Digital music pioneer to mentor local start-ups

Londonderry start-ups and entrepreneurs will have a chance to meet Jon Vanhala, who worked for decades with the world’s biggest music company before going on to become a digital music pioneer, when he visits the CultureTECH festival in the city next month.

Mr Vanhala, worked for years at the Universal Music Group and went on to become Head of Digital at both the Island Def Jam Music Group and the Universal Music Group.

Jon Vanhala (left) will visit the city as part of CultureTECH next month.

Jon Vanhala (left) will visit the city as part of CultureTECH next month.

Today he is Managing Director and partner at Thesis Ventures, a Fort Lauderdale venture capitalist, which aims to support creative and innovative new companies.

Invest NI is supporting what is being billed the ‘Office Hours’ initiative.

Mr Vanhala is one of a number of participating speakers lined up for the event.

These also include former Saatchi and Saatchi executive Becky Wang and a variety of technology and media investors, entrepreneurs and experts.

Around 50 individual sessions are expected to take place across three days.

Festival director Mark Nagurski said: “Accessibility has always been a big part of CultureTECH. We encourage all of our speakers to spend time in the city and meet with as many local companies as they can. Office Hours is an extension of this thinking and with the support of Invest NI we’ve been able to put a little structure to it - ensuring people with great ideas get a chance to spend proper time with internationally experienced speakers. For their part, all of the speakers we’ve mentioned this to so far have been really keen to be involved.”

Des Gartland, Invest NI’s North Western Regional Manager, said: “This Office Hours event is offering a unique opportunity for start up businesses and entrepreneurs working within the digital media and technology sectors to get one-to-one mentoring and advice from the many international and high-profile speakers taking part in this year’s festival.

“This event provides a platform to profile the strength of the local digital media and technology sectors which offer significant opportunities in terms of employment, growth, R&D and exports. Invest NI is committed to helping businesses and entrepreneurs across the North West and our sponsorship of CultureTECH reinforces this commitment.”

It is expected that the one-on-one sessions will focus on topics including exporting to the US, finding investment and business model development.

Anyone interested in taking part can apply online at

Preference will be given to applicants who are in the early stages of starting their business or considering starting a new business in technology or media, with clear export potential.

Further information about the CultureTECH Festival can be found at
Check out the short film of the 2013 festival above to find out what to expect.