The Year of Connected Thinking

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On Friday last January 9th, I completed 100 days as Dublin’s first Commissioner for Startups. It’s been an exciting start to this two-year role and I’ve been thrilled by the quality of startups I see in Dublin and the depth of the ecosystem that has already built up around them.

My big theme for 2015 is Connectivity and we’ll be supporting a number of projects that help our companies connect more easily to global markets and help international talent, expertise and investors connect to Dublin (more on these in follow-up posts).

But the real connectivity challenge I see for Dublin is local, not international. We are a modern city of tribes where startup initiatives are more stand alone than connected, more versions than evolutions, more once offs than steps in a process. As a result, Dublin feels small, to us and to others.

I’m not saying anything new here. The Activating Dublin report, which prompted my appointment, highlighted “silos” as a key issue for Dublin as far back as August 2013. A big part of my role is to develop a unified vision, message and platform for Dublin as a great startup city, but marketing by itself won’t get us very far. We need to start to reach out, ask questions, share knowledge and really collaborate with one another to get attention.

In early February, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce will host a meeting of the “tribes” to explore common language around legal and tax policy issues for startups. My office is also convening diverse stakeholders to see how working together can resolve the urgent issue of affordable office space in the city, and the wonderfully indefatigable Russell Banks will bring all community event organizers together at Wayra on February 5th to agree a definitive 6-month calendar for the city that we can all get behind and support.

We’re also going live with the Dublin Data Initiative this month and over the next two weeks we’ll be asking our banks and service providers, accelerators and universities, multinationals, trade associations, VCs and government agencies to share their startup data with us, and our partner in the project, Startup Genome. After the first cut, there’ll be a dinner where volunteers from across the city will sit together and make the kind of revisions to the list that only a community that cares could make.

There are already many award events for the startup and tech community in Dublin but we may need another one that celebrates collaboration and joined-up thinking across people, organizations and startup processes in the city. Maybe we could even persuade that Dublin based sharing economy company we all love, AirBnB, to sponsor it.

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