Harbour Innovation Campus

Getting the Harbour out of Dock

In the summer of 2015 when I was looking for new office space. Irish 10 year leases and protracted legals don’t mix well with the fast pace and ever changing landscape of the tech world.

As our business grew I wanted somewhere that could not just house our team but also the startups we work with. I wanted it to be a collaborative space where people, entrepreneurs, businesses would be able to innovatively create and co-create.

Meeting technology startups in the US, Scandinavia and around Europe, I regularly work out of co-working offices that offer inspiring spaces for a whole new generation of professionals and young businesses to thrive. That’s what I wanted for Ireland. In Dublin save for the leading work of Patrick Walsh in Dogspatch (and later DC in Cork and Galway’s Portershed) very few coworking spaces existed at any large scale.

While investigating spaces across Dublin I was struck by the magnificence of the Ferry Terminal and imagined its potential to become a hub for innovation and co-creation on a large scale. I saw an opportunity to go beyond just co-working and create a space for industry-backed innovation at scale.

I began to share this vision with the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company and trusted advisors such as Paddy Collins in Vodafone and Martin Murphy (ex HP).

When a tender process for how this very unique space could be used was opened I was very keen it was clear that the Harbour Company had a great commitment to ensure that the successful bidder would leave a lasting impression on Dun Laoghaire and the local community.

The benefits to Dun Laoghaire were huge. As Irish tech companies more and more priced out of Silicon Docks here is an amazing location just 15 minutes away. Dun Laoghaire and its catchment area has a history of amazing tech companies such as Apex Software where I started out but also companies such as Colm Lyons Realex and Marc O’Dwyers BigRedBook.

Putting 1000 co-workers for up-and-coming tech companies into this town would only add to a growing eco-system led by the likes of Eoin Costello, Owen Laverty, Paul McCarthy and many others

At this time, Lucey Group had brought in an investor, Philip Gannon in Blond Capital and while not a typical Lucey company investment, the Harbour Innovation Campus was one of the first projects I presented. Almost immediately they offered a multimillion euro investment and a commitment to operate the business venture if it was successful.

Together, the vision became a plan for the 75,000sq. space with a well-financed company to back it. The Lucey Group would be one of its first tenants in what was named the Harbour Innovation Campus.

The legal and planning process from vision to tender to planning application took well over a year. Elements from the original proposal such as a conferencing area were lost in the process.

As Blond Capital undertook more management, in line with our model of being a small shareholder in a number of businesses, I would step back into a non-executive role and upon planning being granted, a reduced shareholding, allowing Blond Capital to take over the execution of the project.

Now that the planning phase has finally passed its about getting the building ready for use and the formal opening is scheduled for Q2 2018

5 Key Learnings:

1. Be visionary but don’t leave things to faith.

2. When people tell you No just make sure you are asking the right question.

3. It’s important to seek many forms of professional advice. I made mistakes here for sure!!!

4. Be well financed with the right partners.

5. If you require anything in Ireland that needs planning permission be acutely aware the process is long, slow and deeply flawed.

I’m a founder of the Harbour Innovation Campus. I continue to be a shareholder in the venture. I look forward to seeing how it develops.