News A Digital Community Grows in Derry, Ireland

Earlier this year when Digital DUMBO CEO Andrew Zarick met Mark Nagurski, Digital Champion of an organization called Digital Derry in Derry, Ireland, there was a mutual understanding our two organizations should collaborate. Mark traveled from Ireland to meet with Andrew in DUMBO, home to Brooklyn’s burgeoning tech community and our organization, Digital DUMBO. During their meeting, Andrew had the opportunity to tell Mark about how its organizers had gone about growing Digital DUMBO over the past few years. Mark elaborated on the topic of new ventures, explaining how Derry and Ireland in general had been on a tear as of late in the digital space and as a result of this growth, a conference called CultureTech was in the works. After having just completed Digital DUMBO’s inaugural dd:IMPACT conference, an event that explored how digital has disrupted, evolved, and progressed culture, it was a fitting conversation to be having.

Ireland isn’t the first place that springs to mind when talking about where the next wave of digital startups will break. However, Mark was quite convincing of the big things that are happening in Northern Ireland’s second largest city, and invited Andrew to travel to Derry to participate as a speaker in CultureTech.

So, last week DUMBO was introduced to Derry, as Andrew hopped on a plane from Newark and flew six and a half hours to Belfast to then drive an hour and a half north to reach the city. Derry is perhaps best known for what’s referred to as The Troubles, the etho-political conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestant Unionists and Catholic Nationalists. Bloody Sunday also happened just outside the city walls that still surround Derry’s city center.

“Upon entering the city walls it’s hard not to feel the sense of community in Derry. The urban center has a population of about 85,000, but the walls make it seem like a much smaller place. There might be more bars than people. The size of the city make Derry an ideal cultural center and a perfect place for a festival like CultureTech, allowing people to interact and cross paths on street level,” recollects Andrew.

He also mentioned how privileged he felt to be participating in the Big Ideas session, taking place on the third day of the festival. Andrew discussed how Digital DUMBO grew from a small social gathering into a much bigger idea, stating his belief that Digital DUMBO has found its way into the broader movement towards a creative society based on the creative class. In his speech, Andrew quoted Richard Florida – author of the international best-seller, The Rise of the Creative Class – and shared the thought leader’s point of view in that, “We are in that strange interregnum when the old order has collapsed and the new order is not yet born.”

“He refers to the old order as companies that grew out of the industrial revolution who’s bureaucratic infrastructures stifle innovation and creativity, and the new order being that of the knowledge-based worker and more dynamic and nimble organizations. We believe that Digital DUMBO can help bridge the gap between the old and new and we’re establishing an initiative set to do so,” explained Andrew.

Outside of the Big Ideas session was the notable Image Rights panel, a half day examination of music and the moving image, featuring Daniel Cross, the Global Music Manager for Adidas, among others. Having founded music distribution network, StereoGrid, Andrew was “delighted yet surprised” to find an abundance of music and music start-ups in Ireland. He later said that “At second glance, it makes perfect sense. Music is a big part of Irish culture and nightlife. Stay on the look out for Irish music start-ups like Rotor, 45 Sound, Choorpy, and Inflyt.”

CultureTech was a grand success, especially in a city that has been through so much in the past. There was a real sense of pride amongst the volunteers, sponsoring companies, supporters, and even the speakers.

“I hope Digital DUMBO makes its return to Ireland sooner rather than later. It was an honor to be involved in what was a big step forward for Derry and it’s digital community,” expressed Andrew.

Digital DUMBO wishes Derry, Digital Derry, and the CultureTech team nothing but the best, especially in the coming year where Derry will be the UK’s City of Culture.