So, what's the Global Entrepreneur Programme, then?

Picture by Charles Forerunner

Picture by Charles Forerunner

Ask any entrepreneur what the key ingredients are to building a successful business, and they are likely to tell you that support and advice from other entrepreneurs ranks pretty highly.

Whether it is as mentors, advisors, investors or simply as people with whom they have coffee, access to a support network of experienced entrepreneurs is priceless.

This is not the kind of thing you'd expect government and the public sector to understand, yet over the last 10 years the UK government has been providing access to a network of experienced entrepreneurs to a select group of companies from outside of the UK. In return for this free service, all the companies need to do is locate their global or European HQs in the UK. Simple.

This initiative is called the Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP). It is part of the UKTI (UK Trade and Investment) and is made up of a small central team of 2-3 individuals who administer a network of 20 or so entrepreneurs (called Dealmakers), some based in London, some in the English regions and some posted in India, Australia and both US coasts. Crucially, these guys are not full-time UKTI folk, they are all experienced entrepreneurs with impressive networks, and it is this ready-made network of entrepreneurs that the UK government offers to high growth companies who want to make the UK a strategic hub for their business.

The GEP offering is pretty impressive, really. For a select number of companies (around 100 a year), they get access to the equivalent of a highly experienced NED who is in turn connected to 20+ others with sector specialism in cyber, robotics, aerospace, fintech, medtech, digital media and big data.

What this translates as in terms of help and support is; strategic advice, access to a network of commercial or investor contacts, access to UK sector specialists as well as experience in fundraising and, frequently, the ability to raise the company’s profile and give it further credibility.

In addition to that, being part of the UKTI means that the GEP can offer practical advice on setting up and scaling a business from a UK HQ as well as help with application processes for visas and introductions to banks, lawyers, accountants…

Nutmeg is a great case study for the GEP. This company was dreamt up in Silicon Valley, but its founder was convinced by Sarah Turner (one of the dealmakers) that London was a much better place for a startup that wanted to disrupt the world of investment management. Three years on and thanks (in some way) to support from the UKTI, Nutmeg has raised £28m and has grown from zero to 40,000 users with 60 employees on board.

On the support he received from the GEP, Nutmeg's CEO Nick Hungerford said, "Having the backing of UKTI and the connections Sarah made for us seriously bolstered our credibility and opened doors that might otherwise have been closed. Through these meetings and the on-going advice and support Sarah has helped us to secure further finance for growth."

I joined the GEP back in October 2014 as the Dealmaker representing the Southwest. So far, I have been working with a companies from Jordan, India, Vietnam, and the US and I should be adding another six to my portfolio later this year from places like Denmark, Hong Kong, Canada and Turkey.

The thing I love about the programme is that I get to spend quality time with brilliant entrepreneurs from all over the world. It's a great way to keep on learning and to grow my network across the globe. The way I see my role is to help them focus on and solve their biggest obstacles to growth and when we get it right, it is really satisfying. 

David Maher Roberts
David is Managing Partner of Digital DNA, Founder of TechSPARK,
Digital Sector Specialist for Invest Bristol & Bath and Dealmaker for the UKTI's GEP

Venturefest Bristol & Bath confirms region's tech credibility

Digital DNA has been deeply involved in the Bristol & Bath tech scene for 10 years - all of the team have either run companies here or have moved to the area - and we all saw Venturefest (that took place on 9th June in Bristol) represented an important milestone for the region.

There is little doubt that the Bristol & Bath city region is one of the most important and vibrant tech clusters outside of London (confirmed by both McKinsey's Centre for Cities report in June 2014 and the TechNation report in February 2015) but when an event manages to pull all of the right ingredients together and attract 1200+ people, it really helps to make it all somehow more real.

The key theme of tech innovation was very apparent with a massive Innovation Showcase (Airbus showed off their new 2-seater eco-plane), a startup village with 30 local companies demoing their products and a behind-closed-doors investor showcase where 12 local entrepreneurs pitched 40+ investors. There's a full recap of the day on TechSPARK.

Digital DNA Managing Partner, David Maher Roberts, compering the Silicon Gorge Investor Showcase

Digital DNA Managing Partner, David Maher Roberts, compering the Silicon Gorge Investor Showcase

Digital DNA's David Maher Roberts, Abby Frear and Andy Mulvenna were all involved in the event in various ways: Abby was at the core of the team organising the Startup Village & the Investor Showcase, DMR compered the Investor Showcase and also found time to MC the Entrepreneurs Club (two Q&A sessions with eight local entrepreneurs that included Andy) and was involved in connecting the organisers to keynote speakers like IMDb's Col Needham.


