Ever wonder what Ireland’s population would be today if we didn’t have the famine from 1845 to 1849?

I met with a senior Google executive recently and had a little moan.

My complaint was about Big Tech’s ability to pay relatively junior employees huge salaries compared to smaller companies who desperately need talent to develop products which could benefit the planet at large. He was reasonably sympathetic to the dangers of outsized talent flight to Big Tech but also highlighted the small population of Ireland relative to Big Tech scale-up plans as being a significant contributing factor.

This prompted a little quiz question which featured in a recent Spark Crowdfunding Investor Night – what would Ireland’s population be today if there was no 1840s famine and the supra-normal emigration which followed?

Given the current population of the UK is 66 million you still might be a little surprised by the projected population estimate. A quick look at the relative land masses of the two islands might be a clue….

My Google man was staggered that his 20 million guesstimate was about 12 million people shy of the actual 32 million projection. Both of us then proceeded to agree this capacity for population growth and flexibility to strategically influence demographics could be a big opportunity for Ireland. Imagine how many Irish startups could be funded through equity crowdfunding if we had a population of 32 million!

That might appear slightly delusional as we struggle to house our existing population but some policy thought leadership could emerge if big money is put on the table.

It has been interesting to read in recent weeks about the Google plans to invest $1 billion in the San Francisco Bay area to build 20,000 homes, of which 5,000 will be affordable housing units.

Watch that space and another map which prompted plenty of discussion at the Investor Night mentioned previously. You might ask who would be the most likely new residents in a scaled-up Ireland?  Let’s take a look at another thought provoking graphic:

The graphic above is telling us 36% of the planet’s population is living in China and India and both countries are grappling with major environmental and climate change challenges.

Perhaps the more stunning statistic is that 64% of the global middle class is projected to be living in Asia by 2030. Now think about that 64% and Ireland’s current export value to Asia of circa €2 billion.

One would expect Ireland’s current over-dependence on the US and UK is posing some strategic questions at corporate level in light of Trump trade wars and Brexit.

At the same time perhaps we should think about encouraging some of this new middle class to move to less environmentally challenged regions of the world. Vancouver and Canada can already bear witness to significant Asian immigration with positive economic effects.

Maybe Big Tech and Ireland should put their heads together and solve their housing and talent problems simultaneously….?