Digital Matters: Growing Up - Government's helping hand with the first steps of a digital business

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People are dreamers. We dream of buying our first home, we dream of the perfect holiday and, for many, we dream of starting our own business. That may seem like the impossible dream, an aspiration of unattainable proportions: an entrepreneurial idea that burns within us, which would bring us the freedom to live and work in a different way.

For some, the dream is much closer to becoming a reality; the idea is solid, the product is there, but it’s what comes next that can determine whether your business graduates with first-class honours or remains in perpetual adolescence.

The “things to do” checklist for any small tech business or start-up can seem never-ending, and without proper focused assistance there can be overwhelming feelings of doubt and reluctance.

1. Funding

When starting any business, let alone a tech business, even a lifetime of saved pocket money is unlikely to scratch the surface when you total the costs involved in developing, testing and fine-tuning your product. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it probably cost a fair bit more than a supermarket meal deal.

Seeking investment is the sure-fire way of ensuring your business gets off the ground, and the Isle of Man Government is leading the way in nurturing the businesses – and the great ideas – of tomorrow. The Department for Enterprise offers a range of financial assistance and support schemes to support starting, growing and developing businesses in the Island.

The EDS (Enterprise Development Scheme) is aimed at new start-up businesses as well as businesses looking to expand or relocate to the Isle of Man. The scheme is well suited to a number of digital businesses along with e-Businesses such as e-Gaming, Fintech and ICT. It offers a unique range of investment options, from loans to equity, and focuses on investments with a minimum value of £100,000 to a maximum of £1 million. This is capped at 40% per funding round, with support typically available over a period of five years. Funding not only helps to improve the initial cash flow of any business, but regular financial assistance can act as a monetary safety net, leaving start-up and small business owners the necessary time to focus on other aspects of operation.

2. Premises

Finding the correct location for your business is fundamental to its growth and success, and provides an environment that’s entirely yours, with a dedicated workspace for ideas to form and flourish. Business owners with physical premises also enable consumers to form brand loyalty, encouraging potential clients with a culture of trust and longevity.

The Island has come a long way in recent years, with a number of co-working spaces island-wide available to budding entrepreneurs and businesses in their infancy. Barclays Eagle Lab in Douglas, whose mission is to ‘create, innovate and grow’, is tailored to the Island’s strengths in the tech and digital markets. They offer a range of membership plans, with Resident and Private Office memberships providing 24/7 full-time access. The Engine House is a 10,000 square foot space located in Castletown; a beacon for companies in the arts, media and tech sectors, the space offers four membership plans based on individual needs, accommodating any growing business. Babbage’s, located in Ramsey, is a multi-use space in a refurbished film studio. Small businesses can access offices equipped with state of the art technology. The space also offers use of its state of the art audio visual technology, including a 21:9 touchscreen and video relay system with flexible audio and video input facilities.

For businesses ready to take the next step and move into a space they can call home, the Department for Enterprise can also help. The Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) is yet another way they assist in helping businesses build a fundamental foundation on Island. The purpose of this scheme is to support the growth of businesses by investing inwardly and through business relocation initiatives. Grant levels vary with up to 40% grant support available for use towards new buildings, extensions and refurbishments, first year rent costs and first year expenses including, setup costs, legal fees, relocation costs and other professional fees.

3. Staff

The success of any business – new or old – lives or dies by the dedication of its staff. Having a robust infrastructure requires skilled workers, with many of the Island’s workforce already well versed in the skillset required by the myriad of digital businesses. This said, Digital Isle of Man knows the intricacies of modern digital companies often requires a particular niche skill, and the relocation of off-Island workers is paramount to filling such a role.

The Employee Relocation Incentive (ERI) is a financial incentive designed to encourage job growth and the import of skills in certain sectors. Paid retrospectively to the applicant business, the grant is based on calculation of 20% of the net salary paid to an eligible employee following their first year of employment on the Island, and is capped at up to £10,000. In the last two years, the incentive has helped relocate over 260 individuals to the Island. In 2016 the Isle of Man Government also simplified the work permit process for tech professionals located in the UK and EU.

On Island, there are a number of organisations aimed at developing the local tech leaders of tomorrow. Love Tech is a female-led initiative, dedicated to inspiring and empowering girls to explore careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) through events, educational support and mentorship. Isle of Man Code Club is an organisation aimed at providing a focal point for people of all ages to develop digital skills, through classes in various programming disciplines and fostering cooperation amongst software developers in the Island. The newly launched IOM Tech Club promises evening educational events for adults, and their first event was just held in the Eagle Lab on 11 February.

4. Promotion

If you don’t actively invest time and money into marketing your business, it’s unlikely to gain much traction. Well-placed collateral that harnesses your demographic whilst staying true to your ethos and vision can be the difference between a business fail and a business win.

The Department for Enterprise understands the value of connecting digital businesses to a network of consumers, encouraging mindshare with clients through the marketing of your products. The Business Improvement Scheme (BIS) offers a grant of up to £5,000 towards the cost of projects in a wide range of business disciplines including social media consultancy and digital marketing, covering planning, strategy identification and branding.

5. Infrastructure and processes

Behind every great business is a processes structure, from legal assistance to internet connectivity, and without these basic fundamentals in place you’re not going anywhere, pretty much like owning a canoe with no paddle.

The Isle of Man is an international business jurisdiction with a robust infrastructure, and the very nature of being politically, logistically and economically stable means it is the ideal place for digital businesses to start and grow.

We have a strong community spirit, so you’re never too far away from access to professional assistance, allowing those in the liminal stages of a business to flourish. There is a strong representation of specialised legal, accountancy and fiduciary firms who can assist digital businesses at every stage of development or relocation.

Digital Isle of Man can offer advice and assistance to digital businesses looking to start-up or grow on the Island. Assistance ranges from advice on licensing and regulation to taxation and banking.

The Isle of Man has a world-class power and telecoms infrastructure that tech businesses can rely on. The Island has the ability to generate up to 70% more electricity than its peak demand with 20-25% of excess power sent to the UK National Grid. This means that the Island’s energy is not reliant on any single or external source, ensuring that the lights remain switched on.

The Isle of Man also boasts 6 top-quality datacentres for data hosting and benefits from highly resilient bandwidth connectivity meaning the Island is frequently being used as a test bed for emerging telecoms technology.

With feedback from digital businesses who have benefited from support, the Department for Enterprise is constantly adapting and evolving its portfolio of products, honing initiatives and streamlining processes to ensure the best support is offered. With approximately 30% of the Isle of Man’s GDP contribution coming from e-Businesses, it is encouraging to see that the Government remains at the forefront of support for this burgeoning sector.

With the Isle of Man backing you, the dream certainly can become a reality. It’s up to you to seize the opportunity.

For more information on all available Enterprise Support Schemes, visit: https://www.iomdfenterprise.im/funding-and-support/

Dan Walker is a Business Development Manager for Digital Isle of Man. He was involved in the sales and telecommunications industry for over 10 years and has experience in a number of areas including, retail sales, customer service, product development, product management, solution selling and e-Business and e-Gaming development. Dan is well versed on the quality infrastructure and connectivity that the island has to offer and how this can support our growing digital sector.

 

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