Startup Envy

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I had a call this week with The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) a policy lobbying organization for the startup industry in the UK. Large tech companies and startups have come together through Coadec to lobby government on important issues like connectivity, digital skills, net neutrality, regulations around innovation and immigration rules for highly skilled workers.

Coadec has brought out a Manifesto of 24 key asks and it’s no surprise that number one on the list is to keep SEIS and EIS tax reliefs for startup investors. These UK tax rules, offering ease of investment and downside protection, are critical to the success story that is Tech City and now TechUK. Since 2012, 1,600 companies have raised more than £135 million through SEIS and 58% of investors say they would never have invested without it. We’ve no downside protection for investors here in Ireland, but we are working hard to offer them a more conducive pro-investor environment.

But, what fascinated me most about the discussion with Coadec Executive Director Guy Levin was not his great manifesto but his insight into why the multinationals work so closely with the startup community to lobby government. The multinationals need the startups on their side he explained: “because they’re the sexier voice of the community”.

What? I said. Startups are “sexier” to the government than multinationals?? I was shamrock green with envy.

In mid February we’re bringing together all of the policy stakeholders across the Dublin startup ecosystem to explore how to present a stronger and louder case for the sector to the Irish government. We may well end up with our own manifesto but, no matter what, we’ll probably still be a long way from sexy.  We’ll get that done another day.

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