Irish founders told to be willing to look further afield

London event hears the benefits of setting up operations in a big global city

The obvious advantages for Irish start-ups that choose to set up in big cities abroad, instead of focusing solely on the home front, were among the issues debated at a gathering of Irish tech founders in the Republic’s embassy in London on Tuesday evening.

“Girls just want to have funding”, said Deirdre O’Neill, the co-founder of women’s health platform, Hertility, whose services include sending out home-testing kits for fertility.

Some Irish start-ups find funding for new ventures is easier to obtain abroad, although O’Neill, who used to be a venture capital lawyer, probably had a head-start over most founders anyway.

Companies target potential markets such as London or New York – also bigger, said some young founders at the event, where the panel also included Charlie Butler, the co-founder of AI market research company Bounce Insights, and Aine Kilkenny, the co-founder of Riley, which sells organic tampons.


Law firm Taylor Wessing sponsored the evening, which was organised by the Digital Irish diaspora networking group.

O’Neill revealed that Hertility spent 19 months trying to set up in the Irish market and hit obstacles. There is no lab in Ireland to check their home tests. Irish logistics providers are also reluctant to ship biological products. The UK has provided more opportunities for the company.

On the flip side, Butler, who cofounded the company five years ago when he was a student, praised the flexible support available from State entities such as Enterprise Ireland. “We’ve just got a grant to go into the US,” he said.

He encouraged Irish start-ups to think big. Expanding to a global city like London, he said, gave Bounce cachet with the big brands it targets as customers.

“Perception matters. We stayed in Ireland for far too long. Increase your scope for luck by moving to London or New York. Back yourself a bit more. Nobody cares about your age.”