Meet the new kids on the block
Ireland is still a favoured destination for US companies looking to expand into Europe
Jessica Finnefrock: ‘We had a great opportunity to partner with the IDA and the city of Galway, and were very impressed with the talent there.’
With a history of FDI stretching over several decades, Ireland is a well-established and attractive stronghold for US businesses looking to gain a foothold in Europe. For businesses based on the east coast, proximity is also a selling point. “It’s also a wonderful direct flight,” says Darcey Harrison, global vice-president of sales, services and partnerships at Markforged, who was tasked with finding an EMEA base for the Boston-based company.
Founded in Massachusetts in 2013, Markforged has been a pioneer in 3D printing, utilising advanced cloud computing, materials science, and industrial design to offer an end-to-end 3D printing system that rivals traditional manufacturing processes. With the ability to print using metal, nylon, and carbon fibre, the company’s technology allows users to manufacture complex and robust parts that are be utilised in everything from Formula 1 cars to orthopaedic surgeries.
The Dublin office, which opened in April at Iveagh Court, will be a hub for Markforged’s commercial sales, business development and application engineering. “The decision really came down to where we were going to be able to hire the best talent to scale our European business,” says Harrison. “We had been running a good portion of our sales from the Boston area but languages and time zones can make things challenging. So our number one reason was really the calibre of tech talent available in Dublin – it makes it very favourable for a company to come in and be able to launch something new.”
The company has already hired its first batch of staff, who are currently in Boston for training, and has relocated a small team of its US staff to Ireland for the next two years. “We really want the people we take on in the Irish office to understand the culture, so we can really carry it across seamlessly,” says Harrison. “Our goal is to keep the culture – in terms of how we work and what we provide to employees – as close as possible between Europe and the US.”
The company was pleased with how swiftly operations could be established in Dublin and plans to expand to 100 employees in the capital over the next three years. “The IDA has been a really critical piece in making this transition happen, not just quickly but also smoothly,” says Harrison. “They have their own network in Ireland who have proactively reached out to talk about business opportunities, and as a result of that we are connected to some very large companies that have a huge presence in Europe that are also located in the area.”
Rent the Runway
While Dublin may still receive much of the attention from FDI, it is becoming increasingly common for tech firms to set up base on the west coast, a move that makes sense financially and culturally for companies like Rent the Runway, which opened its first international office in Galway in April.
“The company started in 2009 with a vision to build the world’s first living closet,” says Dorothy Creaven, managing director and site lead for EU headquarters at Rent the Runway. Offering a subscription-based model, the company offers an alternative to buying expensive garments and accessories outright by allowing subscribers to rent them as needed.
“Currently, we carry apparel, accessories and home decor from over 600 designer partners,” says Creaven, “and we operate through built-in-house proprietary technology and a one-of-a-kind reverse logistics operation.”
While the company will not be expanding its rental service to Ireland at this time, it plans to draw on local tech talent to support its growing US operation, and sees its base in the 2020 City of Culture as the right place to be.
“Opening Rent the Runway’s first-ever international technology office in Ireland made sense for a number of reasons, including the overwhelming support the company has received from the Irish Government and the IDA,” says Creaven.
“The company has also recognised Ireland’s significant technology talent, and opening an office here presents an opportunity to tap into the growing Stem talent in the region. Specifically for Galway, the city has an atmosphere of creativity and mirrors Rent the Runway’s cultural values, making it the perfect fit.”
Rent the Runway currently employs 1,800 people in the US, with female workers making up 45 per cent of the company’s tech team.
“There will be huge development in the new Galway office as we plan to hire 150 engineers and tech developers over the next three years,” says Creaven. “Working hand-in-hand with our US teams, the Ireland team will tackle core technology challenges that are critical to Rent the Runway’s overall success and will influence the next generation of services we offer.”
Galway has also recently attracted further FDI as a tech base for The Knot Worldwide, a family of brands that currently has operations in Spain, China, and India, as well as multiple US locations.
“The Knot Worldwide is the largest global wedding planning company,” says Jessica Finnefrock, executive vice-president of global operations. “We are helping engaged couples plan every aspect of their weddings, from finding inspiration and local wedding professionals to creating and managing all guest experiences, wedding registries and more.”
The Knot Worldwide
The Knot Worldwide also incorporates several other lifestyle brands including The Bump, a hub for information on pregnancy and parenting; GigMasters, a service for connecting with bands and entertainers; and How They Asked, which features stories and inspiration related to proposals.
“We had a great opportunity to partner with the IDA and the city of Galway, and were very impressed with the talent there,” says Finnefrock. “It’s a plus that Galway is an affordable location for our team. This keeps commute times short for our employees, many of whom can walk to the office or have short trips via public transportation.”
With a team of 15 currently working from Galway, the company plans to expand considerably in the region. “Right now, we’re really focused on getting the current team up and running, and we are excited to add 10-15 more job openings this summer for a start date of September. Longer-term, we anticipate having approximately 100 team members in Galway.
“The team in Galway creates SEO-focused content for our local wedding professionals on The Knot, and also supports couples on our discussion forums. These local wedding professionals are the vendors that bring a wedding to life, such as wedding venues, cake bakers, florists, and photographers. Essentially, the Galway team is working to drive leads and help small businesses grow,” says Finnefrock.
As with other US companies moving to Ireland, there has been plenty of support for The Knot Worldwide. “The IDA has been very helpful in establishing our team and office in Galway,” says Finnefrock.
“Once we chose Galway, the IDA connected our site lead with a number of service providers, from IT support to payroll processing, put us in contact with the local universities to explore future recruiting opportunities, introduced us to the local Chamber of Commerce, and even helped us with local real estate connections for staff relocating to Galway from other parts of Ireland or the EU.”