more engaging and aware of what might be out there?
[Marty Neal]: Yeah, I mean I think one of the greatest things about Northern Irish people is also one of their worst traits. We try to do everything our own way and sometimes you just gotta follow what went before. We’ve had a decade of trying various things, which is very startuppy and how it should be. It’s just trying and experimenting. But now I think we’re getting down to brass tacks and I think companies here know that it’s not an impediment to be here and you can raise funds from elsewhere. People are interested in what you’re doing rather than where you are.
[Michelle Lestas]: Yeah, it’s an interesting point you make, about you know, it doesn’t matter so much now about where you’re located, it’s actually about the fact that you can also pull in that interest from across the world in many ways. I suppose Covid really pushed us even further in that direction. Wherever we were before covid the fact that the world in some ways technology-wise has gotten much smaller over the last couple of years, and made Northern Ireland businesses and Belfast businesses much more accessible.
[Marty Neal]: Yeah it may not be a popular opinion, but things like the Northern Ireland protocol could be extraordinarily beneficial especially to fintech businesses like ours, because you have regulatory alignment both with the EU and whatever the regulatory alignment becomes in the UK. So yeah, I think if we’re brave and we know how to move forward, and we try to align how we move forward, I think we have a better opportunity probably than most small regions in the UK, uh, that do what we always say we do anyway, which is punch above our weight. Well lets actually really do it rather than just say we do it.
[Michelle Lestas]: Yeah and I mean it’s an interesting message isn’t it. It seems to be coming out stronger and stronger from the business sector. Certainly in recent weeks as well you know, that there are opportunities there of course, there are difficulties, but there are opportunities as well that are there to be had. So if you have potential investors out there maybe new to the game I mean, where would you suggest they go if they’re actually looking to put some money into some of these businesses. Do you have any particular place where you think they should go?
[Marty Neal]: I do. To be very selfish, they should look at the Raise Accelerator. There’s a lot of private investment that goes on in Northern Ireland. We’ve got 14 000 millionaires from what I can ascertain. You know, what are these guys, what are these guys doing, are they all bad houses, no, are they all investing in the safe things, no, they’re not.
[Michelle Lestas]: Well Marty, it seems like you’re going to continue to be busy not just now but into the future as well, and it’s really important I think to keep that positive focus on all of the work that we’re doing here in Northern Ireland.
[Marty Neal]: Thank you very much Michelle.
[Michelle Lestas]: You’re listening to inbiz at Belfast 89 FM. the feature that’s all about business and for business in and around Belfast.
Are you interested in raising investment for your business or start-up? Michelle has worked with many Irish and UK companies to raise investment. Contact Michelle today to discuss your project.