Niamh Bushnell, Dublin's Startup Commissioner. Dublin Globe

The word in the Irish media last week was that Irish tech companies don’t have enough ambition.

Make that the Irish and the UK media, who both published articles lamenting their respective countries’ inability to produce behemoths like Uber, Stripe, and Google.

I heard a similar lament when I was in Israel last year and in New York for a solid, oh I’d say, ten years before that. Why don’t we have what it takes to build the biggest companies in the world? the media asks, manufacturing its very own version of existential angst, an angst rarely shared by entrepreneurs at the coalface themselves.

In Ireland, we have a bad habit of laying the blame for our lack of unicorns at the feet of ambition. “Irish companies just don’t think big enough, ” we say, “They sell too early” we sigh, and ambition does read like the culprit until you check TechIreland and see the large funding rounds being secured by Irish companies to fulfill – you’ve guessed it – their outsized levels of ambition.

Confound all that data the commentators say! Nothing will silence us until we achieve a ginormous Irish exit. For some reason, Fleetmatics’ recent $2.4billion acquisition by Verizon hasn’t done the trick.

But there are also many people who are attuned to a different story about Ireland. Here’s what I for one see:

A hungry but still early stage tech ecosystem, investment pool and talent pool. You can count on a couple of hands the number of people who’ve built tech companies to over $100M in annual revenue from Ireland, and with a few more hands you’ve probably included everyone who’s built large sales and marketing teams for Irish companies out of Ireland. Given the pipeline of companies coming through now, it’s only a question of time before these numbers start scaling nicely but it’s hard sometimes to be patient.

Ireland’s major challenge, my friends, is not related to ambition, it’s related to scale. We need more capita, and we need a deeper and larger pool of talent. We also need a policy environment that prompts more of both to flow to innovative companies in Ireland. Government policy cannot change our small island status, but it can fundamentally change our attractiveness as a destination for talent and capital. We’ve done this successfully for large multinational corporations; it’s time to help fulfill the potential of Irish born and scaling companies.

So, if we’re going to continue this conversation about ambition, let’s make it less about individual Irish companies and more about the Irish tech ecosystem and how big our ambition is to make Ireland as great as it can be for young companies. I’m so done with once-offs and empty comparisons.

The budget’s coming out soon and in the office, we’ve been working to develop policy documents which we’ll be publishing here next week. There’s an impressive chorus of entrepreneurs and investors already driving key policy changes. Hopefully, the media and other influential figures will use their voices and unparalleled access and join us.


This article appears courtesy of the Dublin Globe. For more great stories on Dublin's startuo ecosysem, visit their website here