State support a must in battle to be best place for start-ups

There are plenty of competitors for the title of most start-up friendly location

We – and the Government – seem to be convinced that Ireland is a well-known tech hub ... We’ve even given it a fancy name: California has Silicon Valley, we have the Silicon Docks. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

We – and the Government – seem to be convinced that Ireland is a well-known tech hub ... We’ve even given it a fancy name: California has Silicon Valley, we have the Silicon Docks. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 01:00

Irish start-ups have been flying the flag for the tech industry here for a long time, but these days, they are becoming more prominent on the international scene.

Look at identity verification firm Trustev. Only in business a year, the Cork-based company has already started notching up the awards. The most recent was the SXSW start-up accelerator at the interactive portion of the Austin, Texas, festival, where the firm not only made it to the finals of the competition, but also won its category.

The latest accolade joins the list that Trustev, which was named Europe’s top technology start-up by the European Commission last year, has been adding to over the past year.

In December, Forbes magazine pinpointed Trustev as one of the hottest global start-ups of the year, rounding off a year in which the company also earned a spot in Telefonica’s Wayra accelerator and raised more than $3 million in funding.

First US office
The company is set to open its first US office in April, joining a list of Irish tech firms who have followed the same path.

It wasn’t the only one to make the shortlist at SXSW. Cloud-based, video ad creation platform Viddyad, fresh from its win in the spark of genius competition at the Web Summit in October last year, also made the finalist list in the innovative world technologies category.

These are just two of the Irish start-ups that are making the world take note, but there are plenty more chipping away every day in offices and shared work spaces around the country, waiting for their opportunity to make their mark on the tech world.

The Irish presence at this year’s SXSW was further hammered home by Enterprise Ireland, which has added SXSW Interactive to its list of must-exhibit conferences.

The agency takes out a large stand and allows selected companies to exhibit there, giving them the chance to meet potential business investors and partners without the considerable expense of taking out their own stands at the conference. This year even saw an event held with Nasdaq.

Similar trick
Enterprise Ireland does a similar trick at Mobile World Congress, where this year companies such as FeedHenry, Brandtone, 3V and HeyStaks Technologies took them up on the opportunity. And in years past, the stand has always proven popular, particularly when it holds a meet-and- greet on the stand, which is usually accompanied by the odd can or two of Guinness.

We – and the Government – may be convinced that Ireland is a well-known tech hub, making a name for ourselves on the international scene, as companies such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Dropbox flock to set up shop in Dublin. We’ve even given it a fancy name: California has Silicon Valley, we have the Silicon Docks.

(Take that, London’s Silicon Roundabout.)

And while we may not be ready to take on the likes of San Francisco just yet, there are plenty of start-ups and established firms that are making the area its home.

Talent source
Companies that have chosen Ireland as their European base are quick to point to these firms as a source of talent for the future, as graduates cut their teeth with multinationals before moving on.

The bigger knock-on effect is that some of these employees go on to form their own businesses, feeding into the entrepreneurial culture that State agencies are desperate to foster, in the hopes that it will lead to something bigger.

But when it comes to start-up activity, there are plenty of competitors round the world, and even in Europe, for the title of most innovative, best place to set up, most start-up friendly location.

Keeping Ireland in that battle requires hard work and useful, real support from a Government that is willing to back up its grand statements about creating jobs with measures and policies that will help make that a reality.

Competition may be fierce, but as recent evidence suggests, with the right approach we can certainly hold our own.

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