We talk about start-ups today as if they are something new, but there have always been start-ups. It is not very long ago that the word ‘entrepreneur’ would conjure up suspicion in Ireland.We must also never forget how IDA identified and cultivated some of our biggest overseas tech employers when they themselves were start-ups and very young in their development.Some said it was unnecessary because we already have our ambassadors in terms of the sterling work conducted by IDA Ireland in the Bay Area, the work of Enterprise Ireland in Palo Alto and, of course, the Irish consulate in San Francisco.
The response to the story was interesting because while a lot of people thought it was a good idea, a similar number of respondents said such a role was unnecessary.
Dissenters said that with Brexit looming, we need to fix problems on the ground, such as sufficient seed funding and outmoded tax policies for entrepreneurs.
Facebook (2004) was just four years old, and it is now hurtling towards 2,000 people in Silicon Docks, with talk of another 1,000-strong Facebook operation planned for Dublin’s north side.
A few people in IDA Ireland in the 1980s had the right instincts, and those instincts continue to hold true today.
Today, it employs 1,800 people in Dublin and has invested more than €1bn in the city.
Google (1998) was five years old when it was enticed to Dublin in 2003, and it is now the biggest private-sector employer in the city, with more than 5,000 direct and contract workers.
It is the set of circumstances – the environment, the education system, even the political landscape – that shapes their perceptions, informs their ideas and results in their unique, innovative take on things.
Within Ireland, we have towns and cities that have captured their own magic dust.
Dublin is a bit like a mini San Francisco (and is sadly beginning to inherit some of the problems, such as expensive accommodation and gentrification); Cork has an energy and worldly outlook that is hard to top; Belfast is industrious, nuanced and focused; Galway has grace and gets on with it; Waterford, thanks to research bodies such as TSSG, is punching way above its weight; Sligo is worth keeping an eye on.