Ireland 'could be next Silicon Valley'
A LEADING US investor has told a gathering of Irish business and cultural leaders in New York that "Ireland could become the Silicon Valley of Europe".
Bank of Ireland (BoI) shareholder and private equity investor Wilbur Ross, pictured, joined a panel of executives, entrepreneurs, investors and cultural leaders at the fourth annual Ireland Day at the New York Stock Exchange.
Technology was the hot topic of the summit, organised by Ireland Inc and aimed at strengthening business ties with the US. Panellists rang the closing bell on the exchange floor to mark the occasion and St Patrick's Day.
"If you use a phone, you use tech," Viddyad founder Grainne Barron told the Wall Street audience. The online ad firm CEO said the business landscape – and demands for graduates – were changing. "It used to be learn a language, now it's a different type of language – code."
F.ounders organiser Paddy Cosgrave has watched his friends and peers leave Ireland in huge numbers since 2007 but said the new wave of young Irish dispersed throughout the world posed a business opportunity.
"It's now about how are we going to harness all those incredibly educated people."
Speaking of a "profound revolution" in education that the country had experienced, Web Summit organiser Mr Cosgrave warned that cutbacks to spending in the sector would be felt in "five to 10 years".
The tech entrepreneur also told executives that there was a personal responsibility when it came to job creation: "It's up to me and entrepreneurs like me."
Billionaire investor Mr Ross, who made a large profit last week on BoI shares, said Ireland was "the poster challenge for reform". He awarded the State 10 out of 10 when asked to grade it as a place to do business.
Mr Ross said the Irish had come through economic adversity "with grit, determination and sacrifice" and said BoI was being as "supportive" as possible when it came to lending to small businesses.
"It isn't the case of the mean old bank not lending," he said, telling the room that there were still some issues being worked out by businesses who had overstretched themselves.
"We're not in the business of charitable donations," he said.