Strict immigration policy stifling tech innovation, summit told
Ireland’s strict immigration policy is stifling tech innovation, entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Liao has said.
At the Global Technology Leaders Summit in Cork yesterday, the multimillionaire investor said his “green card” application was rejected by the Government here three times.
Mr Liao, who was coming to Ireland to invest in start-ups, said the global success story that is Coder Dojo very nearly did not come about as a result.
“Coder Dojo came pretty close to not happening as 18 months ago my green card application was rejected,” he said.
“The Government should make Ireland a welcoming place for the tech talent of the world.”
Earlier in the day, summit delegates, which included Disney vice-president of technology Una Fox, Elan chief information officer Kevin Barrett and Macrovision co-founder John Ryan, were told Ireland is only producing half the computer science and engineering graduates the tech industry here needs.
Cisco senior vice-president Barry O’Sullivan told the delegates that there were currently more than 5,000 unfilled vacancies in Ireland. A lack of tech talent was “constraining the industry”.
He said some 80 per cent of start-ups in Silicon Valley were founded by people from outside the US and Ireland should be as welcoming to entrepreneurs wanting to come here and set up businesses.
Serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Sean O’Sullivan, who has founded several technology companies including MapInfo, a $200 million software and services business with headquarters in New York, said world-class talent was necessary for companies to successfully develop.
“You need a lot of funding to set up a company in Silicon Valley,” he told The Irish Times. “Ireland could easily compete with Silicon Valley as a place for entrepreneurship and start-ups if we didn’t have such visa barriers.”
However, he commended current work under way by the Government, as part of the Open Ireland initiative, to attract highly skilled technology workers from abroad.
Coder Dojo co-founder James Whelton said he believed the introduction of coding in schools would not help to bridge the skills gap in the Irish tech industry.
“Like communism, it works in theory,” he told the summit.
He said it would be very difficult to introduce in school as the fast-moving and ever-changing nature of the tech industry would mean teachers had to be consistently trained up in new coding developments.
Yesterday’s summit, run as part of the Gathering by the Irish Technology Leadership Group, also examined the challenges of big data, the emergence of mega data and and the new employment opportunities it could present for Ireland Inc.