Budget Time

Over the last few months we’ve been working on submissions to the Department of Finance on the policy issues closest to the hearts of Irish startups. Our submissions include recommendations on a number of issues from share based remuneration, to seed investment, to capital gains tax relief. The submissions can be found in full on our website here.

Our number one request of the government is to simplify Irish tax policies so that they are more easily understandable and accessible to our community of resource and time strapped young companies. These policies then need to be marketed more broadly and consistently through online and offline channels.

Our pre budget submission document gives voice, through direct quotes, to the first hand experiences and challenges our companies face. It acknowledges the good work done by the Department of Finance to date and outlines what areas most need their attention now and into the future.

Our objective with these submissions past, present and no doubt future, is to encourage the government to create policies that recognize the fundamental needs of startups versus more established companies - their need to successfully attract human and financial capital into their businesses, and to be part of a true ecosystem of universities, multinationals, investors and startups that connected up is thousands of times greater than the sum of its parts.

I’d like to thank my colleague Ciaran Casey for his great work on these submissions. As we receive feedback we’ll be sure to share it.

Niamh Bushnell

What Ambition?

The word in the Irish media last week was that Irish tech companies don’t have enough ambition.  Make that the Irish and the UK media, who both published articles lamenting their respective countries’ inability to produce behemoths like Uber, Stripe and Google.

I heard a similar lament when I was in Israel last year and in New York for a solid, oh I’d say, 10 years before that. Why don’t we have what it takes to build the biggest companies in the world? the media asks, manufacturing its very own version of existential angst, an angst rarely shared by entrepreneurs at the coalface themselves.  

In Ireland, we’ve a bad habit of laying the blame for our lack of unicorns at the feet of ambition. “Irish companies just don’t think big enough” we say, “They sell too early” we sigh, and ambition does read like the culprit until you check TechIreland and see the large funding rounds being secured by Irish companies to fulfill - you’ve guessed it - their outsized levels of ambition.

Confound all that data the commentators say! Nothing will silence us until we achieve a ginormous Irish exit. For some reason, Fleetmatics' recent $2.4billion acquisition by Verizon hasn't done the trick.

But there are also many people who are attuned to a different story about Ireland. Here’s what I for one see:

A hungry but still early stage tech ecosystem, investment pool and talent pool. You can count on a couple of hands the number of people who’ve built tech companies to over $100M in annual revenue from Ireland, and with a few more hands you’ve probably included everyone who’s built large sales and marketing teams for Irish companies out of Ireland. Given the pipeline of companies coming through now, it’s only a question of time before these numbers start scaling nicely but it's hard sometimes to be patient.

Ireland’s major challenge, my friends, is not related to ambition, its related to scale. We need more capital and we need a deeper and larger pool of talent. We also need a policy environment that prompts more of both to flow to innovative companies in Ireland. Government policy cannot change our small island status but it can fundamentally change our attractiveness as a destination for talent and capital. We’ve done this successfully for large multinational corporations, it’s time to help fulfill the potential of Irish born and scaling companies.

So, if we’re going to continue this conversation about ambition, lets make it less about individual Irish companies and more about the Irish tech ecosystem and how big our ambition really is to make Ireland as great as it can be for young companies. I’m so done with once offs and empty comparisons.

The budget’s coming out soon and in the office we’ve been working to develop policy documents which we'll be publishing here next week. There’s an impressive chorus of entrepreneurs and investors already driving key policy changes. Hopefully the media and other influential figures will use their voices and unparalleled access and join us.

Niamh Bushnell

A Great Idea

Sometimes realizations dawn on you quickly, sometimes slowly and sometimes it takes someone else's clear thinking to help you see what's likely been staring you in the face for months and months already.

And so it was with the idea that Dublin Globe's tech focused, high quality content was ready to be syndicated out to Irish friendly media outlets around the world.

Before my trip to the States in August, Irina, the editor of Dublin Globe suggested we connect with Irish Central in New York to explore a content partnership. Irish Central is probably the largest Irish media outlet in the US with 3.5 million unique monthly visitors, half a million Facebook followers and 250,000 subscribers to their daily newsletter. Publisher Niall O’ Dowd and his team also describe their readers as tech savvy and hungry for news of innovation coming from Ireland.

