Editor's Note: As I travel through parts of Europe in August I will give periodic updates on what's going on with the the startup and larger business communities in various areas. This first installment will talk about Dublin.Spending a few (surprisingly sunny) days in Dublin, the bustle of this city is striking. Dublin has strongly positioned itself internationally to grow its own tech community with an infusion of foreign-born talent and major-name companies (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Etsy, Indeed, Ancestry.com, Marketo, Dropbox, and HubSpot who was featured here on this a while back...need I go on) anchoring the Grand Canal area and spreading out from there. Here are some observed and gathered musings on what's sparking this resurgence....
1. Lower taxes and tax credits are certainly attracting attention - While it's not all government roses and sunshine - yes, there are still logistical issues on visas which the IDA is now helping to fast-track process - multiple parties noted that the 12.5% corporate tax rate is a big advantage. In terms of raw math, that's half the UK top line rate and one-third of the US top line rate. Beyond that the government has been kicking in extra benefits with a 25% tax credit for R&D investments (Dr. Johnny Ryan, Chief Innovation Officer for The Irish Times, was particularly encouraged by this as they will be investing in developing innovative online news gathering and publishing tools and platforms). While taxes don't mean everything, they do make for a very large part of the decision.
2. In spite of the downturn there remains an openness to foreigners - Whereas some countries in Europe have seen a reactionary backlash against immigrants, Dublin continues to be a welcoming mix. Australian ex-pat and co-founder/CEO of CurrencyFair Brett Meyers said that "Even in the downturn it wasn't reactionary. It was shared burden and everyone pulled together. There wasn't a blame game here." Since there are no EU restrictions it wasn't surprising to see call centers at Indeed.com and Ancestry.com staffed with a mix of people from other parts of Europe, or as David Rudick of Indeed referred to them "multilingual, net-savvy talent." Interestingly enough John Slyne of Ancestry noted it was still tough to recruit Dutch and German speakers, but there has been progress across a range of languages to help broaden sales reach and support functions.
This influx has enabled companies to staff up offices at a breakneck clip, with Indeed, Ancestry and HubSpot all soon to be flirting with 100 Dublin-based hires in the first year of having an office open. FrontLine Ventures' Will Prendergast astutely pointed out that the efforts of the IDA to help land these companies here has amounted to Ireland "sucking in a global talent pool."
3. The geography of the city itself and placement on the map make for a built-in advantage. From Dublin it's only a few hours flight to the rest of Europe, making that part of international business convenient. As Datahug founder Connor Murphy, who spent a few years living and working in the US, noted "doing business here is great, but the sales happen in the other markets." Beyond that it's a shorter flight to the East Coast of the US than to Silicon Valley, making it an attractive outpost for finance and investment names that are familiar - State Street, Fidelity, Highland Capital Partners.
But the geography of the city itself isn't fully tapped. While the city is clearly walkable in scale there is plenty of growth ahead as restrictions on taller buildings are eased in a proposed Strategic Development Zone. The conventional wisdom seems to be that you're 8 times more likely to meet someone in tech on the street here than in London, a sentiment that is often shared by the density cluster proponents of Kendall Square and the Innovation District.
Chad O’Connor is a communication consultant, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Organizational Communication and Culture at Northeastern University, and is editor of this blog. Connect with him on Twitter @chadoconnor.
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