Wales' tech companies attract £115m start-up investments

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Nearly £115m of venture capital investment has been injected into tech start-ups in Wales in the past six years, new figures have revealed.

UK tech investment saw a record year in 2017 led by London, according to analytics firm Pitchbook.

And it said Wales was benefitting from this, with 92 companies attracting £114.2m of investment since 2012.

The Development Bank of Wales said it had seen a rise in demand from companies in AI, digital and software.

Venture capital is the term used for investment in small, fast-growing companies seeking to finance further development, in return for a proportion of their shares.

Statistics compiled by Pitchbook for London & Partners showed the number of venture capital deals closed in Wales had fluctuated over the years - from seven in 2012 to a high of 21 in 2016, down to 16 in 2017.

Doug Trafelet, managing director of Pitchbook, said while London was fuelling the UK's digital economy growth, the value of deals in Wales was also rising.

"I think that, on a global basis, deal sizes are going up. We have more capital in the eco system and we have more firms that are chasing after the same number of deals," he said.

"As a result, some of those technologies or venture capital companies are worth more in the eyes of investors, or investors are forced to pay more to compete."

Although more money is being invested in tech firms, Mr Trafelet said deals were increasingly being struck at later stages.

"Whereas a few years ago there was a trend to splash a lot of money on start-ups, a lot of capital has dried up and it's been directed to companies at later rounds," he said.

"That's what driving the deal sizes up."

There have been previous concerns that technology companies in Wales were being held back by skills shortages.

But Mr Trafelet stressed that Wales was attractive to tech start-ups due to its proximity to London but also due to "the strength of its universities and local talent".

This is a sentiment echoed by the Development Bank of Wales, which last year replaced the Welsh Government's investment arm Finance Wales.

Media caption,
The co-founders of Amplyfi in Cardiff and We Predict in Swansea explain why they set up business in Wales

Steve Smith, the bank's technology ventures investment director, said Wales' "vibrant tech start-up eco system" was supported by "universities with world class facilities" plus a "number of successful regional incubators and accelerators".

"As the technology eco system in Wales has developed, larger institutional co-investors are being attracted by the opportunities here," he said.

"These investors often have a focus on 'later stage, de-risked propositions' that require more substantial investment.

"This is great news for Wales, but we must be able to support tech companies at all stages from initial start-up, through product development, early commercialisation, growth and eventual exit."

Initiatives like the Welsh Government-funded Technology Seed Fund was created to address this, he added.