Dublin Globe’s goal from the beginning was to engage audiences internationally in a conversation about Irish innovation, and though it’s true that more than half of our 11,000 subscribers are US based already, Irish Central's reach and depth bring this conversation to a new level. In short, it's a complete game changer for us.

So starting today, you’ll find Dublin Globe stories on Irish Central’s website a couple of times a week and in their newsletter, that goes out to a quarter of a million people in the US and beyond. We couldn’t be more excited.

Engaging the Irish diaspora has been an ambition of this office since the beginning. All it took was the building of a great publication and two smart editors, one after the other, to find the best ways to make it happen.

Niamh Bushnell

Final reminder: Next week Dublin gets taken over by SaaStock, Europe’s first ever SaaS conference. 100 VCs from the US and Europe are in town as part of the action so don’t miss it. You’ve been warned.

Apple, Intel and Ireland

Earlier this week Intel, based in Ireland since 1989, bought Irish company Movidius, a world leader in machine vision technology, for north of $350M. With this acquisition Intel is doubling down on their already significant investment in Ireland, which likely means more tech teams here, more product built here and the further enhancement of Ireland's reputation as a global business and tech hub.

And I’m talking about Ireland's reputation among tech industry insiders, not the one you may read about in the mainstream newspapers.

Tax is certainly a big part of the reason why multinational tech companies like Intel and Apple come to Ireland but if our tax policy changed, Ireland would remain a top pick destination for a multitude of reasons.

For starters, there’s our talent, location, culture and language. Ireland's tax policies could perhaps be replicated by other countries but not this 360 degree formula for success.

We also continue to attract the world’s leading multinationals because, as John Dennehy from Zartis puts it: “Ireland owns the playbook”.

Ireland has cracked the code for scaling tech businesses into Europe and EMEA and the people leading these sales and operations teams are based right here - down the street, around the corner and up the block from each other. Talk to the next generation of global companies and this playbook is a huge draw to Ireland for them all on its own.

While acquisitions like Movidius aren't happening every week (yet) in Ireland, we are seeing a new intensity in the relationship between our startups and locally based multinationals. There's more  movement of talented professionals between large and small organizations, more sharing of technical expertise between teams, and more mentoring between founder CEOs and senior corporate executives.

One of the missions of this office is to increase and deepen these types of engagements. Startups and multinationals are very different animals but the potential benefits of closer collaborations between them are massive, and this is even more true in Ireland given our quality in both.

Yesterday afternoon, cyber security company Kaspersky Lab announced the establishment of an R&D hub in Ireland saying "Dublin was an obvious choice for the company’s first European R&D office, owing to the quality and density of tech talent here, and of course, the city’s vibrant and appealing living conditions”.

So, on top of it all, Ireland is also a great place to live. Straight from the heart of an (almost) diehard ex pat, I’d also agree with that.

Niamh Bushnell

A Country Sure Of Itself

As we head into the Labor Day weekend here in the US, I’m preparing my goodbyes to in-laws and the beach and packing my bags for the flight home to Dublin. Never one to turn off from work completely, the last few days have been particularly distracting given the front page headlines everywhere about Apple and Ireland.

The articles I’m reading here talk about Ireland's tax regulations and how they power our competitive advantage and the special relationship between Ireland and the US. I don’t have to wonder how my friend Philip King would respond to that kind of perspective.

"Where culture goes, commerce follows" is my favorite of Philip's truisms. During his acceptance speech for an American Chamber Lifetime Achievement Award, Philip talked at length about the deep wells of culture from which Ireland has enriched the US. He also reminds us that "a country that’s sure of itself does not disregard its arts and culture” and how the future of our economy depends on our investment in culture too.

As Philip tells it, it’s our culture that gives Ireland its special relationship with the US and our “distinct" competitive advantage. I took a break from the headlines today to listen once again to this great speech and I’d encourage you to treat yourself and do the same.

Niamh Bushnell

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