Craic, community and chance. Why Ireland is the number one place to start up in Europe

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Ireland may seem like an unlikely choice of location to start up a new business, but within the debt-stricken country, a new hope of entrepreneurship is emerging from the ruins of the Celtic Tiger. Olan Ahern of Pearson PTE explains why you should start up in Ireland…

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There is no shying away from the fact that Ireland has been severely hit by the financial meltdown, and still five years on, nobody – at home or abroad – believes the Irish economy will transcend the recession in 2013. The Celtic Tiger is a mere shadow of its former self, with emigration at a high and household and corporate debt eking away at any hope of optimism, there is no doubting that Ireland is going through a state of turmoil.

However, with all the surrounding negativity and numerous weaknesses within the Irish market, there is still a shining light: entrepreneurship. New businesses are popping up everywhere, and there is a strong and growing community of small businesses both on and offline. The question is – why and how is Ireland  being dubbed the Silicon Valley of Europe? Here are some contributing factors…

Five top Irish incubators

There is a host of experienced entrepreneurs and organisations that have set up startup incubators to help nurture and support successful startups in Ireland. These incubators are helping produce companies that bring inward investment into Ireland and nurture entrepreneurs by providing mentoring and investment for their businesses to grow.

NDRC Launchpad
The National Digital Research Centre (NDRC), run by Gary Layden has worked with over 80 digital ventures to date. A twelve-week tailored programme offering €20,000, work space and mentoring service.

WAYRA
One of the largest start up accelerators in the world. Offering entrepreneurs the opportunity to win a programme that provides financing of €40,000; mentoring; dedicated workspace for up to nine months and favourable commercial terms with leading technology suppliers. Entrepreneurs will also join Wayra’s investor, partner and expert network in different parts of the world.

Startup Bootcamp
Part of the European startupbootcamp programme, Irish and International startups receive mentorship and the opportunity to pitch to over 200 investors. Run by Eoghan Jennings ex- CEO of Xing.

Ryan Academy’s Propellor programme
The four-month programme offers €30,000 in exchange for 7.5 per cent equity. The main emphasis is on startups that are centred on software, web 2.0 and informatics. Startups also receive mentorship, free office space for four months and a service package with marketing, sales, legal, IP and accounting with corporate partners.

New Frontiers
Ireland’s national entrepreneur development programme delivered by regional Institutes of technology. Run by Enterprise Ireland the programme looks to train in all elements of business and offers a scholarship of €15,000 to participate in the six month course.

An educated labour force

Over 30 Universities and Institutes, and a free higher education system has made Ireland one of the most educated countries in the world and, according to Eurostat, the most educated country in the EU. International reports recognise Ireland’s work force highly for factors such as productivity, flexibility and educational attainment.

However, over the last five years a number of multinational organisations have cut down on their work force and in some cases have been forced into liquidation because of the recession. A number of highly educated individuals have lost their jobs or have been made redundant. Recent graduates have been immigrating to lands more full of opportunity, predominantly Canada and Australia.

The recession has also had a strong affect on the older generation, primarily those who about 10 to 20 years out of college, and have mortgages to pay and families to raise. As harsh as it sounds, these individuals need work, and entrepreneurs can utilise this to their advantage by getting top-quality expertise to build their companies at a cheap price. There are even government initiatives such as the Job Bridge scheme that allow startup companies to hire people free of charge.

A tight-knit networking hub

Simply put, Ireland is a small country and is known for its friendliness, hospitality and accommodating nature. As Neolithic as it sounds, it’s very easy to get in contact with someone as the majority of people are directly or indirectly connected through a friend, relation or colleague.

More practically there are a number of social networking services available online; Irish Entrepreneurs Network and the Irish Diaspora coupled with LinkedIn is an excellent starting point to make connections. If looking to make connections abroad, the IIBN (Irish International Business Network) is extremely active and Enterprise Ireland has offices located all over the world. Last year Vodafone Ireland launched the Vodafone Smart Startup Network to give Irish startups access to successful Irish business experts through nationwide talks, mentoring workshops and networking sessions with fellow startups.

State-run startup help

Ireland has state-run organisations set up with the sole purpose of helping your business to succeed. There are local enterprise boards and nationally there is Enterprise Ireland. A strong indicator that Ireland sees entrepreneurship as a major strength of the country is the fact that Enterprise Ireland is one of the only state-run agencies whose budget has been increased amongst all the cut backs. They work in partnership with Irish enterprises to help them start, grow, innovate and win export sales on global markets.

Community and craic

In times of hardship you often find out a lot about a person or in this case a country, there is no doubt that the people of Ireland have become closer as a nation over the last few years. This has been adopted within the business community of Ireland by putting in place programmes and support networks; especially evident in the startup community. The #SMEcommunity on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook offers support to any startups. Likewise, startup incubators and programmes, such as the Endeavour programme, look to help up-and-coming businesses and build relationships within the startup community.

Tax incentives and a flexible approach to business

The World Bank’sdoing business” report identified Ireland as the easiest EU location to start a business and as the most business friendly tax regime. Here are some of the reasons why;

• Corporate tax rate at 12.5 per cent is one of the lowest in Europe

• There are extensive double taxation agreements

• R&D tax credits that allow startups to claim back tax even if loss-making, hence startups don’t have to pay corporate profits tax

• The Irish Government pursues a pro-business economic policy.

Even though from a financial standpoint Ireland is suffering, as a nation I believe it’s moving forward and looking to change. Everything about Ireland’s entrepreneurial endeavours puts me in a positive frame of mind. I see exciting times for Ireland on the horizon.

Image credit: flickr user kellbaily

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