Don’t be at your desk, don’t be in Cork, don’t be in Ireland


We need to send our sons and daughters away. All the bleating from Enterprise Ireland and the IDA showing off hipsters in startups in Ireland (that they rarely gave a shit about until it became a marketing hook) is great but where the big time is, is not here. We’re Ireland. We’re not Silicon Valley, we have more landmass than Israel but nothing else compares. Hipster startup kids, you’re just marketing collateral for Enterprise Ireland and the IDA to bring in tax avoidance money and a smattering of jobs. I worry for Pat Phelan as he drives himself to the edge of the burnout cliff and then stamps the dirt down on that edge but Trustev is hitting all the right spots and you’ll notice while it was thought of, formulated and molded in Ireland, to succeed Pat and Chris need to be on planes going out of the country for meetings. It can be anchored here but there isn’t going to be many walk-in customers for Trustev. And that’s where they’re going and that’s why they’re hitting it out of the park every day with awards, media attention and nonstop calls. Well done them.

There isn’t the established wealth and there isn’t the inbound wealth in Ireland to lavish patience on startups. You’ll probably learn more in one day in the startup scene in London, New York and Berlin than in Ireland in six months. Whether a conscious decision or a reactive necessity, Wayra in supporting Pat and Trustev, has helped them to be what appears to be “everywhere, every week”. Wayra is handy in that they have incubation centres in many countries so they have people on site in places you need (and not just ought) to be. A network of global incubation centres, great idea.

For me, in the busy season, I see my house at weekends and when people ask me is all the (internal) travel tiring, I tell them of course it is but I go where the money is. One of the suggestions from the Farmleigh love-ins a few years ago was to take some of the best business graduates and send them into the middle management of various countries in Europe, Africa, Asia. It seems the Government worried about the “optics” of a brain drain. That worked…

Apocrypha about the Collisons unable to set up a company in Ireland or even Father Ted being rejected by RTÉ probably aid in the lie that you could be big in Ireland “if it wasn’t for”, in truth you’ll fail faster and better and succeed in places with more resources and experience. London is better for comedy and TV than Dublin, Silicon Valley is going to be better to work on a startup. How much would it cost to be a mini-model of Silicon Valley in Ireland? Billions? And you’ll still be going to the Valley monthly anyway.

Irish people have a huge sense of longing and want to be back to where they came from. They’ll also help out their brothers and sisters at “home” when they can. Hubspot and the Irish roots connection. EMC. Again, they might be good PR bits but Cork got EMC because of a Cork connection. Ireland would benefit immensely if more Irish people were in companies outside of Ireland, corporate tax dodges or not. English speaking well educated workforce yada yada, yet it’s foreign language jobs the multinationals hire here for more …

Teach our graduates how to work in startups in the States, in London, in Berlin, in Hong Kong and enable them to do that. Throw a rock in Ireland now and you hit an incubation centre, there are companies that play the “incubation centre” shuffle as they hop from incubation centre to centre for 6 years it seems. That suggests there are not enough quality startups out there surely or too many incubation centres?

Want to start a startup in Ireland, have no ties like kids and a mortgage? Leave and fuck those that guilt trip you with “I decided to stay and fight here”, I’m staying because I’m comfortable and lazy, actually.

Anyway, this started as a link to Trustev winning another award and congratulating them. Ooops.

8 Responses to “Don’t be at your desk, don’t be in Cork, don’t be in Ireland”

  1. Roger O'Keeffe says:

    I could take issue with some of your arguments, but love the honesty of the tail end.

  2. Maurice says:

    I was talking to someone just back from silicon valley. They’ve an Irish start up. But they know they’re going to have to go where the money and the experience is and that is probably the west coast of the states. He was making the point as well that silicon valley is 40 years ahead of Ireland – they have the start up infrastructure, the venture capital, everything you need to get ahead of the game. Sure, people can come back but it’s where we need to go to make things work. Same guy will be heading out again in a little while. Best of luck to him I say, and lets see more irish folk heading west.

  3. Paul says:

    Fair points Herr Mulley. I think you can stay in Ireland, even Cork at the start, but you have to be prepared (and financed) to be on a plane every week and go to where the money / partners are. Eventually you would need to spend more and more time away from Ireland to where it makes sense not to live there anymore. Obviously this depends on the potential scale and market of your business.

    For those thinking of going check into the Startup Visa

    P.S. would love to hear the real EMC story someday.

  4. Stephen says:

    Good post –
    Ireland is just too small – you really have to be looking at bigger markets and solving bigger problems – have the talent in Ireland but unless you get on a plane and get into those markets you are making it very difficult and limiting you customer base

  5. Vinny says:

    Agree with quite alot of this. Tech start up of the week is a dangerous almost ludicrous affirmation to be made but then log on to most “industry” sites this AM and you will see just that. Our ability to sustain most of even the credible few of these companies is just not here. We don’t and won’t have it. We don’t have companies willing to invest to get critical mass of testers either – real testers. The focus is fixed in the wrong place. A real look at the supporting role of education in broader areas, like engineering, sciences and process driven people needs to be looked at. Re skilling for those who are our of work. Lots of talk about ecomm too and it is generally aimed in the wrong areas. No real support or knowledge still in the country.

  6. If start ups concentrated on making a product or solution that the market actually wants and is willing to pay for instead of “going to Silicon Valley” for no obvious reason they would be better off. Some “stars” like the Collisons need to go there, most companies should spend their time and money on making a product/market fit. There is a huge market on your doorstep – U.K. and Europe. Many commentators in the U.S. now acknowledge that a start up can grow to a fair size based anywhere int eh world that has talent, broadband and peace.

  7. I actually don’t know what Trustev’s business model is but it seems to me they might look like a consumer-oriented startup now but that they’re actually an enterprise software sale to businesses in the payment chain. The fact that there are no customers for that in Ireland might explain the travel.

    Your points re not building in Ireland are pretty valid if you’re talking about consumer-oriented startups that can scale quickly and if you think that VC funding is necessary to do that. Of course, if you do believe those things, then you’re probably building an exit rather than a company.

    My own company is selling to Higher Ed. We have a viable market in Ireland for a 2-person company. Happily, the market value in the country next door is 30 times bigger. Even more happily, the 48 countries in the European Higher Education Area makes that market 10 times bigger again.

    There are also lots of founders, wannapreneurs and startholes out there doing their own fair share of bleating about lack of funding and skilled workers instead of landing customers. I don’t include the @trustev guys in that camp.