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Cloudflare's 'Irish' insult rankles

Adrian Weckler


Cloudfare CEO Matthew Prince said he found Irish people unwelcoming

Cloudfare CEO Matthew Prince said he found Irish people unwelcoming

Cloudfare CEO Matthew Prince said he found Irish people unwelcoming

It finally happened - a billionaire tech CEO has labelled Ireland a dump. Cloudflare founder Matthew Prince says we're "unwelcoming" and that our "food and weather suck".

Asked about setting up an engineering base here to add to his data centres in Dublin and Cork, he dismissed the idea with the ultimate put-down: "No one wants to live in Ireland unless they're Irish."

Prince made the remarks in public conversation on Twitter a few weeks back. Unsurprisingly, it provoked heated replies.

"P***k," was the one-word response from Manna Aero founder Bobby Healy.

Intercom co-founder Des Traynor had a more diplomatic rebuttal, highlighting out the number of companies that have set up successful operations here with thousands of non-Irish workers thriving in them.

But some respondents agreed in part with Prince, focusing mainly on high accommodation costs here.

Twitter drama aside, should we be grateful to Prince for his honesty?

In one way his outburst is refreshing. We're so used to being plámásed for our warm welcome, our educated, smiling workforce and blah, blah, blah.

It's a single-transferable PR script that every journalist has heard 100 times. Here's someone at a high level (Cloudflare is a big, influential Silicon Valley company with global operations) giving an unguarded take.

He already set up some business functions here, so presumably has some experience of what he's talking about. (Neither he nor company representatives responded to requests from the Sunday Independent for comment)

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Moreover, he's not saying much that we don't sometimes mutter among ourselves. The weather is pretty crap compared to California or Amsterdam or even London.

Our food servings are, overall, still on a journey (upwards) from a low position a few years back. And we do still sometimes display antipathy, at times, to those from other countries who arrive here.

Yet Prince should have known that he'd get skewered for his remarks on Twitter. We are arguably the most sensitive people in Europe when it comes to being criticised, slagged or belittled.

We all know this to be true. Among ourselves, Irish people are world-class moaners at giving out about our country's shortcomings. But this is nothing compared to the steam that comes from our ears when someone from another country suggests the same things.

If Prince had aimed his put-down at, say, the UK, it may not have raised an eyebrow. Indeed, he aimed a scud missile at Portugal in the same thread as his Ireland insults - calling its government corrupt and suggesting that promises made to him by Lisbon officials were not being kept.

While there was some pushback on this, the Portuguese took it in a less personal way than we did.

Ireland managed to get an extra little put-down, with Prince adding salt to the wound by saying that Dublin still wouldn't compare to Lisbon when it came to underlying attractions. But by dismissing Ireland so blithely, he guaranteed himself panto villain status.

Even if we weren't so sensitive, it's fair to say that Prince's remarks might have been picked up for being rude rather than robust. I mean, did he have to put it in the way he did?

"No-one wants to live in Ireland unless they're Irish"? That's a little more redolent of something you'd see from GetBrexitDoneUser70009988 on Reddit than one of the highest profile, publicly watched cloud company billionaires.

The thing about snarky remarks from tech titans is that they tend to invariably turn people's gaze onto the corporate culture of the company that titan built. If Prince slags off other countries and cultures (if food and a propensity to welcome are considered cultural), what is it like to work in Cloudflare?

Glassdoor, a long-established online feedback forum for employee sentiment about the companies they work for, has some poor feedback for Cloudflare. "Toxic" is a word that's used.

Then again, there are people with complaints about the companies they work for in all walks of industry. And, to be fair to Prince, he is an unusually clever, successful founder that has created a company known around the world.

He may also have given us an insight into how some in Silicon Valley really view Ireland. My experience in talking to dozens of founders and CEOs, from medium-sized outfits such as Zendesk or Slack to giants such as Google or Apple, is that the view toward Irish quality-of-life factors tends to be neutral-to-positive.

Housing is actually only really an issue for a small number of them as, ironically, it's their high-paid engineers and workers who tend to be able to afford the better apartments in central areas. They hate the traffic and lack of transport to major utilities, such as the airport.

They're a little lukewarm on our food. And, when you get into a longer chat with them, it becomes clear that some would miss the variety of culture that you'd get in a much bigger city, such as London.

However, unlike Prince, they tend to have a positive experience of locals welcoming them. At least, that's what I pick up from stories they tell about something that happened to them the day or the week before.

Then again, maybe it's all shades of plámás.

If there's one hopeful sign from Prince's remarks, it's that the responses were not quite as white hot as they might have been a few years ago.

This is probably for the very good reason that Ireland - and Dublin in particular - isn't really as dependent on individuals' good opinion for its economic peace of mind as it once was.

Or at least not Matthew Prince's.

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