First Fridays heads North to become a truly all-island affair

Dogpatch Labs’ First Fridays for Start-ups arrives to Belfast with talks from successful founders, mentorship and support for entrepreneurs.

Northern Irish start-ups will gather later this week (7 October) for a major monthly technology ecosystem event called First Fridays which will take place at Belfast’s Ormeau Baths.

The event is run in partnership with startup and innovation hub Dogpatch Labs and aims to connect and promote start-ups.

“Geographically small ecosystems like Ireland should connect up the pieces to be part of a larger effort to help founders succeed”

As well as talks from successful entrepreneurs, the event will connect founders in Northern Ireland with 1,000+ mentors from global tech companies Hubspot, Salesforce, Google, and Microsoft.

The Keynote Interview on the day will be with Dr Chris Armstrong, the co-founder and CEO of Overwatch Research, a Belfast-based software company that assists companies with pre-clinical medical research that was acquired by cloud software company Benchling this year. 

A panel session, chaired by Belfast Ecosystem advocate Jon Bradford, one of Europe’s best known Ecosystem Builders and Managing Partner at Dynamo Ventures will explore the challenges and opportunities for Northern Ireland’s Ecosystem. This panel will include Head of Regional Engagement at Royal Academy of Engineering Gillian Gregg, co-founder and CEO of INCISIV and professor of experimental psychology Cathy Craig, Partner at Techstart Ventures Jamie Andrews, and Investment Specialist at Technation Gary Davidson.

Those interested in attending can sign up for each session at

Building an all-island tech start-up ecosystem

First Fridays for Start-ups, which initially was held in Dublin for four years, expanded this year to host events in Galway, Kerry, Cork and Skibbereen in the Republic. This October it further expands by hosting its first-ever event in Belfast for entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland, making it an all-island event for the first time.  

‘’This month First Fridays for Startups comes to Northern Ireland and we couldn’t be more excited,” said Claire Dowds, general manager of Ormeau Baths.

“This important connection continues our efforts to collaborate with Dogpatch Labs to give founders the best environment and the best chance of succeeding north and south of the border. 

“We strongly encourage founders from the North to take advantage of the world-class mentoring in the First Fridays Mentoring programme and participate in the whole event’. 

In another first, the event will expand to a second day to bring together founders, start-up hubs, politicians, and investors to discuss the current environment for start-ups as well as opportunities for increased collaboration across the entire island of Ireland. Dogpatch Labs will host a workshop on Ecosystem Building for local ecosystem leaders, delivered by Dogpatch’s Director of Ecosystem Development, Jake Phillips. 

“Today from a Dogpatch perspective, we’re making a commitment to ensure there’s a broader effort to help and support founders in Northern Ireland,” explained Belfast native Ian Browne, managing director of NDRC, the national start-up accelerator programme led by Dogpatch Labs.

“Entrepreneurship is a tough and challenging game; the right ecosystem supports can be the difference between success and failure. Geographically small ecosystems like Ireland should connect up the pieces to be part of a larger effort to help founders succeed.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.