Sunday 4 December 2016

Regions scrap for VC crumbs as tech funding boom stays in Dublin

New investment figures show strong growth in venture capital funding for Irish tech startups. But the vast majority of it is going to firms located in Dublin. Our technology editor takes a closer look.

Published 17/09/2015 | 02:30

Brian Caulfield, head of Irish Venture Capital Association.
Brian Caulfield, head of Irish Venture Capital Association.

For tech venture capitalists, Dublin seems to be the only place in Ireland with startups worth funding.

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That's the picture emerging from new investment figures released by the Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA), an industry umbrella body representing major investors operating in Ireland.

The statistics show that Dublin now attracts twice as much venture startup funding as the rest of the island combined, including Northern Ireland.

In all, at least €227m of the €307m raised by startups in the first six months of this year went to companies based in Dublin, according to the IVCA figures.

A breakdown of the numbers also shows that 44 of the 68 disclosed individual VC investments here went to Dublin startups.

The country's hardening tech division comes amid 45pc growth in VC funding compared to the same period last year and over 90pc growth compared to the first half of 2013.

However, the split between Dublin and the rest of the country suggests that efforts by organisations such as Enterprise Ireland to foster alternative tech hubs in cities such as Cork and Limerick may not be succeeding.

In all, Cork startups attracted just four VC investments in the first half of this year and Limerick startups saw no VC investment at all.

Galway firms landed seven VC deals according to the IVCA, but some of these went to multinational companies that only maintain regional bases in the western city.

The five biggest venture funding deals of the first half of 2015 were split between Dublin (3) and Galway (2). However, three of these deals involved foreign companies located in Ireland.

Circle, the Boston-based Bitcoin money-transfer company with a European headquarters in Dublin, raised over €45m in funding from international investors. Similarly, UK medical device firm Veryan and US telecoms company Telecom, both with facilities in Galway, received €19.2m and €18.6m respectively,

The largest VC funding deal involving an originating Irish company was Dublin-based Altan Pharmaceutical, a life sciences company, which got €41.3m from healthcare investor Malin. Another Dublin-based tech firm, semiconductor startup Movidius, drew down €22.9m of the €38m VC funding round it announced in April. And Dublin-based Cubic Telecom received €18m in venture investment.

Start-up

Meanwhile, Galway-based Irish stroke therapy startup Neuravi got €10.7m of the €19m VC funding it announced in June.

The biggest Cork-based startup VC deal was David Coallier's Barricade Security Systems, which attracted just over €1m.

The 68 announced venture investments also includes four Belfast deals, two Louth startups and one each for Kerry, Roscommon and Derry.

Galway attracted the highest average VC investment (€8.5m), while Dublin startup deals averaged out at €5m.

However, the vast majority (72pc) of VC investment in Irish tech startups remains under €3m per deal, with 33pc of all deals worth less than €1m. Only one in eight of the VC investments outlined in the IVCA figures is for an amount over €10m, shrinking to one in 14 when narrowed down to 'native' Irish startups.

Within Irish tech startups, business software remains the biggest sector to see funding, with 38pc of all VC funding deals here. Medical devices (15pc) come next, with financial software (7pc), biotech (7pc) and environmental tech (7pc) the next most funded categories.

Telecoms tech (6pc) and e-learning (6pc) startups remain actively funded while electronic components (4pc), health tech (4pc) consumer tech (3ms) and food tech (1pc) bring up the rear.

The investment report, which was partly funded by law firm William Fry, also shows that early stage funds raised in the first half of 2015 amounted to €19.4m, the equivalent to 6pc of the total funds raised. The IVCA said that this figure compares with €6.4m (3pc of total funds raised) for the same period last year and with €34.2m (21pc of total funds raised) in the same period in 2013.

However, first round seed funding remains "low", according to the IVCA, at 4pc of total funds raised.

"The report shows that the seed funds supported by the banking sector and Enterprise Ireland's Seed & Venture Capital Programme of 2006-2012 are close to being fully invested, with just €7.6m invested in Q2, the lowest quarterly activity since the creation of these funds," said a spokesman for the IVCA.

"The Government has recognised that these funds need to be renewed if entrepreneurs are to be supported as actively as in the last five years," said Regina Breheny, director general of the IVCA. "We are hopeful that new funding will come on stream in the second half of 2015."

Breheny said that since the credit crunch of 2008, over 1,000 Irish small firms have raised venture capital totalling €2.3bn.

"These funds were raised almost exclusively by Irish venture capital fund managers who, during this period, supported the creation of up to 20,000 jobs," she said. "They also attracted over €900m of international capital into Ireland and geared up the State's investment through the Seed & Venture Capital Programme by almost seven times."

One of the Irish tech industry's most active venture capital investors, Brian Caulfield, said that there were positive signs in tech venture capital funding despite a current funding crunch.

"This is a terrific result considering that the venture capital industry in Ireland is currently in fundraising mode," said Caulfield, who is also chairman of the IVCA and an investor in Dublin-based Movidius.

'The creation of a pool of venture capital for later stage development and expansion is having a very positive impact on the SME funding landscape, resulting in investment of €51m in the second quarter alone."

Caulfield said that most of the Irish companies that raised funds from international investors had initially raised capital from Irish VCs.

"The Irish venture capital community continues to be the main source of funding for Irish innovative SMEs both through direct investment and as the local lead investor for international syndicates," he said. "These syndicates invested €79m in the second quarter and a total of €142m in the first half of 2015."

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