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Denise Matthews Entrepreneurial Journey That Brought Startup Grind to Gibraltar

about 4 years ago by Angelique Pearson
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Denise Matthews Entrepreneurial Journey That Brought Startup Grind to Gibraltar

It’s 09:30 UK time and 10:30 in Gibraltar, with differences in the weather too. It may be cloudy here in London, but Gibraltar is reliably sunny with enviable warmer temperatures.

The kids are back to school and everyone is getting back into the swing of work, meetings and new ventures, so what better opportunity for myself to meet with Denise Matthews, winner of the Startup Grind, winner of the 2018 “Rookie of the Year” award.

About Denise

“So Denise, you are a prominent figure in Startup Grind Gibraltar. Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

Since the age of 20, I had always known that I wanted to work for myself, which prompted me to open up my own business in PR and Promotions. I worked for myself for 4 - 5 years locally, before moving to Spain to expand.

As well as working for big companies in Spain, I continued to work for myself. I eventually came back to Gibraltar after giving birth to my son, (who is now 9) mainly because there was so much more support from family here.

When I returned to Gibraltar, I met the founder of Fitness First, Mike Balfour, who was semi-retired and the owner of several spas. Mike asked me to work for him, which I did for 11 months until I decided I wanted to do my own thing again. So I told Mike I was going to apply for Startup Grind.

He laughed and said, “You do know you have to find celebrity speakers for all your events?” Funnily, it turned out Mike and his son James, were my first speakers for the first Startup Grind Gibraltar when it launched in March 2017. We had over one hundred people attend.

“What made you apply for Startup Grind?”

I decided to apply for Startup Grind in February 2017, because I wanted to utilise my existing skills in event management and PR. So, I pulled out this old laptop that had been sitting in a box for 5 years old. It belonged to my father and I decided to make use of it.

I started to research what was out there. I had no investment, so was looking for a platform to showcase the services of my company ‘One Media & Events.’ I knew I could use my company to power Startup Grind, because I am a startup founder and entrepreneur.

“Wow! Only one month between applying for Startup Grind and your first event launching? That was a quick turnaround!”

About Startup Grind

“Tell me more about Startup Grind.”

Startup Grind’s headquarters are based in Silicon Valley in San Francisco. It’s powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, which is a project Google run targeted at Startups. Its aim is to attract super talent and nourish it globally, snapping up the best talent and the best startups out there.

The technology that sits behind Startup Grind is called Bevy and was built by a man called Derek Anderson. A now successful company in its own right recently raising a round of funding in the millions.

Startup Grind enables work remotely so it is now present in 400 cities around the world with their chapter directors as a freelance representative of the initiative. I am super passionate about entrepreneurship and believe in resilience to get what you want. I get to travel a lot through work, especially with all the networking events I attend.

“Tell me about your experience of visiting Silicon Valley”

Every year, there is a global conference held in Silicon Valley. The USA didn’t live up to my expectations. I got an insight into how harsh life can be out there in the states.

However, I do plan to spend more time exploring Silicon Valley next year in February, at the next global conference.

“Describe a typical Startup Grind event”

Each event starts with a talk by an inspiring speaker, who aims to educate and inspire. This is followed by networking, where big companies and smaller startups, and even people with great ideas can talk to one another, sharing stories and ideas.

“How do you think Startup Grind Gibraltar differs from all the other Startup Grinds globally?”

Startup Grind in Gibraltar has created magical experiences. We were lucky to have a regulated space here for Distributor Ledger Technology (DLT), which was initiated in 2017. It is attracting tech startups form around the world which is very much aligned with Startup Grind.

There are lots of companies and startups moving to Gibraltar, the majority of them all know about Startup Grind so there is sense of a community being built.

What else is great about Startup Grind here in Gibraltar? There is no shortage of speakers on a global level.  We have some really interesting topics and discussions going on at all the events. I think we are even more forward thinking than the USA in the Blockchain and ICO space.

“So far, what has been the most memorable Startup Grind Gibraltar event that has taken place?”

There is something special about each one that always gets to my heart. For me, the work I do has to bring great value. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to bring together so many people within such a small community. It’s about searching for the right speakers every month on platforms like  LinkedIn that will bring value to startup listeners.

Being a woman, the Female Leaders Month event in May made me feel extremely satisfied. I had a panel of 4 women speakers and it made a real impact here in Gibraltar. It made people think and if there was any impact for the better it makes me really happy.

Startups in Gibraltar

“How do you attract startups to attend your events?”

My main method of advertising is through social media. I also have 480 members currently registered to receive newsletters on upcoming events and updates.

Would you agree that if there’s an individual out there, who has an idea and wants to form a business, that Startup Grind would give them the confidence to get started?

There are lots of factors when you look at startups. The biggest challenge for them is receiving the right type of capital investment. A lot of them have the ideas, but lack capital.

Startup Grind provides a central environment for startups to come together and see how they can help each other encouraging startups to “Build what you want, in whatever way you want.”

As a startup, you also need an advisor and talent working for you. The startup industry is beginning to flourish here in Gibraltar. After all, Gibraltar is a very privileged place to work for many.

“What is the biggest challenge for start-ups in Gibraltar?”

In other countries, startups have a lot more support when it comes to investment. To accelerate a faster moving ‘startup environment’ in Gibraltar, we need more investors who are prepared to invest in high risk projects.

We need more moving capital to drive economic development here. The current investment is all going into investment funds so that people can get better interest on their return. Gibraltar has always been well known for a beneficial tax regime, but now we need investors to consider startups.

“How do you feel startups in Gibraltar can benefit from the services provided by an agency like SRGEurope?”

When a business or startup arrives in Gibraltar, they have to apply for a license. In some cases, there are certain requirements to adhere to, in order to set up office, including having for example a Compliance Officer and Director of Finance. That’s a lot of compliance officers for a lot of start-ups, so we don’t want to end up with a shortage in those specific roles.

Startups can rely on recruitment agencies like SRGEurope to ensure those specific resources are available when they need to recruit for them.

“What kind of start-ups are arriving in Gibraltar?”

There are lots of new startups that are entering, online trading market, cryptocurrency, DLT, token blockchain and also the energy blockchain companies.

Online gaming companies have arrived from America and Israel in recent years and are one of the most established startup industries locally.