By @SimonCocking. Great interview with Callum Donnelly co-organiser of  the second National Digital Week, which taking place on November 10th to 12th in Skibbereen, West Cork.

 

What’s your background?

I graduated from UCC with a Bsc in Government, in May 2015 and went straight into working on the Ludgate Hub project with our CEO, Grainne Dwyer. In 2014, I completed an internship at the Department of Communications, where I was heavily involved in the National Digital Strategy and the Trading Online Voucher Scheme. Working in that environment is what influenced my decision to alter my degree modules to focus on the Digital Economy. In terms of job experience I was relatively inexperienced, and to some degree that was great, I had fresh views, some good some bad.

Does it seem like a logical progression to what you do now?

No, not in the slightest. I never thought I would be organising a tech conference, let alone in West Cork. However, I think that this lack of logical progression has contributed to the success of the Ludgate Hub & National Digital Week. Logic would indicate that a conference like National Digital Week would be suited to an urban environment, when we first pitched the concept of National Digital Week in taking place in Skibbereen we were met by interesting reactions, “Are you mad?”, “How are you going to attract people to Skibbereen?”, “The same week as the Web Summit!”. Logic would say we were crazy but it worked! The first National Digital Week last year had 1600 attendees, 84 speakers and a commitment of a €300,000 Seed Capital Fund for Ludgate Hub companies, so you never know where an idea will go.

Business Showcase event : National Digital Week, hosted by Ludgate Hub, Skibbereen

Are you from West Cork, what’s it like to be able to work in West Cork?

I am originally from Ashford, County Wicklow but I have lived in West Cork since 1999. Prior to graduating from UCC, I never saw any opportunities in West Cork and I certainly did not think I would be working in a such a dynamic environment on a very exciting project. Working in West Cork definitely has significant perks, the work/life balance is great, commuting to work is quick and easy, the establishment of the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen provides opportunities for people to work from Skibbereen in an environment of like-minded individuals, and the SIRO 1 GB broadband service eliminates the traditional constraints of working from rural Ireland. The one real constraint is I love listening to the radio, so my seven-minute commute to the office restricts my morning radio time!

The Ludgate Hub is doing great things, has it gone as fast as you expected or faster?

The Ludgate Hub project went from concept to reality in 18 months. It was the drive and the commitment of the board that led to the project getting established so quickly. The rate at which the hub is attracting clients and potential clients has grown quicker than expected. What has surprised me is the international dynamic we are attracting to West Cork. We had originally anticipated the first wave of clients to be locals, but in actual fact we have had a significant number of international enquiries. To date, two separate American clients have moved to Skibbereen to establish their businesses. This is contributing greatly to the Skibbereen and Cork entrepreneurial ecosystem, helping to attract other entrepreneurs and increasing the confidence in what we are building here.

Women Entrepreneurs get Investor Ready! Anne Ravanona, InvestHer founder, speaking at National Digital Week

With increased connectivity in more rural / non city areas, do you think we will see more remote working and digital nomads?

The 1 gigabit broadband available in the Ludgate Hub means we have the connectivity and the facilities to house remote workers. Remote working is definitely on the rise, about 50% of our hot desk users during the summer were corporate users. The majority of which were people using the Ludgate Hub as a location to work and extend their stay in West Cork. This trend will continue to grow, as more and more companies are changing work practices to facilitate a better work/life balance for employees. We attract a lot of Digital Nomads of the backpack entrepreneur generation. Some of them are repeat users, one example is a young German entrepreneur who decides to come to Skibbereen regularly to work. He is not reliant upon a set location to work, all he needs is a broadband connection and his laptop.  He is more interested in enjoying the natural beauty of West Cork.

What’s next for you guys?

At the moment, we’re busy with the final preparation for National Digital Week 2016, which takes place in Skibbereen from November 10th – 12th. In the long term, we will continue to promote West Cork as a location for tech and start-ups to locate, scale and trade globally. We are ambitious and we aim to facilitate the growth of 500 tech jobs by 2020.

National Digital Week, what are you excited about?

I am very excited about the caliber of speakers we are attracting to Skibbereen. We aim high and we achieve results, if you don’t ask you won’t receive. It is great to see people like Ben Verwaayen, Founding Partner at Keen Venture Partners and Inma Martinez, one of the world’s leading digital media strategists coming to our event in rural West Cork to speak. The diverse audience we are attracting to National Digital Week is also hugely exciting and encouraging. This diversity will add a fantastic angle to the networking opportunities, you never know who you will meet at National Digital Week.

Social enterprise startup insights with Food Cloud, speaking at National Digital Week

What’s the thinking behind the different topics and days?

This year, we’ve included topics like Digital Champions, Farming 2.0, Female Leadership and the Sharing Economy. We want to showcase rural Ireland and the topics and themes are laid out to highlight this. Our themes build upon the opportunities brought about by the advent of the 1 gigabit society, with connectivity the full potential of the digital can be harnessed in rural Ireland. National Digital Week is a tangible experience we showcase new developments in tech and we build upon what we do right in Ireland, but we can always strive to do better. Creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem is at the heart of the themes we want to inspire people to build start-ups in rural Ireland and the themes of National Digital Week support this objective.

How can people buy tickets and find out more?

Tickets are available at www.digitalweek.ie. I firmly believe we are the most accessible tech conference in Ireland given the caliber of events & speakers. We are always happy to discuss National Digital Week if people require more information they can contact [email protected], our Facebook page National Digital Week and our Twitter account @DigitalWeekIRL

We look forward to hearing from you!


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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