Dublin Makes Me

DMM_StaticImages_2On Friday March 11th, Dublin Makes Me, a series of remarkable events to celebrate Dublin as a city of creativity and innovation, will launch at South by South West (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

SXSW is an annual tech, music and film festival attended by 75,000 aficionados. It’s been going for the last 30 years, but in more recent incarnations has become a favorite of the tech industry in the US and globally. SX is also a festival where cities lay out their innovation stalls before a global audience - Detroit, Berlin, London, DC - and this year, for the very first time, Dublin. And we plan on doing more than our fair share of the shouting.

Our objective in Austin is to put Dublin firmly on the innovation map for key industry influencers and to attract them - investors, media and serial entrepreneurs - to our fair city to see Irish innovation first hand and on a company-by-company basis.

Our two anchor events, Dublin Made Me, and The Irish Startup Wake are hot tickets already at SX and that’s in advance of any marketing. We’re also holding one-on-one “Meet the Commish” office hours to promote visits to Dublin and our companies, and these slots are going fast too.

So lets start our marketing now by encouraging all of you aficionados of the Irish tech ecosystem to participate. What does Dublin make you? Connected, healthy, hungry, global, more than crazy? Our hashtags are #DublinMakesMe and #SXSW2016 so jump online and let us know.

After Austin, we’re taking Dublin Makes Me on the road, to Tech Open Air in Berlin in mid July and back to the US west coast in October.

A word of thanks at this point to our key sponsors Dublin City Council and the DCU Ryan Academy, and our great and tireless Dublin Makes Me team: Jim Carroll, Ali Grehan, Eoghan Stack, Catapult, Zero G, BeachHut PR, Failte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Bord Bia. Keep taking the vitamins people. We’ve some overtime ahead.

Niamh Bushnell

Space MatchMakers

If you receive our Dublin Globe Digest of a Monday morning you may have noticed my colleague Cathal’s post yesterday morning:

Through the course of our work at this office, we’ve found a consistent problem faced by Dublin startups - office space. With that in mind, we’ve decided to play matchmaker and connect those with spare capacity, with those that need it. If you have some spare desks in your office, please let us know details and costs here...

As Cathal describes it, this matchmaking service will connect startups in Dublin to available space on a case by case basis, but it’s just step one in a much more ambitious effort to measure the demand for space, and establish real and sustainable solutions for fulfilling it.

Startup space is a challenge for tech cities across the world and this office has been stumped more than once already in our efforts to resolve it for Dublin. In April last year we set up the DSSI - the Dublin Startup Space Initiative - but after a preliminary report and meetings with the NTMA, NAMA, Ibec and Dublin City Council, it was clear that we lacked the resources and planning to spur key decision makers to action.

This time around we’ve partnered with Activating Dublin  - a joint initiative of Dublin City Council and Dublin Chamber of Commerce which is also behind the establishment of this office - and our aim is to put real numbers and qualitative research on the table that exposes vacant property stock, the current and future demand for space by startups of all persuasions, and the opportunity cost of not finding more flexible and creative solutions to Dublin’s space issue.

So, our matchmaking service is the start of something much more important for Dublin. That said, if you or your company have some additional space - for maybe 3 or 6 or 12 months - let us know about it and we’ll connect you to next wave of innovative companies building teams and big futures out of Dublin.

Niamh Bushnell

The Essentials - Brekkie, Traction and Travel

Last Friday marked the first anniversary of the #1stFridayBrekkie, our monthly breakfast event for startups and their friends in Dublin. This month we broke with tradition and invited Dave O’ Flanagan, the CEO of Boxever, to speak about their recent $12M round of funding. Dave’s talk drew a crowd of close to 100 people.

Startups come to the office looking for advice on many things, but three recurring themes are space, recruitment and funding. Going forward, the Brekkies will tackle topics like these, with a startup sharing their story and leading the discussion.

Tantalizing as the tale of a $12M funding round might sound, Dave’s story about building a great tech business out of Dublin was even better. He talked about early marketing partners, posing as a much larger company in meetings and at conferences,  distilling the problem they were solving down to “the smallest, smallest thing”, beating out Oracle and other behemoths because Boxever just knew the airline industry better than anyone else, acting global from day one, and switching his own focus from tech to sales because “you can’t hire in sales early on, it must be learned or part of the founding team”.

“Traction trumps everything” Dave responded when someone asked how to get a VC’s attention. He then talked about Boxever’s efforts to secure new funding from the US (Boston based Polaris is already an investor) while keeping the founding team based in Dublin. He preferred to live in Dublin he said, and he knew they could sell to customers anywhere in the world just as easily from here.

FYI: International investors accounted for a solid 46% of funding in Ireland in 2015 and my office hopes to play a role in increasing this figure in 2016 by attracting a greater diversity of international VCs, angels and corporations to invest in great Irish companies going global.

Dave talked about his experiences in the US and how high the standard of competition for funding was there. He urged the startups in the room to travel more and experience it for themselves. “Execution, team and traction”  have always been his focus he said, but if he was to start again, he’d double down on them even more.

Niamh Bushnell

The Roots of Ambition

The non news of last week for me was the revelation that “less than 3 per cent” of VC money went into female founder companies in Ireland in 2015. No, I didn’t know that was the figure, but professionals here and in almost every startup hub from Asia to America would have guessed it was abysmally low, and hit the nail hard on the head.

Current levels of funding are completely unacceptable, but female entrepreneurs, please take heart and ignore the scary headlines. We are not “at risk of becoming a men’s only club”. Au contraire, change is afoot and there is room for you, your great product, and big ambitions. Especially if you’re bloody minded enough to insist upon it.

Relatively speaking, there’s never been a better time for women (or men) to do a startup in Ireland. Tech is inexpensive, there are loads of supports available, including early stage funding, and failure is gaining respect as a legitimate, and even valuable, result for your efforts.

Startups fail for many reasons. Gender is just one of a myriad and if you’re brave, smart and persistent it probably won’t be the reason you fail.

VC funding makes most sense for businesses scaling globally. To see more VC in female founder companies, we also need more women with big ambitions, more successful female role models. Thankfully, I see these women every day in our startup community: Rhona Togher, Ciara Clancy, Liz Fulham, Patricia Scanlon, Leonora O’ Brien, Nora Khaldi, Jayne Royane and many others. The role model competition in Ireland is heating up!

The women in business news that did surprise me last week was Obama’s new proposal around equal pay audits for companies with over 100 employees. We’ve long ago regulated for equal pay in Ireland of course, but women still earn around 35% less per annum here than men in the same role  - and the gap widens as their careers develop.

We talk about increasing women’s level of ambition and confidence as entrepreneurs and how things like education and role models can help. Offering women an innate and proven business culture of equal pay would be another monumental step forward.

Niamh Bushnell

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