The Irish state agency Enterprise Ireland won strong praise from an MIT professor for their efforts to create employment and encourage entrepreneurship.

But Bill Aulet, who is the senior figure at the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at MIT, also raised concerns that anti-immigration feelings could hurt future business ventures. Only about a quarter of his class at MIT were US citizens he said, and he worried that, “Immigrants no longer feel comfortable in the US and that is a huge problem.”

He continued, “Immigrants start more companies than other people and I worry that [in the current political climate] they’re not going to keep coming here.”

Speaking later to IrishCentral, Aulet, who describes himself as “part-Irish”, his wife as “even more Irish” and once spent a summer in college traveling around Ireland teaching basketball praised the attitude of Enterprise Ireland, which focuses on helping Irish business expand abroad, saying they had a great mentality, “No excuses, that’s their mindset. Enterprise Ireland just want a shot. Being part-Irish I find that attractive and they’re globally minded. They know that they have to sell beyond their own backyard.”

Among the companies present at the event, worry was not on show and those who had worked directly with the agency were fulsome in their praise for its help in expanding their businesses into the US market.  

David Quaid who set up Escape Business Solutions in 2001, providing companies with IT and business consultants, told IrishCentral, “It was a really good environment, I know 10 other companies who worked with them and they all thought they were phenomenal.”

Shane Brett, CEO of GECKO Governance, an organization that helps organizations comply with international regulations in order to avoid fines, was also enthusiastic about working with the state body.

Speaking to IrishCentral, he said, “From the first conversation I had with them at a tech event they were incredible. I had no idea what to and a guy from Enterprise Ireland came over and said you need to get in touch with us. They gave us €15,000 over the first six months and the tutors they put us in touch with were absolutely the best in their area in Ireland.

“We came over to the States with [then] Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton and they got us meetings with Google, directed us to the best lawyers in America. They guys working here are amazing, they just gave us so much credibility.

“I worked previously in London and there it felt like you were on your own but in Ireland, Enterprise Ireland just inundate you, wanting you to succeed.”

And it wasn’t just Irish companies that were singing the praises of Enterprise Ireland; Mary Ann Pearse of FinTec, an American company that sells equipment for the surface finishing industry, said the agency’s help had been invaluable when they expanded into the Irish market a few years ago.

“The level of connections they gave me in education and business, it was quite extraordinary.”

Seán Davis, Enterprise Ireland’s North American Regional Director, said the agency had had to change with the times since the recession, “We upped our game in terms of what we ask of companies and how we prepare them.

“Most of the team here are locals with a network that come from the private sector. So we’re much better, we’ve adapted.  And sometimes [when a company] isn’t a right match we have to say no. So we push back more.”

On the subject of proposed EU-US trade deal, TTIP, he was more optimistic than most commentators, “It’s not dead in the water, there are still a lot of chairs moving around so we’ll have to wait and see. From an Irish perspective, the strength of the dollar puts us in  very competitive position anyway.”

He had a similar ‘wait and see’ attitude to Brexit, “Whether the UK will stay in the single market remains to be seen, Article 50 [the mechanism for a member state to begin the process of leaving the EU] has not yet been triggered but we have a dedicated Brexit unit already that is identifying and advising companies with UK stakes.”

And on the subject on the incoming US Administration he had little to add, “That’s not actually part of my job, that’s more for the Department of Foreign Affairs. We focus on what you see tonight, getting Irish companies together to sell themselves.”

Bill Aulet, Managing Director at Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.Entrepreneurship.mit.edu