FDI - Ireland’s 50 year overnight success story


Barry O'Dowd, SVP of Emerging Business at IDA Ireland

What is Ireland's competitive advantage in this space?

Over the last two years IDA Ireland has been very successful in a attracting early stage, fast growth companies to Ireland. This has been a deliberate strategy by IDA Ireland, which is paying dividends for both the companies and Ireland. Examples include well established names such as Airbnb and Etsy. Other fast-growing companies that have recently set up include MongoDB, Squarespace, Zendesk, Hubspot, Qualtrics and Marketo. For many of these speed to market is of the essence and Ireland's business friendly environment offers a compelling solution in a multicultural English speaking location. Ireland’s cadre of senior and middle management with experience of project delivery is proving to be a differentiating competence in a highly competitive market for top talent. 

John Dillon CEO Engine Yard and ex CEO Salesforce

What are the reasons you decided to invest in Ireland?

It was all about good people, the main competition for us was London. But Ireland has the Euro, a common currency with the rest of Europe and a young population. The IDA do a magnificent job selling the reasons why Ireland is the place for your money. Low barriers to entry, tech savvy workforce, highly educated. The key is we could support multiple languages from Dublin. That then expanded to development, customer support and sales roles.

Initially I hired five Oracle executives to build the Salesforce business. That was key, having that senior executive talent on the ground and available. We hired 400 - 500 staff and people in San Francisco thought I was nuts. The culture is really appealing, it’s entrepreneurial, the Irish are used to working a long day. Now I’m CEO of Engine Yard and we’ve invested in Ireland again and acquired a vibrant tech company in Dublin. 

What advice would you give to Ireland?

My advice would be to continue to have a focus on this. Attract venture capitalists to invest in Irish companies, don’t mess with anything. This was not just Ireland passing a couple of laws and recreating Silicon Valley, this has been decades in the making.

In conclusion Ireland and the IDA in particular have a lot to be proud of. Attracting inward investment has been developed to a national competence. This is a huge achievement and is no accident. The IDA helped set up interviews with the senior executives interviewed in this piece at pretty short notice. Each and every interviewee gave up over an hour of their time to talk to us and each one spent a lot of time emphasizing the wonderful and productive relationship they have with the IDA. There you have it, an Irish government agency that is leading the way in global performance in this space. Something to tip our hats to and appreciate.