Brightpearl founder Andrew Mulvenna joins DDNA team

We are excited to announce that transatlantic entrepreneur Andrew Mulvenna is joining Digital DNA, bringing an abundance of startup and fundraising experience to the team.

Andrew was the Founder of Brightpearl, cloud software that enables e-commerce merchants and brands to accelerate their growth and profits. Brightpearl raised $26M in Venture funding to scale the team from 2 to 100+ employees between UK & San Francisco. Brightpearl customers sold over $1.3B of products using the software over the last 12 months. 

He holds a BSc in Computer Science. Prior to starting Brightpearl, Andrew was a Project Manager for Global IT Services Provider Schlumberger & Atos, where he worked for public & private sector customers deploying complex £1m-£3m technical solutions in tight timescales. 

Andrew is a Software-as-a-Service executive with experience in general management, go­to­market strategy, direct/channel sales, and product management. His specialty is high growth SaaS companies. He is experienced at moving companies from 'gut feel' business decisions to ones based on qualitative and quantitative analysis. He knows how to motivate teams to deliver on targets, develop profitable products and forge valuable partnerships.

DDNA profile: Jake Ronay

Digital DNA is made up of highly experienced, knowledgeable and well-networked individuals. Every one of the team has benefited from working at senior exec level for startups and in larger corporates, and we lean very heavily on that experience to help our clients focus on what matters.

Jake Ronay joined the DDNA team in February and his background has armed him with a "Swiss-army knife” of management techniques. Jake has over 15 years experience leading strategy, growth and change programmes in a wide range of industries including web analytics, mobile, retail, construction, energy and even the public sector.

His most recent role was as Group MD at London-based startup Visual DNA (a big data analytics company) where he lead the senior team in a strategic review of the business and its offering, getting the team to focus on core strengths. Prior to that he lead the Mayor of London's energy efficiency programme for the GLA off the back of heading up similar projects for Dixons Store Group and Tescos.

Jake is passionate about what these industries can teach each other and in particular how lessons learned from large organisations can be applied to fast-growing start-ups. 

Next Lean Canvas workshop announced - and it's free!

Digital DNA's next Lean Canvas workshop has been announced as part of a FREE one-day Business Workshop funded by Somerset County Council.

Learn how to understand your customer needs in order to improve your own service. Plus, we'll show you how to produce a simple yet effective business plan using a single sheet of A3! 

The workshop is on Wednesday 25th March at the Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre. It is a full day split into two sessions: 

Session 1 - Service Design Thinking

Delivered by business service/product designers,, you will look at various aspects of service provision, including how to tailor your service to what your customer 'really' wants. You will learn how to understand your customer and their motivations. The session will cover all the essential tools required and delegates will undertake a service focused field trip into the town. 

Session 2 - Business Model Canvas

Ever struggled to write a business plan? David Maher Roberts, from, will help you learn how to produce a simple yet comprehensive business plan on a single sheet of A3 paper. This quick, simple and incredibly powerful tool is used extensively by the tech industry, where business models often have to pivot change quickly, although the methodology can be applied to any business. David will introduce you to the template and help you focus right in on exactly what your business is.

Refreshments and lunch will be provided.

Tickets: Just go to the Eventbrite page to book your place - hurry as there are only 25 available.

The Bristol 2015 Digital Challenge

The Bristol 2015 Green Capital Digital Challenge, is a project designed to support the development of innovative ideas using software to help solve environmental challenges. The Challenge kicked off with a hackathon that took place on the weekend of 14-15 February and saw 11 teams compete for 6 finalist slots that would ultimately give them the chance to win a £50,000 prize and a £10,000 people's choice award.

Digital DNA's Managing Partner, David Maher Roberts, was involved with the initial selection process of whittling the 30 applications down to 11 and he also helped to corroborate the judges selection of six finalists who have been given £5000 each to develop their idea. David was then asked to spend a full day with the six finalists on Tuesday 10th March to provide them with advice and mentoring as they prepare for the grand final at the Bristol 2015 International Youth Summit on 20 April 2015 at the Colston Hall.

"The teams and ideas they are developing are of an extremely high standard," said David.  "Between them they are looking to provide solutions for transport, energy, resources and more; proving that a lot can be done in a short space of time."