Forbes magazine is trumpeting Ireland's determination to become Europe’s Silicon Valley.
In a country in which half the population is less than 30-years-old, Robes writes, 'Ireland seems to be teeming with start-up entrepreneurs or people with aspirations to become a startup entrepreneur.'
The magazine cites the recent Web Summit conference in Dublin, which saw attendance nearly triple to 4,000 from last year. A who’s who of the digital world, the conference attracted more than 100 start-ups, including a growing number from outside Ireland.
'I think Ireland is slowly but surely gaining global attention with a startup ecosystem that has real substance,' Noel Ruane, Entrepreneur in Resident with Dogpatch Labs, a Dublin-based accelerator funded by Polaris Ventures, told Forbes.
The enthusiasm of the startups belies Ireland's current economic condition, which is on the road to recovery from the global recession that required a massive bail out of many of the country’s banks.
The question is what's motivating the startup landscape of young entrepreneurs? The simple answer, Forbes says, is the Irish government, which is making a major bet that start-ups will be a way to establish a fast-growing sector that will create thousands of much-needed domestic jobs andfuel exports, which drive the country’s economy.
The government’s commitment isn’t just financial; they have created institutional structural change and have created new agencies to make it happen.
In the drivers seat is Enterprise Ireland, a 700-person state agency with an annual budget of 350 million euro and offices in 30 countries around the world.
Calling itself Europe’s biggest venture capitalist, Enterprise Ireland is making a huge bet on the tech startup industry because the government believes the rewards could be significant if they can become a vibrant, self-sustaining sector producing successful entrepreneurs that go on to start and finance more companies.
'We are being very aggressive but the reason we are being aggressive is not based on blind faith but solid belief and sales that show the entrepreneurs and technology workers here in Ireland are internationally competitive and have world-class capabilities,' Kevin Sherry, manager of Enterprise Ireland’s international sales and partnering division, told Forbes. 'They are gaining traction. It doesn’t happen by accident. It requires a lot of support.'
Enterprise Ireland has a 'Competitive Start Fund' that gives $65,000 to about 100 companies that are pre-revenue or still developing a product. More than 3,000 start-ups a year apply for the program.
Enterprise Ireland also raised $226 million to make fund-to-fund investments in venture capital firms focused on seed and early-stage investments.
Another crucial part of Ireland’s start-up ecosystem, Forbes reports, is the support from the large multi-nationals such as Google, Twitter, Zynga and Facebook, which have established international headquarters in Dublin.
These multi-nationals not only employee thousands of Irish people, they provide them with much-needed experience as well as important connections, Forbes writes.
'I hope they are not depending completely on startups,' Paul Quigley, founder and CEO with NewsWhip Media, a Dublin-based start-up said. 'They are making a big push and it could make Dublin the tech hub of Europe.'
Moving to Ireland
After living in Ireland for almost one year, this is what I’ve learned