'When we got to Australia we had to start again'

Two emigrants turned economic crisis at home into opportunity Down Under

David Walsh, who runs software company CIM Enviro. Photograph: Alan Place

David Walsh, who runs software company CIM Enviro. Photograph: Alan Place

 

David Walsh landed in Australia on a Wednesday in 2009 with his two small children, nowhere to live and just $5,000 Australian dollars (€3,300). By Saturday he was digging a foundation for two old Italian builders.

The Tipperary man had studied computer science and before emigrating he ran a construction company refurbishing homes. When the Irish property market crashed, so too did his business. He had permanent residency in Australia from his time backpacking between 1999 and 2002 so it was an easy decision to make.

“I got here and said we had to start again,” he said.

While working in construction Down Under he developed a business idea: how to monitor energy efficiency in buildings. He built what he calls “an MRI scanner for buildings.” His software company, CIM Enviro, collects data from buildings all over Australia and identifies problems with water pumps and air conditioning fans, saving companies on their energy bills.

He raised $3 million from a government-backed agency in Australia and now employs nearly 20 staff. His software development team is based in Melbourne, London, Munich and Meath. He has used business networks such as the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce and the Lansdowne Club in Sydney to grow his business.

“The main reason I did this is that I had nothing to lose. I jumped out with no parachute because I had nothing to lose,” said Walsh (41).

He challenges the reputation of some Irish emigrants in Australia as hard partying and hard drinking, and says there is “huge opportunity” for the Irish in business who “get out of their comfort zone and mix more with the Aussies.”

“Yes, there are the backpackers having a laugh and one too many beers on a Saturday night,” he said. “But there are just so many Irish people at a really good level of upper to senior management who are very open to other Irish people. It has been a great help to me.”

Martin Lynch, who runs Teeling Whiskey’s business in Australia and Asia
Martin Lynch, who runs Teeling Whiskey’s business in Australia and Asia

‘There is a lot of opportunity here. It is a nice lifestyle’

Martin Lynch decided to up sticks and leave Ireland in 2011. He was fed up with “taxes, general negativity and not as much opportunity” so he decided Australia was for him.

Six years later, the man from Coolock in Dublin is based in Melbourne and in charge of selling Teeling Irish Whiskey in the country and further afield in the Asia-Pacific region, representing the company in 13 countries, including China and Japan.

“I didn’t plan to stay as long as I have. I originally came to Australia on a one-year working holiday visa and liked it and there is a lot of opportunity here. It is a nice lifestyle in terms of weather, so I like that,” he said.

Before leaving for Australia, Lynch worked in the Carlow Brewing Company, which makes O’Hara’s Beer. In Australia, he represented four food and drinks companies in a sales and marketing programme run by the Irish semi-state food company, Bord Bia. He landed a place on the programme through a mentoring programme with the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce.

Teeling was one of the companies that he worked for. He proposed a sales and marketing role for the whiskey beyond Australia into Asia and they hired him.

He sees Australia as a “launch pad” for business into the Asia-Pacific market. The country has an enterprising culture in business that creates plenty of opportunity, he says.

“They will give you a go,” he said. “While I had a job in Ireland there may not have been as much opportunity for progression, whereas over here, it is definitely very available to move up and progress in your career.”

Lynch (31) says that circular emigration between Ireland and Australia has become very common among his generation.

“I have had so many friends from home who have come out for a couple of years,” he said. “Some have stayed and got a little bit more settled but many have gone home and back into higher positions in terms of their careers from their learning out here and the experience they have got.”