What makes a tech hub?

Roland Tritsch, VP of Global Engineering at Nitro, outlines what it takes in this day and age, for a city to make it as a tech hub.

‘Tech hub’ is a term we hear bandied about often but how is it actually defined? I’d be inclined to describe a tech hub as a type of ‘utopia’ where things happen faster, people are smarter and meeting investors is easier - as a result, a space is created where ideas germinate and companies prosper. However, fostering the perfect blend of skills, education and community can be easier said than done.

How do cities successfully match the speed at which the technology industry is moving?

The rate of change in technology is immense. It is only eight years since the iPhone was introduced, transforming the way people interact with technology, and software that is now commonplace, such as Evernote or Hailo, has undergone a similar ‘big bang’ in the same timeframe. Technology is transforming our habits and the routines of our work and personal lives. This rate of change means technology companies have to be constantly innovating and creating to compete, therefore it’s increasingly important for companies to be prospering in the right environment, both culturally and geographically.

How does a city become a magnet for tech talent?

Tech hubs not only host people from different areas of the IT landscape, they encourage them to gather and stay in that city. From web designers and digital marketers to developers and angel investors, a growing company needs to have access to the best talent in all aspects of the sector. It also needs to be able to establish itself in a culture where people are connected and where networking is of paramount importance and intrinsic to work life.

How does this happen? The supply must meet the demand: For a city to be classed as a tech hub, it needs a strong reputation for highly skilled graduates; if a city is home to a large or specialised university, that’s a great start. In today’s fast-moving climate, we need to see an increase in high-quality computing and engineering graduates in particular. We need to get good people interested in engineering and ensure they have the right fundamentals to adapt to a changing environment. For example, programming languages are constantly evolving. At Nitro we are working with the latest and greatest technologies including Spark and Scala. Without a strong grounding in both the foundations of computer science and the latest workplace trends and technologies, students risk graduating with obsolete skills.

But that is only a first step or one of the puzzle pieces that you need to build a tech hub or to compete with other tech hubs. As said above the main ingredients to build a tech hub are talent and money. You need companies to invest in the tech hub and bring good, interesting work to the tech hub and then you need to make sure there are enough good engineers to deliver on it.

The tech hub needs to be able to produce these engineers from within (education and constant learning) and/or to attract them from the outside (relocation). As a foundation you need to make sure the tech hub has a good quality of life and is easy to relocate to.

Once there, how can companies keep their employees interested and maintain the zest for learning?

Building and fostering the tech community is very important. Promoting and organising get-togethers for like-minded techies to meet up and discuss issues facing the industry are an opportunity for graduates and tech employees to share ideas and knowledge on a particular subject. Real, live interaction promotes a healthy ecosystem by encouraging collaboration, coordination and cross-pollination of ideas. This ecosystem is essential to sustain a healthy pipeline of talent and to promote skills-development as part of the job.

Which cities are succeeding?

Every day we read about more tech hubs springing up all over the world. Nitro chose Dublin for its European headquarters, and over the past few years we’ve experienced Dublin truly emerging as a tech hub to rival cities like London and Berlin, which has an advantage in size and numbers.

For a small city, Dublin attracts a lot of positive attention on the world stage especially from the technology sector. It is a sector that is thriving, with exports and employment in both indigenous and multinational technology firms continuing to grow. Four of Ireland’s top five exporters are technology companies, with the sector responsible for €72 billion of Ireland's exports– 40 per cent of the national total. Making use of our European membership means we can welcome highly skilled talent from across the continent and beyond.

At a company level, we are doing our part to practise what we preach. With a team of senior engineers in place, the Dublin team at Nitro is responsible for developing our cloud offering - a key strategic product for the future of the business globally. In addition to that, earlier this year we initiated a series of monthly tech meet ups with our engineering team on hot topics in the industry, giving tech employees and graduates an opportunity to share their views and network. The fact that every one of our events to date has been oversubscribed is an indicator that the appetite is there to build on.

In conclusion, to really drive businesses to your shore and keep them there, you have to match the speed at which the industry is moving by making your offering more appealing and fitting with what tech companies need. Skills, education and community are the three key focus areas to work on as an industry and city. It’s a competitive market and not every city can foster the best talent; only the most community-driven and cultivating will succeed.

Roland Tritsch, VP Global Engineering at Nitro

Image Credit: Shutterstock/hin255