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The Long and Winding Road, Creating Digital Streets Near You

Near Me Now, the award-winning experts in Digital High Streets and Smart Town Ecosystems, is transforming the high street and wider community here in Wales.

Founded in 2015, it’s the brainchild of founder and CEO Victoria Mann: a technology innovator who has built a revolutionary enterprise based on many different insights, each gleaned on a personal journey that’s seen her enjoy early careers in data science, business analysis – and as a Maths teacher helping realise the human potential of people and communities in the Valleys.

That blend of technical prowess and human empathy has equipped Vicky with both a wide-ranging and far-sighted perspective, and an inspired vision to empower and enable independent businesses, local authorities and whole communities to thrive – through the pioneering VZTA platform that is on course to shape Smart Town Ecosystems in South Wales and beyond.

Trusted by government and councils – and working inclusively with a wide range of partners – Near Me Now has already won the Best Start Up of the Year accolade; and in the last 12 months has seen Vicky win Best Tech Leader at the Wales Technology Awards 2022, as well as being featured in CEO Monthly as Most Influential CEO, 2022.

We spoke with this inspirational entrepreneur to find out more about her journey – and her vision for empowering people and organisations to shape the places where they live and work …

A pathway of inspired innovation

“Like any other person in business, my formative years influenced my outlook on life and the world” says Vicky.

“Being brought up in a tight-knit and loving family in Pontypridd, my early years were shaped by people who taught me that anything is possible in life – but being grounded and believing in people were the most important qualities. And those guiding lights have served me well on my journey so far.”

“I went slightly against the grain for my generation – becoming one of the few females employed in data science, enjoying fascinating roles as a Management Information Analyst with NPI in Cardiff, before becoming Risk & Pricing Analyst with GMAC UK in Nantgarw. I learned so much about myself and the potential that data can play in our lives, moving to become a Portfolio Analyst with Picture Financial Group in Newport, and Senior Risk Analyst with Buy Per View in Bridgend.

“Both of the latter companies experienced mixed fortunes in a volatile financial sector; so I decided to explore another avenue for my communication and analytical skills – as a University Instructor at University South Wales, before becoming Head of Year 7 & 8 teaching Maths, Statistics, ICT & Business at Ysgol Gyfun Llanhari.

“The journey across sectors and in different functions brought a kaleidoscope of experiences and deep insights into both the power of technology and the potential we have as humans and communities. In amongst all of that, I gained a degree in Maths & ICT with QTS at USW; and life took me to Dublin and back for a year, with my young daughter, which again taught me the value of resilience and flexibility – the absolute bedrock essentials for any entrepreneur.”

A pioneering platform creating Smart Town Ecosystems

How has such a rich tapestry of experiences and skills come to fruition at Near Me Now, with the revolutionary VZTA platform?

“VZTA takes the idea of a digital high street onto a whole new level – becoming the beating heart of an ecosystem that connects and enables businesses, communities and local authorities to achieve more, together.

“First and foremost it puts the town in the hands of the community, allowing people to see what’s happening ‘right now’ in the local shops, restaurants and any other business – enabling customers to find the perfect gift, meal to eat, or place to enjoy.

“That means smaller businesses have the customer connection to compete with the online giants – driving footfall to the high street, encouraging businesses to work together to connect with customers, while allowing those consumers to make decisions that save time and money.

“The net result? A thriving town – and all the ingredients for a Smart Town – where the whole community is connected, with a strong sense of identity that the VZTA platform can promote.

“The platform provides a wealth of information and rich data to help community members and leaders make informed decisions on how to regenerate, revitalise or simply optimise the experience for both visitors and the local population.”

“It’s an affordable, scaleable and smart town ecosystem that engages whole communities, creates a sense of place – and means that no town or community in Wales need be left behind.”

Thank you, Vicky, for sharing your journey on a road well travelled – with the best yet to come – bringing the digital high street (and much more) to our Region.

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6 June 2024

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