Dublin’s January News: Dublin Startup Diary by Graeme McQueen
There’s a nervous excitement in the Dublin business community as we edge through the first quarter of 2016. The backdrop of a fast growing economy (even conservative estimates suggest Ireland’s GDP grew by 6% in 2015) means many firms are more confident now than they have been in the best part of a decade. The reason for an element of nervousness comes from the fact that Ireland will likely soon go to the polls. When exactly that happens is still anyone’s guess. Just as he has done for the past six months, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Ireland’s Prime Minister) is still refusing to say when a General Election will happen.
As we wait for the big date to be revealed (26th Feb seems most likely), canvassing has been underway since early January.
The current Government put it’s own marker in the sand in late January by stating an intention to increase the number of people working in Dublin by 66,000 within 5 years. It was interesting to see the Government acknowledge that startups will play a key role in reaching this target. The Government said in its Dublin Action Plan for Jobs… “We will increase the number of businesses starting and surviving by 25%, and deliver a 30% increase in Irish companies growing to scale, by measures including establishing StartUpSpaceDublin to increase the networking and co-working space for entrepreneurs across the city, measures to promote Dublin as a location for mobile start-ups, measures to increase the availability of mentoring.”
All that sounds pretty encouraging, but the city’s entrepreneur community can be forgiven for not getting overly excited given many in the space are still reeling from a 2016 Budget that was distinctly unfriendly for startups.
Ironically, on the same day the Government was stating its big ambitions for startups, one of the country’s main newspapers, The Irish Examiner, ran with an article showing how much higher interest rates are for small Irish firms than their peers in other European countries. The story, based on data from the European Central Bank, showed that an Irish SME would pay an average rate of 6.56% on a loan of €250,000. That’s more than double the average rate paid by a small firm in Germany or Italy (both 3.25%), and considerably more than SMEs in Spain (3.37%), Netherlands (3.61%) and Finland (4.03%).
As small company lobby group, Isme, put it: “Banks must be allowed turn a profit and make a proper return on their investments but small business owners should not be picking up the tab for it.”
On a brighter note, it has been hugely encouraging to see a number of big positive announcements being made by Irish startups during the opening weeks of 2016. I was particularly thrilled to see Boxever – one of the most promising young companies in the country – announce it will create 100 new jobs after closing a €10.9m Series B funding round. I first came across Boxever – whose software allows airlines to better cross-sell products to customers – in 2013 when I visited their then humble HQ in the old Dogpatch Labs on Dublin’s Barrow Street to interview their CEO and co-founder Dave O’Flanagan. At that time they were half-a-dozen people crammed around an oval table. It’s great to see that in the two years-or-so since the firm, which now employs 60, has upped revenue by 450% and added a rake of new customers, including the likes of Emirates and Aer Lingus. I fully expect us all to be hearing much, much more about Boxever – and the hugely impressive O’Flanagan – in the years to come.
+ Graeme McQueen looks after the Media Relations function for Dublin Chamber of Commerce. Graeme spent almost a decade working as a business journalist and prior to joining the Chamber was Assistant Editor of Business Plus magazine. He is the author of a book called ‘Start It Up‘ (published 2013), which tells the start-up stories of 20 Irish entrepreneurs.