Huckletree's transformation of Twitter's old HQ - and why these expanding firms are already calling it home
Huckletree's arrival to its new premises at The Academy on Pearse St was expected to disrupt the vibrant co-working scene in Dublin - and the office space provider is already doing things differently.
"The main thing is that we always try to find truly iconic spaces. There are a lot of serviced offices in the market, where you will be offered a desk and a seat - that's the baseline offering, the boring bit," Irish born co-founder Andrew Lynch told Independent.ie.
"But Huckletree is about finding something a bit quirky so when The Academy came up, it was really a no-brainer for us.
Opened shortly before Chistmas, the Dublin hub is Huckletree's first international workspace, having already made its impressive mark in London in Clerkenwell, Shoreditch and White City Place (Huckletree West, beside the BBC studios).
CEO Gabriela Hersham and Andrew (the group's COO) opened the Clerkenwell site in 2014, one of the first creative co-working spaces to pop up in London.
The ethos the duo created for their company at the outset maintains a firm fixture today, and something they attribute their success to.
"The whole point of it is not just to be a facility where people go and set up shop. We want to add as much value to the members lives' as we possibly can. We want to hire the best people we can possibly hire," said Andrew.
This is where things get interesting. Huckletree has created its own accelerator program for young tech startups, helping them fine-tune their business pitch and plan. Without taking equity or asking for fees. And they're bringing the program to Dublin.
"For each three months accelerator program, we help three to five early stage firms and integrate ourselves as much as we possibly can with them," said Andrew.
"In terms of a membership proposition, we offer a lot more than our competitors. We only take on those we believe we can actually help and we will set them up well for the next stage. All they have to be is energetic, ambitious and scalable. They get everything that they need - and the right introduction.
"The real pat on the back for us is watching them grow."
Whether you're a freelancer, an entrepreneur, a budding startup, an expanding business, an investor or an agency, there could be a place for you at Huckletree - but you'll have to interview for the spot.
And with an events space, gym, holistic wellbeing programme just some of the features on the 30,000 sq ft site, filling the campus to its 400-member strong capacity is not going to be a difficulty.
We spoke to a number of companies who have already made the old Twitter HQ their Huckletree home.
Although it's less than a decade old, SaaS player Datadog has expanded rapidly across the US and Europe and currently has about 500 employees globally. Touting itself as 'the essential monitoring service for modern cloud environment', the company was started by two French tech heads, Olivier Pomel and Alexis Le-Quoc, who were living in New York in 2010
The main technical hub resides in Paris but the corporate sales function for Datadog is based in Dublin, led by Head of Inside Sales, EMEA & Head of the Dublin Office Richard Campbell.
"As more and more businesses move their IT infrastructure on to the cloud, they need to be able to monitor that at all levels to make sure that it's performing. In the past, IT was a function of the business but now it is very much a partner of the business," he told Independent.ie.
"Whether it's moving part of your business online or dealing with your employees internally, for example, many of these services are now provided on the cloud. So it's increasingly important that this is monitored, that it's working effectively and optimised because increasingly it's part of the business, it's not just a function like keeping the lights on."
Mr Campbell joined Datadog six months ago, when the size of the global team measured around 300 "so the growth of the team is exponential and that trajectory is continuing". Similarly for the EMEA sales team, it has expanded from a small team of four to a current pack of 21 - and growing.
"Before Huckletree opened, I worked from my home and then we moved to another co-working space in Dublin city centre. As we scaled up, we knew we were going to need more space and that wasn't going to be able to serve our purposes anymore," he said.
"So one reason we moved was for that reason, the space, but it was also for the culture of the office. You hear the sales pitch talk about the benefits of collaborative spaces - not to mention the meditation and the yoga - but it's actually all real. There are guys right beside us who are actually customers of ours.
"Because Huckletree have already done this in London and they had all these companies who came in and scaled up, they seemed to get it. Everything that we require, extra white boards, different breakfasts, they'll take stuff on board and change if they think it will be helpful. It's not just a space to work in."
This start-up aims to solve quite a complicated problem - the problem of world trade. Kontainer's ocean freight platform, which currently serves some of the biggest brands in shipping, simplifies a very cumbersome, time-consuming process.
"At the moment when you ship a container from one place to the other, it's genuinely a 60 email and 20 phone call process. Shipping actually hasn't moved for 50 years. Since the investor of containers, the effectiveness of shipping goods around the world hasn't really changed," Charles Lee, co-founder and CTO, Kontainers told Independent.ie.
"What we do is provide an end-to-end booking engine for the shippers to come on and book a container with us. A normal shipment is now reduced from a 60 email situation to a five email situation and everything is done online, including clearing customs automatically.
Mr Lee, who started the company in 2015 with CEO Graham Parker, saw that there was a need to bring the shipping into the modern technological world, unlocking value in the supply chain of the business customer.
"On the operations side, the people that usually do what we do are called freight forwarders and they usually have a team in-house to look after the customers, the paperwork, etc. Now, because we have an operations platform, we still need people there but it's no longer as laborious," he said.
Kontainers has really taken off in the last 12 months as a lot of the larger companies are showing interest in using its software to allow them to do similar streamlined process. With seven currently on the team in Ireland and the UK, the firm is currently in the middle of a hiring spree.
