Irish tech entrepreneurs urged to 'think big' to attract US investment

Ireland’s technology entrepreneurs are being urged to “think big” when looking to expand their businesses – especially if they want to attract investment from Silicon Valley in the US.

Ireland’s technology entrepreneurs are being urged to “think big” when looking to expand their businesses – especially if they want to attract investment from Silicon Valley in the US.Speaking to Naoimh Reilly in the Irish Independent, John Hartnett, founder and president of the Irish Technology Leadership Group, whose aim is to create links between Ireland and Silicon Valley said, “Be very prepared coming out. Don't expect funding to fall into your lap. Know why your technology is better than anyone else's, what a great team you have and what market you are addressing,“Irish companies tend not to be as ambitious as, say a Californian company. Californian entrepreneurs preach their technology.“They say they are going to build a billion-dollar company and it's going to be revolutionary. They are very bold and ambitious compared to the Irish. Irish companies tend to have a conservative ambition. That's not very attractive to a big investor in the Valley.”
 Shifting relationshipsThe increase in the trans-Atlantic traffic marks a significant change in the relationship between the two tech communities that has been noted by Karlin Lillington, technology writer with the Irish Times in her more recent visits to the US.“Early work trips there were about the big multinationals that had offices or did business here in Ireland: Oracle, Intel, Cisco, Apple, HP – that whole Valley A-list roster that a visitor to IDA (Industrial Development Agency)  Ireland’s website at the time could scroll through.“But the balance has shifted. Now, the same website in the 21st century boasts lots of small Valley companies many people might not have heard of, because Ireland has become a location destination for start-ups that aren’t yet making much money, if any, but which have promise.“And, of course, there’s the updated A-list, featuring the “second wave” of what the IDA likes to call “born-on-the-internet companies” with offices in Ireland – Google, eBay, Facebook and so on.“Add to that Irish companies with bases in San Francisco and the Valley and it’s a new, layered, complex picture. And it isn’t just window dressing, or market froth, or plucky if misguided start-up aspiration. Nor is this just a tax-dodge landscape. There’s weight. There’s a broad, established business-scape of exchange between the two locations.”Interviewed in the Irish Independent, Sam Warner, whose advergaming company, Physical Liquid Software has been operating out of the NovaUCD (the centre for new ventures and entrepreneurs based at University College Dublin) acknowledges the allure of Silicon Valley, but warns hopefuls to do careful research and be fully prepared in their business strategy before flying off to California: “The valley is the Hollywood of the tech world ­– it's a highly competitive place with a short attention span!”He is however, very positive about the advantages of being based in Ireland and told the Irish Independent, “I truly believe that Dublin is one of the best places in the world for an ICT-based startup.“The government is allocating funding and supports for indigenous Irish companies. We wouldn't be where we are today if it were not for the support and expertise offered to us by Enterprise Ireland and NovaUCD,”
 Relocation myths dispelledNow it seems, fledgling start-ups based in Silicon Valley are following the likes of Apple, Intel, Google and Facebook and relocating to Ireland. Heather Somerville, writing online the LA based Contra Costa Times has noted,“Ireland's famously low corporate tax isn't the primary draw for startups –unlike their predecessors – because US-based companies are taxed on their profits, which startups generally do not have. These startups are setting up their first overseas offices hoping the booming tech city of Dublin will become their launchpad to global success.”Somerville highlights the similarities between the two locations, “Dublin looks a lot like home: a young and educated workforce, global business culture, population thirsting for new technology and Twitter and Facebook signs dotting the horizon. Labor and real estate are cheaper than in other European destination cities and, more than the familiar language or palatable food, the city's tech tenant roster makes Dublin feel comfortable to Silicon Valley transplants.”Several smaller, but thriving companies that originated in San Francisco have moved to Ireland too, including Airbnb and cloud software company Zendesk. In 2013, file storage and sharing startup Dropbox, also based in San Francisco dipped its toe in European waters for the first time and opened an office in Dublin.And, Heather Somerville adds, “More are following: San Francisco-based Yelp announced this month plans to open a 100-person Dublin office, and in April SurveyMonkey from Palo Alto unveiled plans for an office in the Irish capital within a year.Rory Mullen, senior vice president of IDA Ireland explained to Ms Somerville. "Now what you're seeing is much smaller companies (that) at a very early stage decided they needed a European presence."And Heather Somerville concludes, “These startups are the third wave of valley tech companies moving to Ireland, which beginning in the 1970s became the destination for Apple, HP, Intel and Dell to establish a European presence, get a tax break and begin expanding into the multinational corporate giants they are today. They were followed by Google, Facebook, Zynga, PayPal, LinkedIn and Salesforce.“Over the past several years, the valley's tech behemoths have helped transform Dublin's old industrial canal docks into an area the global tech industry coined “Silicon Docks” and groomed the next generation of tech talent, setting up an easy transition for startups to move overseas.”The figures certainly seem to back this up. The Silicon Valley Bank has invested $50 million in Irish tech- and science-based companies, and says it has plans to double that amount in the coming year. Overall, Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist investments in Irish startups have leapt by 158 per cent in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same three months of 2013. It seems that Silicon Docks is truly 'plugged in'.

Related Articles