Believe it or not, I have been living in Europe since 2009 but I hadn’t been to Dublin until *this* year. I finally decided that Dublin Tech Summit (not to be confused with Web Summit) would be a good occasion to visit.
Aside from being known for Guinness, insanely friendly people, the original home of Web Summit and, well, tax incentives, Dublin is also known as one of the leading startup hubs in Europe. Ranked by the European Digital City Index in 2016 as the 8th city in Europe, Dublin counts a relatively young, international population; roughly 40% of the population is under 30 years old and 20% is non-Irish born.
Dublin is also home to a *ton* of European HQs of large tech companies, including Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Ebay, Linkedin, Airbnb and many more. In fact, roughly 250 global tech giants have their EMEA headquarters based in Dublin, according to EDCI.
Many find that Dublin is well positioned to benefit from movement in the IT and financial sectors associated with Brexit. Although most of the feedback I got regarding Brexit was less positive in that Ireland’s food and beverage exports had been negatively impacted by the vote.
Now, what does Guinness have to do with startups?
Well, a lot, actually. One place that I found truly incredible in Dublin — which actually reminded me in many ways of Station F — is the Digital Hub. It’s essentially part of the old Guinness factory that has been converted into startup offices, housing over 97 digital companies with over 700 people working on their premises. There are quite a few digital agencies, but also companies like tech blog Silicon Republic, Eventbrite, NextDoor, Crowdbeds and more.
One may expect to see some of the larger companies like Google, Facebook, etc. in such a space but they’ve opted for far larger offices in the trendy Docklands.
The land of no Uber ?
I’m exaggerating of course — obviously there are Ubers in Ireland. But not a lot. In fact, almost none of the locals use Uber — they all opt for London-based Hailo, which quite surprised me. Last summer, Dublin counted 10,000 Hailo drivers, which is reasonable for a city of less than 600,000 and Hailo’s numbers have most likely increased since then. And no, Hailo adoption in Dublin oddly isn’t a result of any of Uber’s treatment of women, involvement with the Trump administration, treatment of Uber drivers or that whole Korean escort thing. Apparently part of this is simply due to the high commission and lack of flexibility on the part of Uber, which does not seem to be the case with Hailo.
Quick, name an Irish startup…or VC !
Now, I have to admit that I had a little trouble coming up with Irish startups off of the top of my head. Well, of course there is Stripe, if you want to consider it an Irish startup. But I was looking for an Irish startup icon, and strangely, I found that most of them I had either never heard of or were based outside of Ireland but with Irish founders (come on, that’s cheating!). But a few that I think are worth mentioning include CurrencyFair, Movidius (acquired by Intel) and Fenergo.
According to the EDCI, Ireland is the country in Europe with the most VC funding per capita. Perhaps unsurprisingly, bio and medtech tend to attract the most funding, followed by fintech. But what is also quite interesting is that business software deals make up 1/4 of all the VC deals done. Now it seems impossible not to mention Enterprise Ireland, which is the government’s organization to support Irish businesses — they also invest in a number of funds, including 3 development funds. Ireland’s angel investor communities also seem to be well organized, for example HBAN network invested €13.6 million in 2016.
The Dublin startup community also has a very unique female figure battling on its behalf — Niamh Bushnell. A serial entrepreneur at heart, Niamh was the first person to take this role when it was created in 2014. Her job has been to promote Dublin as a startup and tech hub through Startup Dublin, the Dublin equivalent of TechCity in the UK. She recently announced that she will be moving on to a new role, to head up TechIreland, another project that seeks to support innovation in Ireland.
Not to be ignored
It seems rather easy to overlook Ireland’s startup activity as it can be dwarfed in comparison to neighboring London. It’s also easy to think that Ireland’s ecosystem is just a bunch of tech HQs having a low tax party. But the fact is that Ireland’s ecosystem has far more to offer, whether it be funding for startups or a young, international, English-speaking talent pool. Ireland very well may surprise us and move up higher on the ranks as a result of Brexit, we’ll just have to wait and see. Regardless, -we are thrilled to have some Irish startups that have applied for STATION F and we hope we’ll have many more to come.
Next stops: Madrid, Lisbonne and maybe your city too!
Stay tuned for our next stops on our European startup tour — and if you’d like us to come to your town, feel free to let us know!