Patrick 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.