Portershed: Build it and they will come to Galway
Published 24/09/2015 | 02:30
A couple of years ago, Airbnb almost chose Galway over Dublin as its new European headquarters.
The company loved the western city's location, its way of life and the apparent availability of a high quality employee pool. But they had one problem: there was no decent city-central office building to house them.
Instead, they would have to set up in a business park or industrial zone.
So the online accommodation giant chose Dublin instead, where it is now custom-fitting an old warehouse in the Grand Canal Docks.
The episode had a lingering effect on Galway's tech entrepreneurs and promoters.
"We've seen a lot of companies that come to Galway and they want to be in a city or town location, not a business park," said John Breslin, entrepreneur and lecturer and NUI Galway.
So a group of the city's tech-focused burghers started to talk to civic authorities about cutting through tape to get new centrally-located tech working spaces built.
While local political and administrative dignitaries listened, there was no money to put into it.
So a couple of entrepreneurs, including Ex Ordo's Paul Killoran, OnePageCRM's Mic Fitzgerald, StartX6's Dave Cunningham and former NCB chief operating officer Maurice O'Gorman, took matters into their own hands.
"We knew we had to get something that wasn't in some industrial park miles from the centre," said Fitzgerald, who has also just realeased a new note-taking app called Habi.io.
Having spotted a perfectly-situated group of buildings located on 14 acres between Galway's central Eyre Square and the harbour-marina, they persuaded CIE to give them a lease on one of them.
They then persuaded AIB to help pay for most of the building's redevelopment investment, with an extra chunk of change thrown in by IBM.
That 5,000 square foot building, to be called Portershed, above, now has a completion date of February. It will house 80 people from a variety of tech startups and existing companies, anchored by OnePage CRM and Ex Ordo. It will also have presentation space and other facilities that startups look for.
"The idea of a co-working space came from a couple of us talking about it over a pint," said Ex Ordo's Paul Killoran. "I was talking to Mic [Fitzgerald] and we just thought: why don't we come together?
"We don't compete for the same customers. So why shouldn't we learn from each other and teach each other? Community is very important in tech."
Critical to the plan is the possibility of expansion over time.
"It's not just the building itself that's important, it's the 14-acre site," said StartX6's Dave Cunningham. "There's room to grow here."