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Silicon Valley Bank boss: Irish tech start-ups soaring


Claire Lee, head of Silicon Valley Banks Corporate Venture Relationship Group.

Claire Lee, head of Silicon Valley Banks Corporate Venture Relationship Group.

Claire Lee, head of Silicon Valley Banks Corporate Venture Relationship Group.

Ireland is undergoing a "massive shift" in credibility with regards to indigenous technology firms, according to a senior executive in one of Silicon Valley's biggest banks.

"Ireland is now a really important market for us," said Claire Lee, managing director of Silicon Valley Bank's corporate venture relationship group.

"In terms of the kind of companies we're seeing being created here, Irish technology start-ups now have great credibility in Silicon Valley. There's a very strong pipeline here and that's why we're over here."

Ms Lee, originally from Wicklow, recently joined Silicon Valley Bank, which holds $23bn in assets and helps with banking requirements for tech start-ups such as Uber and Airbnb. She said that the bank has started to work with Enterprise Ireland and early stage incubator organisations to spot the best emerging technology start-ups in Ireland.

"I'm seeing more Irish start-ups with a presence in Silicon Valley, start-ups that have built out real intellectual property and have real talent," she said.

Ms Lee said that many "unsexy" areas in technology are the ones being successfully exploited by Irish technology firms.

"If you look at the hot areas right now, they include security, big data and mobile payments," she said. "Corporate investors are now very keen on seeking the best start-ups in these areas out because they know that the possibility of disruption is very big."

Ms Lee said that more than 60pc of venture capital funds are now 'seed' funds that specialise in early-stage companies and start-ups. She also said that a third of venture capital finance at present comes from 'corporate' venture capital sources such as Google Ventures, Intel Capital and Salesforce.com.

Ms Lee was speaking ahead of a one-day conference this Friday entitled 'Disruptors'. The event, which is being held at Dublin's Marker Hotel, will feature a number of other speakers including HotHotels.com's Joe Haslam, Realex's Colm Lyon and Margaret Molloy, the New York-based chief marketing officer at branding firm Siegel+Gale.

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