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Intercom funds UL tech scholarship

Karen Church of Intercom discusses why the company is funding an EDI scholarship for students of UL’s immersive software engineering course.

Starting in September 2022, software company Intercom is providing an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) scholarship valued at €10,000 for students of University Limerick’s (UL) immersive software engineering (ISE) course.

Any student doing the course who is also registered with UL’s access, sanctuary or disability support services is eligible to apply for the grant.

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There will also be a €10,000 scholarship for women students in the ISE programme, announced by Arizona-headquartered Transact Campus. The payments software company has its international HQ in Limerick, where it added 110 new jobs in 2020.

Last July, Transact Campus joined other Limerick tech employers such as Dell to develop a cybersecurity apprenticeship scheme in UL to fill the skills gap in that sector.

Applications for both Intercom’s EDI scholarship and Transact Campus’ scholarship will open in September. Applicants will be required to complete a written submission and participate in an interview to be considered.

Students who are successful in their applications will receive €5,000 to be awarded in the first semester of their first year with a further €5,000 awarded at the beginning of their second year.

The ISE course aims to change how computer scientists are educated by helping them learn through hands-on experience, building and collaborating with people in the industry through residencies.

To get an insight into why it is important to fund EDI initiatives in tech, spoke to Intercom’s VP of data science and research, Karen Church.

‘Your company, your culture and your products are only as good as the people who make them’

“Software engineering as a field is so vital for our collective future, so the opportunity to train and work in this space and drive change in the world should be open to everybody, irrespective of their background.

“Diverse teams encourage better problem-solving and innovation, stemming from new viewpoints and insights, which opens up a whole world of possibilities when it comes to new ideas.

“It’s important to all of ISE’s industry partners to create an inclusive learning environment,” Church said. “This enables us all to benefit from more diverse graduates joining the workforce and contributing to the wider tech ecosystem.”

Church pointed to the fact that Intercom serves a diverse range of clients across the world, and that “building products that serve diverse businesses starts with building a diverse team”.

Intercom is headquartered in San Francisco and has offices all over the world. Among its 25,000 customers are Atlassian, Amazon and Lyft Business.

Prior to her current role at Intercom, Church served as the company’s director of product analytics and data science. In 2017, she spoke at Inspirefest about what user data tells us about people’s behaviours.

Intercom was co-founded by four Irishmen in 2011, one of whom, Des Traynor, recently spoke at Future Human 2022 about the future of entrepreneurship. Like Church, Traynor has also previously spoken at Inspirefest.

As a data analyst, Church has a unique insight into what happens if underrepresented groups in tech are ignored.

“Your company, your culture and your products are only as good as the people who make them. The benefits of encouraging diversity in your workforce and leadership teams are limitless. Diverse teams are repeatedly proven to be more innovative, productive and happier.

“This has a knock-on effect for business results, increasing retention and helping improve the overall company culture. Not investing in or advocating for more diversity and inclusion in your company and the wider tech community means that potential talent is wasted, innovation is hindered, diversity and inclusion gaps widen, and prosperity is stunted.”

The way to avoid wasting talent is to invest in education, she said, adding that she would love to see more companies also investing in EDI education initiatives.

‘Students have the opportunity to rotate around multiple companies as interns’

As part of the scholarship, Intercom is also providing other more holistic supports to programme participants. Church described it as a “partnership between industry and UL, bringing the best of both together to prepare students for the real workforce.”

“This partnership means that students will get both a combination of deep academic theory along with tangible industry experience, giving them the opportunity to solve real-world problems, and gain invaluable experience collaborating on teams with professionals driving impact.”

“What’s exciting about this programme is that students have the opportunity to rotate around multiple companies as interns. They’ll be exposed to different industries, different problems and different people, giving them a rounded experience and a greater ability to learn and adapt quickly when they graduate.

“Our aim is that they leave the programme as confident engineers who have new skills in their toolkit and new insights about themselves, their passions, and their strengths.”

So, what kind of student is the programme hoping to attract? “I’d encourage any curious, talented, ambitious student with an interest in computer science and technology who wants to make a real impact in the world to apply,” Church responded.

And for those thinking of applying who are concerned they do not have the requisite skills, Tiziana Margaria, co-director of the ISE degree at UL, said that there was “no precondition” to have the ability to program.

“We’d also like to see applications from students who did not think so far of software or technology as a possible pathway for themselves,” Margaria said, adding that Intercom and UL looked forward to matching students’ aspirations with inspiration.

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.

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