Monday 25 September 2017

Web Summit masks deeper weakness in Irish hi-tech

Dan White

Dan White

LAST week's Dublin Web Summit, which was attended by over 4,000 global hi-tech bigwigs, allowed 250 Irish start-ups to display their wares to potential investors and trade buyers. A great time was had by all and long may it continue.

But does the undoubted success of the Web Summit, organised by Paddy Cosgrave, mask a deeper underlying weakness in the Irish hi-tech sector?

The Web Summit came a week after the twin jobs announcements by Kerry Group and Paddy Power. Food giant Kerry is creating over 900 permanent jobs at its new research facility in Naas while bookmaker Paddy Power is creating 610 jobs in the south Dublin suburb of Clonskeagh.

Kerry, which was founded in 1972, and Paddy Power, founded in 1988, are amongst the best of a new breed of world-class, indigenous Irish companies.

Compare this to what has been happening in the Irish hi-tech sector. Where is the indigenous hi-tech equivalent of Kerry or Paddy Power?

Unfortunately for the domestic economy, many Irish hi-tech entrepreneurs and their backers seem to prefer the lure of upfront cash rather than following the example of Kerry and Paddy Power.

Earlier this year Datac and RealFlex were sold to US firm Lukfin for a total of $27m (€20.7m), while NewBay went to Canada's RIM for $100m (€76.7m) in October 2011.

They followed other Irish hi-tech companies, including Iona, Norkom, Parthus and others, into foreign ownership.

Until we find a way of growing our own indigenous hi-tech companies we will always be playing catch-up -- no matter how successful events such as the Web Summit are.

Sunday Indo Business

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