Fast Global Friends

IMG_2459Following an impressive tour of PCH’s facilities in Shenzhen, Niamh Given and I sat down with other members of the senior management team, all Irish. I asked them, what has changed in the last 10 years of doing business here? John Garvey, CTO, thought for a second and said: “It just keeps getting faster and faster, and we’re pushing out the boundaries of what’s possible here every day”. This theme of speed and innovation was repeated over and over again during my inaugural visit to Hong Kong and Shanghai last week.

Through a series of events and one-on-one meetings, culminating in the APIBF annual conference in Shanghai on Friday, I learned that Ireland competes well in education and financial services, food, and of course, custom design manufacturing. I also learned that a lot of foreign developed tech won’t work in China. To enter the market you might need to completely change your business model, and success will depend on great data, local partners and that culture of innovating at lightning speed.

One of the speakers on the ecommerce track of the APIBF was emphatic - In China we only use things made in China. That might explain why, apart from its size, the Chinese market is such a daunting prospect for western and even Hong Kong based companies. It might also explain the “Chinglish” translations I saw all over cosmopolitan Shanghai, like the government’s innovation slogan “Think Out of Box”.

But, the opportunities for Irish tech in China are immense and the welcome mat has recently been rolled out by government and private industry. KPMG told me that SaaS companies have a particularly strong opportunity to fill a gap in the Chinese skill and knowledge set, and VCs are actively investing in them. China is hungry for innovation like everyone else and its startup ecosystem, while early stage, is maturing - you’ve guessed it - very, very fast. For once, I didn’t even chuckle when I read about a city called Zhongguancun near Beijing that’s been dubbed “the next Silicon Valley”.

During my speech at the APIBF I talked about Ireland’s “Innovation Imperative” and how innovation is all about people. It’s a team sport, and needs to be played on a global scale. We have strong business networks in Hong Kong and Shanghai through the Irish chambers, our embassies and consulates, and our GAA clubs. We need to leverage these organizations to keep the global Irish community up to date, to keep them connected and to involve them, in real ways, in driving innovation out of Ireland.

We’re putting together a simple Google sheet of Irish tech professionals abroad who want to learn about and help our tech companies here at home. And, inspired by Darragh Hudson at PCH, we’re planning a riff on the classic Startups + Friends monthly Brekkie in December. On December 23rd at 5pm, we’re holding a Startups + Global Friends get together in Dublin. So, whether you’ve booked flights home or you’re already here building your startup, add Global Friends to your calendar now and we’ll follow-up with a venue shortly. Darragh and I (and probably a couple hundred more) look forward to seeing you there!

Niamh Bushnell

Newstalk, SaaS and Dublin

One of Dublin’s global opportunities is to become recognized as a center for sales and marketing excellence, and we took a solid step in that direction on Thursday last when we launched the Newstalk SaaS Bootcamp. The bootcamp offers our best SaaS companies 6 one-day sessions on how to scale sales and marketing engines globally.

The packed room was completely silent as Fergus Gloster, formerly a senior EMEA executive at SalesForce and then Marketo, delivered powerful, unvarnished truths about sales lead times, the cost of customer acquisition and the culture Irish companies need to succeed globally in SaaS. Brian Caulfield then led a panel discussion between Datahug, OnePageCRM and Teamwork to conclude one of the best 90 minute tech talks I’ve ever attended. And it happened among local talent, right here in our fair city.

NDRC Docklands event-119Of course, Dublin has been the EMEA sales and marketing hub for some of the biggest and best global tech companies for over a decade. Now we’re unlocking the expertise of SaaS players like Hubspot, Slack, Salesforce, Dropbox and our very own Intercom, to mentor our most promising young companies. As someone in the audience commented to me afterwards, “These guys can teach us stuff that lean methodologies can’t. You’ve got to live customer success to understand it and they’ve been there and done that”.

Thanks so much to Newstalk for allowing us to bring this bootcamp to life and to Gary Leyden and his team at the NDRC for developing and delivering it from scratch. If the bootcamp is successful, and my strong sense is that it will be, the NDRC say they’ll continue to run it. That’s good news for the many companies who don’t get offered a spot this first time around.

The 8-10 companies who are successful will learn what’s needed to become truly global - how to become the corporations who are shaping the buying cycle rather than being threatened by it. These types of learnings are what Dublin’s global tech community can offer to them, and that reality is exciting for us all.

Apply to the bootcamp before 5pm GMT Wednesday the 21st here.

Niamh Bushnell

Last Week, This Week, Next.

Last week the government led enthusiastic celebrations of entrepreneurial culture across cities and towns in Ireland. This week they refused, on almost every level, to create an environment where that culture can actually thrive.

