The Czar & Germany – Dublin’s Startup-Community Is Looking For Cooperation

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Altough Dublin's startup community is steadily growing by itself it's looking for partners to make an even bigger impact. Here's Niamh Bushnell's (first Startup Commissioner of Dublin) take.

The Commissioner will see you now” – or something similar could have been my expectation ahead of being welcomed to the offices of Dublin’s Commissioner for Startups, who was earlier called “Czar” in an Irish newspaper. But a warm welcome paired with a lot of energy I received when Niamh Bushnell personally opened the door was mirrored in our interview.

Due to the fact that many Silicon-Valley-companies have their European headquarters in Dublin “San Fran” was quite naturally “namechecked”. But Dublin doesn’t have to hide. It is the cluster of companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter which have located in the Silicon Docks that offers Dublin’s Startup-community many opportunities to collaborate.

Niamh Bushnell looks at the Startup-scene in Berlin with a lot of respect. The same goes for Hamburg. First contacts with a Hamburg based Startup-Coordinator were made at the Dublin Web Summit. But more on that later.

Dublin’s First Commissioner For Startups

How do you become Dublin’s first Commissioner for Startups? Niamh Bushnell spent her working life in Tech. From founding a research-company with her brother, via becoming VP Software at Enterprise Ireland in New York to making tech-investments she got a look in from every possible angle. Her mission today is to give Dublin a strong voice, to work on the image of the capital and to make it an important platform from which Startups can develop locally, nationally and internationally.

The Dublin Startup-community is not big depending on what you compare it to. “Coming from New York one might be fooled by its size, but I didn’t make that mistake”, says Bushnell and under strokes the advantage that all relevant players are so close by. The big multinationals are in walking distance.

Let’s Talk Money

Also easily reachable by foot is the Department of Finance. I met Niamh Bushnell shortly before Budget 2016 was introduced and asked her about expectations. “The tax-system for founders needs a total revamp” is how the Commissioner describes the wishes of the “Dublin Startup Leaders Group”. Funding from Angel Investors needs to be unlocked in order to make it easier for Entrepreneurs to start companies. “In the US I’m an Angel Investor myself”, says Bushnell, who invested in several companies across the Atlantic. She currently wouldn’t do the same this side of the pond as the tax-incentives are not there. A look across the Irish Sea shows what’s possible. In London a “Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme” (SEIS) offers investors incentives to put money into Startups. Hence the plea to the Irish Minister for Finance: “We want SEIS in Budget 2016.”

The expectations for Budget 2016 were high. But politics disappointed. Niamh Bushnell gave this assessment after budget-day: “The same Government that was so complimentary during Startup-Week gave us a big NO this week. NO to encouraging more Angel Investment in Ireland. NO to the use of share-options in order to attract talent. NO to a tax-policy that would enable Ireland to compete with London.” Among all the disappointment there is still enough fighting-spirit left: “We will keep going and we’ll try our best to influence policy.”

Web Summit also became a topic of the interview. How big is the shock in the Dublin Startup-community after losing the conference to Lisbon? Will there be less funding because the Web Summit is leaving Dublin? Will our companies loose customers and competitiveness? Will the multinationals relocate R&D out of Dublin? “No, No & No. Our ecosystem won’t be affected.” Dublin doesn’t need a conference to bring its tech-economy forward: “We are working hard to build on what we have in order to improve Dublin’s standing.”

Connecting Germany & Ireland

German Startups I talked to at Web Summit are still interested in collaborating with Dublin based Startups. “4scotty” from Berlin, which is working in recruitment will visit the “Career Zoo” in October. “Talk to Jack” from Münster said in the “Startup Van” that they loved Dublin and they keep in touch through the founders of the video-studio for Startups on wheels. About the earlier mentioned Hamburg – “nextMedia Hamburg” was here with the Startups ”fairtime”, “Channel Pilot Solutions”, “connected health”, “Triprebel”, “Pay with a Tweet”, “Familo” and “Protonet”. Joined matchmaking at “SXSW” in Austin, Texas and the participation of a Dublin delegation at the Startup-events at the “NEXT & Reeperbahn-Festival” in September in Hamburg are already being discussed.

Niamh Bushnell is also very interested in working with the German-Irish Chamber of Commerce. What did she say again on the fringes of the Web Summit? “Let’s do this!”



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