Young entrepreneurs defend Irish start-up scene

Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report said aspiration to become an entrepreneur in Ireland is low

Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 16:18

“It’s our entrepreneurship and innovation in the tech scene, with numerous tech companies and apps coming out of Ireland, that make us a credible location as a tech hub. Look at Soundwave. It’s an Irish company that has been endorsed by the likes of [Apple founder] Steve Wozniak. It’s gone global.”

Sarah O’Connor, co-founder of gourmet food business The Cool Beans Company, said she believes most start-ups have huge aspirations for growth. “We have been looking to export our product from the very beginning. We might be totally delusional but we’ve wanted to be big from the start. We don’t want to grow just for the money and success; we are also interested in the impact growth can have on employment and the economy.”

She said Ireland is teeming with young people who are starting their own companies, or who have aspirations to do so, and it is gaining global attention as a tech hub as a result. “My co-founders and I meet a lot of early stage entrepreneurs through different events and incubators. That makes us feel there is a vibrant community of early stage start-ups here, and they’re not all in the tech sector.”

Ms O’Connor, who is also a senior manager of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme, said she was very surprised by the findings that aspiration to become an entrepreneur in Ireland remains low.

“If the Junior Entrepreneur Programme run by Jerry Kennelly and the EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme are anything to go by, it would seem there’s a huge appetite for entrepreneurship in Ireland. It’s not just among young people setting up their own businesses, or people forced to start companies out of necessity. Some people are leaving their jobs at big companies to set up their own businesses.”

She said Irish companies and people are becoming more and more supportive of those who set up their own business.

“I’m involved in Sandbox [a community of young innovators and entrepreneurs] and being around them inspired me to start my own company. My co-founder Isolde Moylan and I met two other ‘Sandboxers’, Sophie Morris and Graham Clarke, to get their advice about running our own business. They phoned us back the next day saying they wanted to invest.”

Ms O’Connor said this kind of support is key to many start-ups in Ireland. “I still work full-time but EY have afforded me a huge amount of flexibility in my day job. They have been really supportive. I think entrepreneurship is encouraged a lot more these days.”

Dublin scene
Sandbox chief executive John Egan said the start-up scene in Dublin is much more active than in the rest of the State, which could lead people to believe we are more entrepreneurial than we are.