Creating Global Connections

Back in May 2014 while prepping for my Commissioner interview I asked Shane Reiser of Startup Genome why Dublin wasn’t ranked as a startup hub internationally. His answer was flat and to the point: “because you don’t have good startup data”. From that moment I knew that great data would be a key objective of my office here in Dublin.

In March 2015, we sourced startup lists from the 40+ members of the Dublin Startup Leaders Group. Crunchbase cleansed the data, and by the end of May we had an all-in-one spreadsheet listing 2,136 Dublin companies. When a quick scan through it surfaced names like Aer Lingus it was clear we were on step 1 of a much longer journey.

The light bulb moment came a couple of months later when I met with Start-Up Nation Central, a non profit in Tel Aviv promoting Israeli innovation. As I wrote at the time, my discussions with their CTO Omri Baumer illuminated the opportunities (and challenges) of maintaining great startup data.

Omri’s database called Finder started as a side project for him and some friends who wanted to make it easier for multinationals like Google to engage with great Israeli startups. It quickly became clear to me how powerful a similar tool could be for Ireland’s great startups. Omri agreed to come on board as a voluntary advisor on the Irish project and we’ve been putting it together ever since.

On December 18th, we released a public database of 1200 Dublin Startups, and without any promotion beyond this blog post, requests to connect to our startups began to flow in - from St. Louis, from Austin, from London, from Slovenia. In early March, a Belgian telecoms company will be in Dublin to hear sales pitches from 5 of our telecom tech companies. Where did they source the startups? On the Dublin Startups database.

Yesterday was another milestone day for this young project. Omri came to Dublin and presented on Start-Up Nation Central’s data strategy to a room full of Irish universities, regional stakeholders, investors, startup representatives, multinationals, and the DJEI, and as a group we agreed to take the Irish project forward.

Our new team member Cathal O’ Sullivan will lead the Data project for Dublin - alongside the Multinational Engagement project which is also just starting. John Breslin from Galway and DC Cahalane from Cork will also be involved, and of course, the door remains open to others. The current Dublin Startups database will be expanded, and companies will be asked to share funding and other data in exchange for profiles and connections into investors, partners and multinationals in Ireland and across the globe.

It was fascinating to hear the different perspectives on data in the room yesterday, and the myriad of reasons people had for wanting this project to start and succeed. Policy change, investor engagement, multinational connections, academic engagement, positioning Dublin globally as a hub for TravelTech, AdTech, and more. As VC Brian Caulfield put it, “the use cases for this data are endless”.  And now, we’re finally ready to get it started.

Niamh Bushnell

The Might of Mentors

MFS, our Mentoring for Scale experiment is now 8 sessions old and working really well. 10 mentors and 10 scaling companies, 2 hours in total, 3 one-on-one sessions each. All fueled by coffee and our now infamous breakfast scones.

Inspired by Joe Hogan, MFS became a fast favorite at the office from the moment it started last May. It connects Dublin’s best emerging startups with Dublin’s most accomplished serial entrepreneurs. It fills a gap in the ecosystem and oozes value for money without costing a cent.

MFS is a monthly mentoring event, full of great, helpful and inspiring people, but we’re only just scratching the surface.

At the close of our December session, serial entrepreneur Brendan McDonagh asked how many of the 10 CEOs in the room had an actual mentor for their businesses. Not one person raised their hand.

The term “mentor” gets bandied about relentlessly these days, but for startups, a mentor relationship is actually something very specific.

Your mentor is not your customer, your advisor or your investor. They’re an experienced entrepreneur who has walked in your shoes before you and is willing to share the experience. Mentor relationships build over years, sometimes decades, and like dating before marriage, the best ones start pro bono, with no conditions attached. The mentor simply likes you and your company and sees the opportunity to give back.

Your mentor is like your best friend but in business. There during good times and bad, they allow you to hear yourself talk and come up with the answers. They also get to know you well enough to distinguish emotion from fact, always holding you accountable.

Since Brendan raised the topic a month ago three startups have come to me looking for mentors. Thanks to Dublin’s strong community spirit and our decades-long pedigree as a tech center, there’s no shortage of people who easily and eagerly fit the bill.

We’re developing a mentor program right now and will announce it in the coming weeks.

Are you in search of a long and fruitful mentor relationship? Dublin’s the place, so watch this space.

Niamh Bushnell

Welcome 2016

Being on holidays for the whole first week of 2016 felt a bit like being in exile to me. 2016 is such a huge year for Dublin that by mid December I was already anxious to get it started.

One of the most popular cities in the world today, 2016 is about cementing Dublin’s reputation - and more importantly, its character - as a great city for entrepreneurs and startups. We know we’ve something special and unique here, as much as we know we’ve still a long way to go. Entrepreneur and investor Liam Casey says : “Dublin doesn’t have to copy anywhere else, it just has to be the best that it can be”. Right there is our opportunity, and our challenge.

Dublin City Council, who have enthusiastically supported the work of this office from day one, agreed in November to fund two new full time consultancy roles to expand our activities.

50+ applications and a dozen interviews later, I’m thrilled to announce that Cathal O’ Sullivan and Sarah Leahy are joining the team.

Having these passionate, smart, and dynamic individuals on board is the best of all imaginable starts to the New Year for me.

2016 has finally begun and it’s so welcome:)

Niamh Bushnell

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