No, this is not a climate change observation. Let’s ignore the “soft” February days soaking Dublin commuters on a daily basis and highlight a significant heating up of Ireland Inc. Despite domestic electoral demands for change (we can’t recall a democratic election being any different) and genuine Covid-19 virus fears, Ireland’s economy could actually be picking up speed. Whoodathunk! Readers can judge for themselves but here’s a selection of stories we’ve been reading with interest….

  • Global Tech Giants Building: It looks like Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, Facebook and Salesforce have plans to add 3.6m square feet of office space to their Dublin campuses. Based on those plans that translates into space for 36,000 workers.
  • Job Numbers Hit Record: The CSO has reported a record 2.36 million people had jobs in Q4 of 2019. Despite more sclerotic growth elsewhere in the world, particularly Europe, employment grew by 3.5% in 2019 with the addition of 80,000 new jobs. Tech added 12,300 new roles but growth was seen in 13 of 14 sectors tracked.
  • Modern Ireland: CSO report also highlights the total number of non-nationals living in Ireland now accounts for 12.7% of the population. The tech sector now employs more people than the agriculture sector.
  • FT Awards: The Financial Times FDI Magazine has awarded Ireland South East the number 1 ranking as “Small EU Region of the Future for FDI Strategy”. Well done to the Crystal Valley – love the name!
  • High Profile Buy-Outs: The recent big-money exits by the founders of Pointy ($160 million) and Decawave ($400 million) is sure to inspire a few more entrepreneurial spirits.
  • Great Future For Irish Start-ups in Next Decade: Finn Murphy of VC firm, Frontline, penned an interesting article this week highlighting a shift in the tech ecosystem. Ireland is no longer a sales & operations centre for tech. It has now moved into the product/engineering space. Witness Amazon quietly building a 1200-strong engineering team in Dublin. Murphy’s view is that in the past decade only one venture-backed domestic firm, Intercom, has reached a billion-dollar valuation. He expects that number to be higher in the next decade and name-checks the following prospects: Evervault, Inscribe, Workvivo, Teachkloud, WarDucks, Modulz, Sweepr, Manna, Flipdish and 17 other names. Between them, the 26 start-ups have raised $125m over the past 18 months.
  • UK To Close Door To Unskilled Workers: The UK as our closest English speaking neighbour competes with us for capital and talent. While Ireland Inc hurts when the UK economy falters there is no reason to fear our growth prospects outstripping those of our larger neighbour. It has been a difficult week for the UK government to discover from its EU negotiating counterparties that it is not “Canada”. Number 10 is also about to discover that taking back “full control” of UK borders and an overhaul of immigration laws might not appeal to sharper minds(talent) who understand the importance of a functioning service sector, particularly the health and food industries.

Possibly the most positive development from the stories above is the culture shift in Ireland from a large sales/operations base to a rapidly growing engineering/building gene pool. It does feel like there is more activity and a sense that the tech community has seen successes like Stripe and Intercom and wants more. Don’t forget a lot of these start-ups are driven by founders who have already experienced success.

This also brings another new important player to the table. Global venture capital houses. Clearly, the previous track records of the current generation of start-up founders have attracted heavy-hitting overseas capital. Check out the arrival of the likes of Sequoia, Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins, Blossom and Index Ventures. Success does indeed breed success.