The DSSI - Dublin Startup Space Initiative

Startup SpacePatrick Walsh and Edel Flynn, both entrepreneurs and founders of coworking spaces here in Dublin have agreed to lead the new Dublin Startup Space Initiative (the DSSI) on behalf of my office. Their initial focus will be office space in Dublin City, and right now they’re putting together a working group of 8-10 people representing all sides of the discussion from NAMA and Dublin City Council to real estate companies and independent landlords across the city.

Dublin’s status as an international tech hub is growing stronger by the day. Yet, as Patrick describes it: “There is a growing concern about the lack of flexible and affordable commercial real estate in Dublin. This is a significant challenge for Dublin’s burgeoning home-grown technology companies. The increase in rents also adds to worries about Ireland’s competitiveness as it continues to lead in foreign direct investment”.

At a recent Techpreneurs discussion about office space one founder quipped that last year’s preoccupation with funding has been replaced with this year’s obsession with space. You see, we now have a large number of high potential startups who are willing to pay for space in the city center but affordable space is getting harder and harder to find. According to Conor Stanley, Tribal VC regularly turn away 5 times the number of companies they can accommodate at their South William street offices.

There is no shortage of entrepreneurial goodwill and zeal being applied to the space quandary in Dublin City. Among the many green shoots are the new floating coworking space on Grand Canal Docks called DoSpace, and the drop-in space at Bank of Ireland’s branch around the corner. There are exciting plans to expand the available space in Dublin 8 and companies like Etsy and Brown Bag Films continue to expand north off the quays into Smithfield and beyond. Almost every day I hear of another established company or multinational who is opening their doors to house startups in incubation and innovation centers so there’s no doubt the word, and the opportunity, is getting around.

Nonetheless, policy and regulation around new space remain a significant challenge. Daniel Ramamoorthy has been working for months to set up Treehouse, a coworking space for startups on Ormond Quay but proven demand and strong community support may turn out to be no match for obstacles like long term leases and bank guarantees in the end of the day.

One of the objectives of the new DSSI working group is to get a better understanding of the range of properties available in the city that could accommodate startups. Another is to outline the role the government must play in resolving this most basic of our infrastructure needs. This is a huge opportunity for the government to support and encourage a market that’s already bursting at the seams, and it requires no budget. It’s also likely the only way to ensure that indigenous and multinational startups continue to start, scale and expand globally out of a base in Dublin’s fair city.

Niamh Bushnell.

Wonderful Women Speakers Panel

Herself PhotoA simple idea occurred to me over the weekend. I was thinking about how many times I’ve spoken in Dublin over the last 6 months: at government committees, VC conferences, universities, accelerators, associations, community and corporate events. Public speaking has been a new and enriching experience for me and I’ve learned a lot from it, while hopefully sharing an interesting perspective or two.

I’m taking a well earned (by me and my audiences!) break from speaking for a while but the invitations are still there and I’d like to pass them on. More importantly, it’s pretty clear to me that our Community is missing out on the voices of a lot of great startup women in Dublin. I meet confident and inspiring women here every day but I rarely see them take the floor. As Rhona Togher, the CEO of Restored Hearing puts it: “Event organisers say they have difficulty finding women. Rubbish! Fabulous women are doing wonderful things on every corner”.

I agree 100% with Rhona. I also think convenience is an essential ingredient for change, so maybe we just need a list. Thus, I’m delighted to announce (trumpets please) the launch of the Wonderful Women Speakers (and Judges) Panel -  a Gdoc, for starters, that will take a solid 7 seconds to complete.

So, if you’d like to speak or judge startup community events, add your details and we’ll start building and promoting the list. If it starts to gather momentum, we can ask a sponsor to cover some media training too.  Speaking of media, you can also sign up for Margaret E Ward’s great Women on Air initiative to get your voice heard on the airwaves across Ireland and beyond.

Change may come slow but lets get started and move it steadily along.

 

 

Thank you Easter. Thank you Dublin.

IMG_2109-1Easter couldn’t have come at a better time for me this year. On Wednesday April 1st, I completed my first 6 months in the Commissioner role. Two days later, we had our biggest 1st Friday Brekkie yet, and a few hours after that, I skipped out of the office for a week plus in the sunshine, in Donegal.

Coming back to work on Monday was made a lot easier by following the coverage of the Startup Weekend event at Google. Dublin really is such an energetic and impressive startup city goddammit! And it’s the people who make it great, from start to finish.

We’ve been pretty busy since we launched the Commissioner’s office in October last year but our work is still just beginning.

Thanks to the great support and collaboration of community leaders and organizations like Enterprise Ireland, Dublin City Council and Dublin Chamber of Commerce we’ve launched important initiatives like Dublin Data, the Startup Community Fund, the Dublin Startup Leadership Group, the Dublin Space Initiative and Dublin Globe. It’s still early days but we’re putting down strong roots so that over time each of these projects will make a meaningful and lasting difference for Dublin.

No roots needed for our 1st Friday Brekkies though. Thanks to Sarah Scannell, our Community Manager, these have been a huge success from day one and it’s been thrilling to see the mix of entrepreneurs, multinational talent and ecosystem people who stream through the door from 8am every first Friday for coffee and conversation. The crowd changes a lot from month to month but there’s always a strong contingent of international entrepreneurs and community leaders like Gene Murphy, who hasn’t missed one yet. Thank you Gene!

The Startup Commissioner role is a broad one and I’m constantly asking myself (and others) where we should focus our energies for most impact in Dublin and internationally. With the recent positive turn in the economic climate, our multinationals and corporations are starting to flex their growth muscles again. We need to step up the pace in the startup community too by encouraging entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs to think bigger and take more risks. A key task for my office is to help create the best environment for them to do just that here in Dublin.

I’m hoping to spend a lot of time in Q2 on policy and infrastructure challenges as well as on building closer relationships with our great multinational partners. First off though will be the official launch of our 3 month New York Virtual Accelerator, a pilot project for startups giving them one-on-one access to mentors, influencers and thought leaders in New York. Hopefully this project will be a huge success and a model for many more to follow it.

Meantime, Thank you Easter. Thank you Dublin. Onwards we go!

 

 

 

 

 

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