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Talking TEKEX with Ed Prow

We sat down with our Jersey MD, Ed Prow, to answer some burning questions about TEKEX.

So, Ed… What exactly is TEKEX?   

It’s best explained as the Channel Islands Tech Entrepreneur Network – a high-calibre network with a focus on connecting innovation with private capital and expertise to create a unique business acceleration ecosystem for Channel Islands and beyond.

TEKEX’s core purpose is to create a sanctuary for people to connect, to enable capital; quite specifically in fundraising, but most importantly to help diversify our business environment. All business sectors have this golden thread of ‘technology’ running through it, it doesn’t matter if it’s finance, agriculture, wellness, environmental, entertainment, social welfare – the list is literally endless.  

When and by whom was TEKEX created? What was its inspiration? 

I founded TEKEX in 2018, about five years ago, predominantly by myself, but under my role as director of Potting Shed. In our own entrepreneurial endeavours while helping a tech startup get to market, we were also being exposed to the fundraising universe. It was apparent to me that in the local context of Jersey (at the time), there was a disconnect between entrepreneurism, innovation and capital – and that through Potting Shed, I was perfectly placed to connect the dots. We founded TEKEX to create the ideal environment for innovation to flourish. 

How did you get to the name - what does TEKEX stand for?  

Originally it stood for “Tech Exporting”; so those businesses that have a technological bent, that have an appropriation of a solution locally, but have grander visions to export that solution globally – because technology should not have to be limited to our jurisdiction just because it was born here, if it can serve a larger, global purpose, we need to get it out in the world. As with all brands, however, TEKEX has since grown to encompass so much more, it has become its own being.   

What drives your passion for TEKEX; what motivates you? 

As a business owner I’ve observed and experienced the challenges that not only us, but also our clients face; and I’ve noted how much start-ups and entrepreneurs could benefit from support. It’s not just about financial support – there’s so much value to be added from a network of expertise. The best thing about the Channel Islands is not only that we have no shortage of expertise, but also that it’s so easily accessible – IF there’s an appropriate forum for it.   

Our islands are amazing places to start and run businesses, but there isn't (or there wasn’t) a network dedicated to enabling connection between these specific like-minded individuals, whether it’s connecting innovation to capital, or to expertise, or to a group of people that can enable the acceleration of their business. 

I’ve always felt encouraged to share knowledge and to help where I can. I’ve seen a lot of the frontline for a variety of businesses, and I’m incredibly passionate about doing anything that I can do to improve the viability of that environment. 

Ok, so how does TEKEX benefit the Channel Islands? 

TEKEX supports the Channel Islands by creating a safer, more accessible environment for success and failure in this particular arena of business. Jersey has a lot of potential, be it intelligent people, be it capital, be it the infrastructure of business around to support SMEs and start-ups, but with the very dominant finance industry, it's sometimes quite difficult for other industries to have a wider impact in who we are as a business jurisdiction. 

The TEKEX community is here to represent Guernsey & Jersey's innovation and entrepreneurial sectors regardless of the industry, to help them grow and create the circumstances under which they can flourish. This is not only great for the economy of both islands, but it's also great for the culture, it's so beneficial for people to connect and to create more outward focused opportunities for these sectors. And, ultimately, if something enormous and amazing comes from TEKEX Jersey or Guernsey, it's great for the Jersey/Guernsey brand! 

What can I anticipate experiencing at a TEKEX event, and who has attended in the past?

So at a TEKEX event, you will experience around four speakers on stage and me or Tom as compère. We will always try to have a variety of speakers - some might be entrepreneurs who can share their success story – from concept to start-up, investment finally exit, others might be companies actively pitching for investment and presenting their business case to the audience. We have also featured thought leaders on a relevant current topic, like the impact of Artificial Intelligence, and we always feature a charity to give them exposure to a new audience that would usually be difficult to access. 

