This week on CNBC Squawk Box an unlikely candidate for starring in a viral video was Martin Shanahan, the new CEO of IDA Ireland, the Irish state agency responsible for winning overseas investment. Shanahan was being interviewed about the recent changes in Irish tax law in relation to inward investment. The business of where corporations pay their tax has been the focus of much attention from both policymakers and the media.

During the interview, while a bemused Irishman answered some bizarre questions, his main points were reinforcing the message that Ireland’s formula for winning investment is not solely a competitive tax regime. The other elements to this winning formula are talent, technology and track record. As other countries have become more competitive on the corporate tax front, Ireland has developed other factors to attract overseas companies to invest. Chief among these is the availability of highly skilled and educated people in Ireland. This talent is not always Irish, being part of the European Union has attracted talented people from all over Europe.

According to Irish tech veteran, John Dennehy, “Ireland is moving from tax to talent as a major driver of competitive advantage.”

Dennehy founded, on online recruitment platform in 2009. He believes that “Talent will be the number one decider for FDI in the next 10 years. It’s all about brain power plus people.”

Dennehy has been collaborating on a project called Make IT in Ireland, set up in 2013, and funded by some of the largest overseas tech companies in Ireland including Google, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft. The aim of the project is to attract high quality IT talent to Ireland. provides the platform that powers Make IT in Ireland. As he says himself, “We got to see the best tech companies recruit talent and we learned a huge amount about online marketing and referrals along the way.”

He is in New York this week at the IIBN Opportunity conference and will participate in a discussion on talent attraction and the opportunities for Ireland to win overseas investment because of our skilled workforce.

Read more IIBN Opportunity coverage on IrishCentral here.

Recruiting the best people is a major challenge for all companies, no matter the sector or industry. For some sectors this is even more acute due to skills shortages. Cue the explosion of companies offering solutions in the recruitment space, from job listings and professional networking platforms to online recruitment marketplaces.

Ireland is no different and has contributed a number of startups in this space including Jobbio, ReferStar along with Dennehy’s creation -

Zartis is an online marketplace where each month a curated list of candidates is offered to corporate clients. 25 people are promoted each week to select companies. They can log in privately and reach out to the candidates.

Dennehy says, “We’re the only company in Europe who does this. We have just opened a new office in Berlin and are opening one in Madrid in January.”

Dennehy is well placed to provide insight on the topic of recruitment. In addition to his online company Zartis, he has been working in the tech sector for over 20 years. Indeed in 1999 in the early internet days he founded a web development company (also called Zartis) with 5 others. The Zartis founding team were feted as ‘dotcom darlings’ as they sold their startup a year later to Breakwater Solutions for $18million. Breakwater Solutions IPO’d around this time and at one point were valued at over $7 billion before it all came tumbling down as the tech bubble burst. Dennehy, who had been a millionaire by his early 20s lost it all.

Dennehy began his career with Smurfit Electronic Publishing in the early days of the internet. After the Zartis rollercoaster he co-founded Upstart Games which licensed and distributed games mobile phones. This was sold in 2007 to a Chinese company. Shortly after this he co-founded Fonepool with another Irish entrepreneur Colman Lydon. Fonepool sold mobile phone top-ups online. This company was sold in 2011.

In 2009 Dennehy set up an online recruitment company. He used the Zartis name because of what he felt was some unfinished business with that brand. Dennehy felt the recruitment space represented a good opportunity to introduce some innovative technology solutions. Recently they won a contract to handle all third party recruitment for Ryanair.

“We recruit tech talent for them. They are building a large tech team at their Dublin base.”

Zartis customers are very large US and Irish tech companies and they are beginning to add more European tech companies. Their focus is on the European market and they place people from all over the EU in tech companies in Ireland.

They have a number of ways they get the right people on their platform. Dennehy says, “We offer rewards for referrals. We produce a lot of content marketing and amplify with paid media.”

Dennehy concludes by saying “ There are more Europeans here in Ireland now. They are highly skilled and younger. The availability of talent has become much more important. One of the major reasons we are attractive to US companies is that we have good labor laws, US companies find it easier to understand our employee legislation.”

IIBN Opportunity is taking place this week in New York. John Dennehy will be speaking on a discussion panel entitled, “No Substitute For Talent: Is talent mobility a threat or OpportUnity to Foreign Direct Investment?”