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Getting startups started: Challenge and change in the Irish technology sector

Getting startups started

With every passing year, being an entrepreneur in Ireland has become a more acceptable – even desirable – career path.


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Ireland is well known for its technology sector. With the presence of many multinational firms with hubs here in Ireland, and a growing number of domestic firms with a global outlook, this reputation has been well earned. Yet while no one can debate the strength and success of Ireland’s tech community, the process of building a thriving startup ecosystem has just begun.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Ireland’s rate of entrepreneurship has traditionally trailed that of a number of European countries. Despite our strong technology sector and the associated advantages that this established community provides, fewer people have wanted to take the financial and career risks inherent in starting their own business.

Yet for those of us in Ireland, it’s clear that change is in the air. While older generations may have been hesitant to create startups, young people across the country are jumping on board, either working for entrepreneurs and startup businesses or becoming entrepreneurs themselves. With every passing year, being an entrepreneur has become a more acceptable – even desirable – career path.

There are other encouraging signs for the future of entrepreneurs in Ireland:

  • Accelerators and angel networks. We’re seeing a greater number of accelerators and angel networks supporting the Irish startup community, to considerable positive effect. The HALO Business Angel Network recently announced that they’d reached their €50 million funding milestone, and has funded some significant companies like Storyful and DecaWave. A number of Irish accelerator programs are also grabbing international recognition, including NDRC VentureLab, who have worked with science and technology companies that have gone on to secure significant investment and achieve excellent growth, and Propeller Venture Accelerator in Dublin. Incubation stations like DogPatch Labs have also been supporting successes and attracting Irish and foreign early stage companies to the area.
  • Government funding. The Irish government has been very supportive of the venture capital community, and has provided significant funding over the past few years to help encourage continued development of homegrown companies. Most notably, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government agency, partners with Irish and International Venture Capital funds to provide funding to Irish companies. In addition, the Government, through Enterprise Ireland, has made €175 million available as part of its current Seed & Venture Capital Scheme to stimulate job creation and support the funding requirements of young innovative Irish companies. This Scheme will allow the Irish State to commit funding, through a number of competitive calls, to Venture Capital funds – a clear sign of Ireland’s commitment to continued growth and support of the startup ecosystem.
  • Changes to capital gains tax. With a current rate of 33 percent, Ireland’s capital gains tax has in recent years been a disincentive to Irish entrepreneurs – especially when compared with the rates in other European nations. Unfortunately rates were increased during the recent turbulent years! Recognising this, the government introduced a capital gains tax relief for entrepreneurs, which enables an entrepreneur to be taxed at 20 percent on the first €1 million of gains. While this only provides modest relief and doesn’t compete with the UK Entrepreneurs Regime with its rate of 10 percent it’s a good first step and has the local community hoping for continued policy change in this area.

Additionally, one may look to the work being done by Dublin’s Startup Commissioner, Niamh Bushnell, who has taken on the role of helping startups succeed in Dublin. She has made great strides in her first year in the role, profiling Dublin as a great place to start and grow a company, connecting startup entrepreneurs with mentors and later stage companies, and assisting entrepreneurs to find financing and lobby the government for further policy changes. These efforts have energized the community, and provide great examples of what can be done to help tech startups thrive across the country.

While challenges remain, the overall outlook is positive and growing brighter by the day. Look for considerable growth and change in the Irish tech startup community as we head into 2016 and beyond, and many success stories for years to come.


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About the author

Anna advises many early stage Technology and FinTech companies on the challenges around fundraising, structuring shareholding arrangements, rewarding founders and employees and growing global businesses. Anna is a founding member of the Board of the FinTech and Payments association of Ireland which was launched on 14 September 2015.

Anna leads KPMG’s global partnership with Connected Intelligence (or Ci), the company behind Web Summit, F.ounders and their related US and Asian events, Collision and Rise. Anna has been recognised by Silicon Republic Women Invent Tomorrow programme as one of the 100 Top Women in STEM. She was nominated for the Woman Mean Business (WMB) Award for Women in Technology and was nominated one of the Top 30 Women in Tech in Ireland.

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