The audience is really varied as well - from privately wealthy individuals who are interested in investing to directors, businesses, and various levels of seniority in the corporate world, and of course, fellow entrepreneurs who are actively seeking to connect with like-minded peers in this arena.

How has TEKEX provided opportunities to businesses that may not have otherwise benefited?

It’s all about the connections! The network has grown to upward of 800 members across the islands, and it attracts people who are interested in the agenda. Regardless of the investment in specific businesses, the network has presented job opportunities and contract opportunities as well. 

When you bring people with similar beliefs and spirits together in a network, the hearts and minds connect beyond our active platform solution. So there are numerous stories, be it community-led or corporate-led or simply connecting because you've got a common belief in the way something should be or could be. I honestly wouldn’t be able to stop talking if I got into the individual opportunities that have been created. 

What has TEKEX done to help charities?  

Every quarter, a different charity gets five minutes at the start of a TEKEX event to present what they're about, and for example about a technological challenge that they are facing, which might otherwise go unseen because they're not actively trying to seek help. For Caring Cooks, we helped by delivering a tech solution to them. We’ve had occasions where funding was procured for a charity live at an event, like Healing Waves for example, which we managed to raise a significant amount for.  

More importantly, just giving them exposure and awareness to an audience about what they do. Charities don't always have the capacity to have a voice out in the corporate sphere, so it just gives them a chance to talk about their purpose on stage without any expectations or strings attached. 

What innovative solutions or technologies has TEKEX introduced to the Channel Islands?

That’s quite a list! We've looked at wearable technology - lifesaving, wearable technology, third sector ESG technology, augmented reality tech, FinTech and wealth tech... These are just some of the innovations that TEKEX has enabled to get fund raised.  

Beyond that, what we've exposed topically (beyond the funds) from a technology perspective is profound - digital twins, med tech, looking at deep exacerbations in the human body… and at the next event we will be looking at neuroscience and the technology to enable healthier minds. 

We've also looked at NFTs and AI… We want to span the spectrum of technology and its impact, and drill down into specifics such as the wearables, but also as a broader topic based exposed narratives in the tech space that don't feel like they have always an appropriation for the islands’ ecosystem, but it's fascinating how we've explored that.  

When can we expect the next TEKEX event, and how can I participate?

The next Jersey event will be September the 20th - you will need to keep an eye on our socials and website for full details, but I’ll give you a sneak preview. 

We’re planning to host at Grow, an amazing local charity. We will be hearing from a founder of SHUFL Capital, and the launch of their new Happiness Fund; they'll be talking about their investment strategy and what businesses they'll be looking to invest in. We’re featuring a UK-based charity with EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) and SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) investable tax benefits. This isn’t specifically relevant for on-island initiatives, but it does raise the topic of the EIS and SEIS, and that Jersey and Guernsey don't have that tax system - which is an interesting debate regardless of SHUFL Capital’s focus that the first fund did include grassroots Channel Islands business to invest in and the second fund would be in the UK, but it still has an appropriate message for Jersey and Guernsey. 

We will also then be hearing from one of their portfolio companies in their first fund that was invested in which we are currently in the process of looking to relocate to Jersey, a very compelling business case for Jersey, an incredible design engineer.  

Then to round it off, we will be launching TEKEX Gen - a new branch of TEKEX, looking at a younger audience and how we're going to be handing the TEKEX brand to them to continue and develop a new thread of TEKEX’s energy in a younger audience. 

Can you share any success stories or notable achievements resulting from TEKEX's initiatives?

There are two projects that are actually linked to SHUFL Capital that will be presenting. Uniti, which is a project that Potting Shed as a business helped get £300,000 raised for, which is in the market now and working with the Government of Jersey

Another project is an augmented reality entertainment app that we helped raise half a million pounds for. We've also helped raise funds for Bank Clarity, STAK which is wealth tech and TagTeam, which is a wearable device.

Author Al Mitchell