Kudos DTS!

Last week was Dublin Tech Summit week, and for a first time conference with big plans for the future I thought they delivered a triumph.

DTS had all the ingredients of a young conference full of promise - international headline speakers, spin-off evening events across the city, and entry queues to the venue and the stages that you wished were shorter and faster.

For sure, teething issues were visible here and there at DTS, but so was energy and positivity. I’ve probably never met a nicer bunch of volunteers at any conference anywhere.

I had meetings with journalists from the UK and the US, investors from China and Berlin and startups from Australia and Dubai. I got a huge amount of work done over two short days and it felt easy and enjoyable.

At every turn at DTS I also bumped into startups and investors from across Ireland, and it was so good to see them there, supporting the new kid on the block in impressive numbers.

Companies who had done their homework no doubt benefitted from DTS in spadefuls, from renewing connections to expanding their networks, and learning some new perspectives.

They said it could be done, and it turns out, they were right. Congratulations to Noelle and Ian and Ben and all the team.

The space is already blocked off on my calendar - roll on DTS 2018!

Niamh Bushnell

Women, Tech and Hell

This week two years ago I wrote what became one of my most popular blog posts as Commish - about women, tech and funding. Since then we've seen female founders like Nora Khaldi of Nuritas and Patricia Scanlon of Soap Box Labs break previous records for female funding levels in Ireland. And both of these ladies, along with many others, are just getting started. Here's the piece from Feb 2015. Enjoy!

I presented last week to the government’s Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on Women in Tech and my role as Dublin Commissioner for Startups. I told them (and George Hook later that evening (starting @9.23min)) that the statistics around female entrepreneurs in Ireland are headed in the right direction: Since Enterprise Ireland started offering female specific programmes in 2012, funding for women led businesses has jumped from 7% to 23% (HPSU and CSF) in three years.  This is impressive by any standard and well above European and US averages.

Clearly, the end goal here is a time when female specific programs are no longer needed, but that level playing field is still a long way off.

While women led private technology companies achieve 35% higher return on investment new research in the US and UK shows that men are still 40% more likely than women to get approved for a bank loan. I’m guessing the picture in Ireland is no different in our banking or VC sector. We’ve only 5 female venture capitalists in the whole country, which is a concern in itself.

Women entrepreneurs are also known for being more deliberate, risk averse and conservative than their male counterparts as I found out for myself a couple of years back: I asked a mentor of mine at MIT for feedback on my investor deck. When she said I needed to increase my revenue projections by some serious multiples I got defensive and explained that these were the projections I was comfortable with. Her response was blunt and uncompromising: “Niamh, be like a man and pull the figures out of your ass!”.

There’s a wonderful new crop of female tech role models growing up in Ireland today. People like Leonora O’ Brien of PharmaPod, Emer O’ Daly of Love and Robots, Rhona Togher and Eimear O’ Carroll of Restored Hearing, Ciara Clancy of Beats Medical, Sonya Lennon of Frock Advisor,  Jayne Roynane and Helen Flynn of Konnect Again and so many more.

These ladies run some of the hottest startups in the country and while they’re building global markets overseas they’re breaking down barriers at home for themselves and for the generations of smart, sassy women that will follow in their footsteps.

So, whether Madeleine Albright's famous quote "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other" is right or not, I’m chuffed to be out there supporting and cheerleading for them!

Niamh Bushnell

Tipping Point

When the world’s best known VC, Fred Wilson broke his silence about the extreme and divisive policies of the new US president on Sunday, his large community of followers was quick to offer support, and point out some inconvenient truths.

"Your portfolio company, Disqus, powers the comments on the Breitbart website. There’s a start right there.” was one of the first comments on Fred’s blog. “On it” was his response.

With this brief exchange and Fred's implied swift action it felt like we’d arrived at a sort of tipping point. Sure, we’ve seen Twitter ban hate speech and its speakers, and heard Facebook’s pledge to fact check the most egregious false news on its platform, but what if tech companies and their investors started to qualify customers on the strength of their ethics - as well as on their ability to pay? That would be a new approach to business altogether.

Tech is still such a young industry and yet it controls a huge and disproportionate amount of the world’s wealth and power. Professionals in older industries like law or medicine must swear to uphold ethical principals, while the tech industry calls itself the good guy, despite disrupting laws and livelihoods, and too often ticking the box on ethics - and diversity - through CSR programs that lack long term teeth.

As a devotee of the tech industry and an early student of this new movement I’m excited to learn about how to make technology more ethical and more human. And I’ve no doubt there’s a new opportunity for Ireland here too to become innovators in ethical tech  - building on the quality of social enterprises and “tech for good” already coming out of the country.

Eoghan McCabe from Intercom published an impressive post yesterday encouraging muslims in the tech industry to “consider Dublin as a place to live and work” and offering them considerable support to make that happen. We're one of Intercom’s thousands of proud customers through the TechIreland platform, and we're delighted to support this initiative through the Commissioner's office and to help newcomers to our great city to feel safe and welcome here.

Niamh Bushnell

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