Sunday 20 August 2017

Bushnell ready to launch tech industry data site

Tech Ireland aims to be the definitive source of insights on Irish product innovation, writes Gavin McLoughlin

Niamh Bushnell is gearing up for the formal launch of her new venture, Tech Ireland — with Google and Bank of Ireland backing the project
Niamh Bushnell is gearing up for the formal launch of her new venture, Tech Ireland — with Google and Bank of Ireland backing the project

Former Dublin Commissioner for start-ups Niamh Bushnell has attracted a number of "key corporate sponsors" as she gears up for the formal launch of her new venture, Tech Ireland.

Google and Bank of Ireland have already backed the non-profit project, which seeks to be "the definitive source of data and insight on Ireland and Irish innovation" worldwide.

The project has also received sponsorship from a number of high-profile Irish tech industry figures. Among them are Colm Lyon, the founder of Realex Payments which was sold for €115m in 2015, and Dylan Collins, who founded games software company Demonware and sold it to games giant Activision.

Bushnell told the Sunday Independent that Tech Ireland will be formally launched in two months, and that the new major sponsors would be on board before then.

"In my job as Commissioner for Startups I had very little access to good data in terms of different sectors, different geographies, what's strong in the regions, what's strong in Dublin, where the funding is going, who the movers and shakers are," Bushnell said.

"The opportunity here is to not only tell us here in Ireland who we are and where we're strong. It's to take that message... out to the world.

"This is a community resource, it's a public and free resource. We want the community to be associated with it, to be proud of it, to be behind it and to use it," Bushnell said.

Bushnell said the team behind the project gather data from sources including the media, the Companies Registration Office, legal firms and PR firms, and pull it together in order to provide a single source of insight. She said, as the project develops, it will look to gather information from other sources.

She added that it would also look to generate revenue through paid-for reports.

It recently carried out a report on the FinTech sector for the Central Bank, and another for Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange on companies with the potential to move into the smart ageing sector. Bushnell returned to Ireland from New York - arguably the business capital of the world - in 2014 to take up the role as Dublin Commissioner for Startups.

"In terms of the actual business culture, I think we're still less comfortable with failure and still less open to doing new things than Americans would be. But we're getting there," Bushnell said.

"Even in the two years I've been home, I've seen a lot of celebration of failure and recognition of the value of it," she added.

Bushnell has been a persistent critic of Ireland's capital gains tax regime. The headline rate of 33pc has been criticised by some as a disincentive to scaling a business. An entrepreneur's relief measure was introduced in recent years, which now charges 10pc for €1m of gains. That scheme is far less generous than its UK equivalent and Bushnell said it doesn't go far enough.

"It needs to be a policy advocacy exercise that we continue throughout the year... what it's telling young companies is: 'You are small. Think small, and stay small'.

"When are we ever going to support the idea that 'large companies in Ireland' is not just another way of saying 'FDI'?"

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