The same government that lauded startups so many times last week today said a big no to:

  • Encouraging angel and seed investment in Ireland
  • Using stock options to attract talented employees
  • A capital gains tax policy that competes with the UK

And the reality is pretty simple: we need progressive tax policies like these to create and keep jobs in Ireland.

Since the budget announcement this afternoon I’ve been receiving farewell emails and texts from people who say they’ve had enough and are bound for the UK. I hope these great entrepreneurs and investors will stay put in Ireland and work for change here instead.

I have genuinely no idea why the 40+ submissions made to the Department of Finance’s Entrepreneurial Review in July made no impact. What the process did make clear to me is that there’s a huge amount of work needed to educate the government about the key role startups - and all SMEs - play in our economy.

Relationship building, education, patience, whatever it takes. With persistence, we’ll no doubt win the day in the end. And I, for one, plan to keep working until that happens.

Niamh Bushnell




Announcing: Host A Startup

Today we’re excited to launch Host a Startup in partnership with Web Summit.

As our website explains:

Host a Startup is an exciting new programme that matches Dublin based startups to international startups visiting the city during Web Summit. Hosting can mean anything from a half hour chat over a beer or coffee to four days of sharing ideas and developing new products together. It’s a chemistry thing! So sign up, build your network and have fun!
In the tradition of this office, #HostAStartup is an experiment so we’re limiting the numbers this first time around. If it works, we’ll expand the programme to international events happening in Dublin throughout the year.
Startups please note: We’re prioritising Dublin based companies who have live product and funding as hosts. And, you do not have to be attending Web Summit to get involved.
I’d like to thank Mike and Carolyn at Web Summit for making this easy and fun to organise. And EoghanDanielle, Maria, and David, students representing 4 great Irish universities, for jumping aboard to bring #HostAStartup to life. It’s going to be awesome.
Dublin Globe is also partnering with Web Summit for the week of the conference. Derek and his team of writers will be bringing you previews, reviews and exclusive interviews for four full days. Thanks to IDA Ireland for sponsoring what’s going to be Dublin Globe’s most hectic week yet.
Let the matchmaking begin!
Niamh Bushnell

Speaking About Year 2

I spoke at the launch of the Startup Gathering yesterday. I started by explaining that what I love most about the Gathering is how it is popularising the idea of startups and the culture of entrepreneurship across Ireland. Well done to Eoin Costello, Gene Murphy and all involved in bringing this week of events to fruition!

I went on to talk about the Commissioner’s office and year 2 which started on October 1st:

The role of the Office of the Dublin Commissioner for Startups is to promote Dublin and our leading startups to the world, and to connect the ecosystem more purposefully together here in Dublin.

While the truth is that almost every city in the world is a great startup city these days, Dublin has the potential to become unique - the “City of 3 Forces” as I call it - where a strong ecosystem, world leading multinationals and some of the most exciting startups, converge to make us a magnet for innovation and investment. But we still have a long way to go to fulfill this potential.

In the last year we’ve set up the Dublin Startup Leaders Group which brings together over 40 organizations that represent startups in Dublin. We’ve created an international publication to celebrate tech from Dublin called Dublin Globe; a mentoring series to connect scaling companies with successful, serial entrepreneurs; a New York virtual accelerator program sponsored by Newstalk; and a 1st Friday Brekkie that’s become the meeting place for the tech community at large in Dublin.

Year 2 brings these and other initiatives to the next stage, with the aim of achieving 3 key objectives:

Definitive Startup Data - To make available the first public source of up-to-the-minute startup data for Dublin. We and the whole community will be able to use this data to market and do business development for our companies, to attract investors and international entrepreneurs to Dublin, and to show the world how strong and innovative we are in areas like SaaS, animation, traveltech, IOT and more.

Internationalization - Beyond prompting our companies to think global from day one, we want to serve them up a globalized ecosystem right here in Dublin of mentors, investors, board members and customers. We want to encourage a mentality in our city that says yes it’s good to be involved in the local entrepreneurial community and support each other as peers, but it’s just as important to look out, to present out, and make sure we’re creating and shaping the stories that others are telling about us. We want our startups and ecosystem players to start feeling a little claustrophobic on this island of ours and become more persistently visible on the international tech stage, both virtually and physically.

Startup/multinational engagement - To unlock the potential of our multinational sector by developing a framework for multinational/startup engagement in Dublin that offers measurable and hard benefits to both sides. Our ecosystem is maturing and to scale it we need to evolve from an ad hoc and opportunistic approach into solid structures that we can own, scale and promote internationally.

So, lets just say, we’ve an exciting 12 months ahead:)

We’ll be sharing more details on the engagement framework with multinationals later this month and on the Dublin data project in November.

Thanks for reading.

Niamh Bushnell



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