Thanks for all the feedback on last week’s note about how Dublin needs to be visible, ideally a headline act, at Web Summit and other international tech conferences in 2016. A group of us are working on a project for SXSW in March called Dublin House. Our objective is to heighten awareness of Dublin as a creative, connected tech city, and if it’s successful we’ll bring Dublin House to other important tech conferences around the world. I’ll share more details on the Dublin House project in a later post. Meantime some thoughts on the Helsinki conference, Slush:
One of the hallmarks of Slush is it’s whopping €650,000 pitch competition prize (yours next year Bizimply!). Slush is also the best looking tech conference I’ve ever been to, oozing with edgy design and creativity. And there’s lots of serious business going down there too, from fundraising and recruiting to the souvenir selling at the Slush store. This conference has no shortage of cachet.
But it’s still a pretty regional affair, with over 80% of startups and media coming from Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Norway and Russia. Ali Baba had a large and luxurious booth reflecting China’s close ties with Finland, and the loudest come-to-our-country voices were the Netherlands and France, but I didn’t meet startups from either.
Like Ireland, the UK and US were completely invisible at Slush and when I pitched Dublin as a springboard into the US the response was one of genuine interest. Entering the US market may not be the immediate top priority for euro-centric startups but it’s on the short list and that should translate into a huge opportunity for us - our VCs, our service providers, our accelerators and the ecosystem at large.
I met a lot of early stage startups from the ‘stans and from Russia who spoke enthusiastically about fundraising in Helsinki and how Finland was a great testbed for their products. The State of European Tech, a report co-produced by Slush and the VC Atomico confirms that Helsinki is a smart money magnet, ranking 4th out of 18 European cities for angel investment. In 13th place, Dublin lags unusually far behind.
While I was away, Minister Bruton spoke at a Dublin Chamber event about making Ireland more competitive and easing the tax burden on businesses. Lets hope he’ll work to introduce new tax reliefs like SEIS in the next budget so that we can attract more angel investors, founders and serial entrepreneurs to Dublin, and become the magnet we too deserve to be.