Friday 16 November 2018

Forget Dublin's Silicon Docks...Going west means tech can offer lifestyles as well as work

Ben Bulben, Co. Sligo. Photo: Tourism Ireland
Ben Bulben, Co. Sligo. Photo: Tourism Ireland
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Multinational technology firms are increasingly choosing to locate further afield than Dublin's Silicon Docks.

Lower rents and access to pools of graduates mean cities such as Cork, Limerick and Galway have emerged as alternatives.

Now Sligo is coming up the ranks as a place to build a career, and home to game-changing tech developments.

Recent speculation as to whether the capital city's credentials as a genuine tech city are legitimate aside, the war for talent means employees are increasingly able to secure high-performing roles without leaving places that offer a better quality lifestyle - particularly affordable housing and easier commutes.

‘Sligo is home, my girlfriend is here, it has all the benefits of a big city,’ says LiveTiles’ new hire, Clive Foley
‘Sligo is home, my girlfriend is here, it has all the benefits of a big city,’ says LiveTiles’ new hire, Clive Foley

Sligo's ability to tick all of those boxes coincides with the announcement of more than 500 new roles by firms such as Abtran, E3 Retail, and LiveTiles.

Founded in 2014, LiveTiles is headquartered in New York but set up shop in northwest Ireland in May to specifically focus on developing artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for business and education.

A high-profile talent win for the new innovation centre has been Plynk co-founder Clive Foley who came on board as the lead technical architect at the software firm.

Mr Foley said that the main reasons the company's Australian co-founders Karl Redenbach and Peter Nguyen-Brown chose Sligo was that they identified the similarities it had with Australian towns.

"The big thing for them is culture and trust, this is a very important ethic both individually and which permeates across the company.

"The tech talent and existing infrastructure in the area was definitely a draw, but there was also a positive connection like they would have with an Australian town, plenty of outdoors life, lots of music, very good vibe.

"Karl and Peter visited many potential sites across Europe but they felt that they could trust a new hub in Sligo, so it was a huge win for the area."

Earlier this summer, Plynk, a Dublin-based money-messaging app set up by CEO Charles Dowd and Mr Foley in 2015, scheduled a creditors' meeting to seek the appointment of a liquidator.

Mr Dowd, had warned in March that the firm was undergoing a "funding crunch".

Originally from Sligo, Mr Foley had already bought a home in the neighbouring countryside when the opportunity with LiveTiles came his way.

"When something like this appeared on my doorstep, that calibre of company in the west, it was a gift I had to take seriously. Sligo is home, my girlfriend is here, it has all the benefits of a big city, it's where I want to be.

"I'm 100pc with LiveTiles, that's my entire focus".

When the co-founders of LiveTiles were looking around for a site Mr Foley went to meet them and said that he immediately connected with them, not just personally but also with the lofty ambition that they held.

"They fully believe that the digital workplace is the workforce of the future. Their belief is that every member of an organisation should have a suite of bots to help them fulfil their goals. It shouldn't just be for the elite, everybody should be empowered."

LiveTiles's existing Intelligent Experience Platform (IXP) is being adopted by clients such as Pepsi, Estée Lauder and Heineken.

Utilising 'drag and drop' technology, customers are given the tools to create dashboards, portals or corporate intranets that can be leveraged with personalised AI and analytics features.

The Sligo innovation hub went to market with its first solution Neon Circle this month, a ready-to-go intranet that can be customised for time-poor, resource stretched small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

While the initial version focuses on overcoming modern workplace challenges with sophisticated onboarding, a staff and skills directory, and a personalised news feed, Mr Foley said that the product will soon evolve to include AI and analytics.

"Our ethos of trust is very apparent with Neon Circle; a team of talented people will not be successful unless that trust is built.

"This product allows an organisation to have that personal private interaction rather than blowing everything up on a social level, bringing it back to the team.

"When companies get comfortable with the product, we're going to be backing up the AI bot features, which work for and with employees to take care of rote tasks such as booking meetings, prioritising emails or answering questions to improve efficiency.

"We'll also introduce highly visual analytics, with heat maps and real-time data that make sure your intranet is adapting to user behaviour."

Rapidly growing LiveTiles reported annualised recurring revenue of €10m at June 30, with 275pc year-on-year growth.

Indo Business

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