When people think Ireland, they tend to think leprechauns, potatoes and Guinness. But as many established and emerging companies are realizing, there’s much more to it than that. Offering government and venture capital funding, tax incentives, a robust research environment and a highly skilled workforce, Ireland is rapidly emerging as a major business hub—and the go-to destination for technology startups.
Having been ranked by Forbes as the best country to do business and the most entrepreneurial country by the Wall Street Journal in 2013, it's no wonder that behemoths like HP, Facebook, Citibank, Pfizer and Google have chosen to establish presences in the Emerald Isle. But the business advantages that Ireland offers are most appealing to entrepreneurs, who are increasingly heading to Ireland to capitalize on the country's access to the streamlined EU regulatory approval process, tax incentives, and deep network of operational and scientific expertise found in existing companies and universities. In fact, of the 188 startups that my organization, Enterprise Ireland, invested in over the past year, ten percent were developed by overseas entrepreneurs.
These startups—spanning industries from software and services to clean tech and medical devices—are already seeing outstanding results. Some startups have found that they have been able to get their products to the European market by as much as five years faster than into the U.S. market due to access to a differential EU regulatory approval process. This early market validation is crucial for creating enterprise and pleasing inventors.
Ultimately, though, it's the people of Ireland who help turn entrepreneurial visions into realities. The nation offers an exceptional and highly skilled workforce that includes engineers coming out of esteemed university programs. For companies like Upfront Analytics, which delivers timely market intelligence by mining specially designed game play, this can be a game-changing factor. Upfront Analytics co-founder Joe Marks has said that the key element in determining its company’s base was the availability of top-notch talent - "Irish universities produce lots of great graduates in the relevant disciplines for our business." Starting with a team of two when in launched in April 2012, the company has since grown to become a 12-person business and expects to double in size over the course of the next year.
Other startups make the journey to Ireland to take advantage of its large network of founders, supporters, suppliers and experts - plus its over $1 billion in seed and venture funding in all industries. With help from support organizations like Enterprise Ireland, which has more than 30 offices around the globe, entrepreneurs can easily connect with potential investors in Ireland and beyond, turning their ideas into real, international business ventures.
For startups looking to find their pot of gold, it's time to take luck out of the equation and instead look to a country that guarantees the stepping stones for business success. While it’s not necessarily easy to start anew in a foreign country, the opportunities for meeting - and potentially even exceeding - your career aspirations are well worth it. On March 17, everyone becomes Irish for the day. But why stop there?
Naghmeh Reilly is Senior Marketing Executive for Overseas Entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland.
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