Giving them the flexibility to scale up is something that Huckletree can provide - and it helped that the founders were already familiar with the spaces in the UK.
"We didn't rent a space in London but we did a lot of meetings there. We got introduced to it by co-founder Gabriela's brother who brought us there for meetings," he said.
Born in Hong Kong, Mr Lee lived in London for over 30 years but moved over the Irish Sea after getting married to a girl from Tipperary.
"At the time, I was involved in a startup in the UK which was sold so I had the luxury of moving pretty much anywhere," he said.
"But I've been in shared office spaces quite a bit and Huckletree is special and not least because of the team that is in Dublin. They make an effort to make it a very friendly place. the collaboration comes almost organically, they don't do too much shoving and pushing together.
"But providing an environment that allows you to do that, the people that are looking after this place are doing an immense job."
House My Dog
Founded by brothers Timothy and James McElroy when they could not find a reliable sitter for their dog Holly, HouseMyDog enables dog owners looking for alternatives to kennels to message a sitter in their area and book and pay for the service online.
Last September, the Irish start-up broke a crowdfunding record, hitting its initial target of €200,000 in 36 hours - the fastest funds have ever been raised by an Irish company on Crowdcube.
"We're essentially a booking platform for pet services. People go on and search for sitters and we vet the sitters that go out through the platform," James McElroy told Independent.ie.
"The sitters go through a seven-step vetting process, they have to do things like a phone interview, an online assessment and they fill out a full profile. But we find the best way is actually when the community vets itself; if I'm a sitter in D6 and have 70-100 great reviews I'll probably get more jobs than a sitter who has had maybe 10 reviews. It's like booking a hotel and looking at the reviews of those who have stayed there."
House My Dog initially launched in Dublin but has since expanded into the UK and Germany - acquired its German competitor Schnuff und Co - and are currently in about 35 cities in Europe.
"Our plan is to keep expanding but also to add on additional services to our platform, and release an app. Right now we're focussed on sitting but we're planning to launch walking, day care and grooming down the line, ultimately a one-stop platform for all your pet services needs, said Mr McElroy.
In terms of the people who look after the dogs, Mr McElroy said there were two types of sitters, half of the sitters do it full-time as a job, and the other half are "just dog lovers",
"Some of our top sitters are earning around e1000 monthly. One sitter is a student here in Ireland and she's earned around e50k from the sit over the space of a few years. If you do love dogs, it's a great way to mind a dog; if you have a dog, it's a great way for your dog to have a playmate, and also if you already have a dog it's not 100pc more work," he said.
With a team of five based in Huckletree Dublin (and three tech staff housed in CHQ), Mr Elroy said he was interested in moving to the Pearse Street location when Andrew [Lynch] told him he was setting up a space here.
"At its most basic level you just want a bit of good wifi a desk and a coffee machine, but you spend so much of your life in the office, you want it to be a nice place to be in also. We also find it makes it so much easier hiring also coming into a place like this," said Mr McElroy.
"Huckletree very much focuses on the community aspect of things, maybe more so than other spaces, and right now that's working for us. The space is still in its early stages but I can't wait to see the place filling up.
"The tech space in Dublin is very small so being in that collaborative community is beneficial as a lot of us face the same issues day-to-day so we can work them out together and we can expand our respective network channels also."
Silicon Valley Bank
Silicon Valley Bank - the Californian tech sector lender - placed a permanent representative in Ireland Clive Lennox for the first time, and he's based in Huckletree.
Last year, the bank announced that it is doubling the amount of money it is lending to fast-growing Irish technology companies. It committed $100m (€96m) in 2012, and is now committing a further $100m through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF).
"I was nine years in London and five of those years was with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). It's great to come back now as part of SVB," Mr Lennox told Independent.ie.
The bank itself are California-based but it has offices throughout the US - "anywhere there's an innovation centre you'll find an SVB office" - and the focus is strictly on technology and life science. SVB then moved over to London and Mr Lennox was part of the bank build in London, a full commercial bank, and there are currently about 180 staff based there.
"From the UK then we started to look at Ireland, spending time in Ireland and looking at Irish companies and we were really impressed with what was going on here, which allowed us to get involved," said Mr Lennox.
"We've committed $140m to 22 Irish companies over the last few years. Part of my role is to put more fuel in the fire and really push it harder, spend more time with Irish companies and look to get more deals done."
"But the commitment of $200m, that's not a cap as far as I'm concerend. If there's good companies there and we can do more than that we'll do it. It really is about finding really cool companies that we think we can help."
Mr Lennox said that part of his role is to host people coming from the UK and the US. "They like coming here, there are good companies, good CEOs, good management, great support from local government, good legal firms," he said.
"They are here to write cheques and they feel that they can get things done. They can only do that if the quality of the company and ease of investment is there."
In London, Huckletree is actually based in the same building as SVB so the bank was aware of the provider and there was plenty of interaction between the teams, including co-hosting events.
"I'm comfortable in this environment, to me this is quite normal way to work and surround yourself with like-minded people. For example, Datadog are a client of SVB in the US, so you're surrounding yourself with companies that you may be working with, hopefully clients."