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Forget Silicon Valley - look at Ireland, summit told

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Adrian Weckler Chatting with Oisin Hanrahan from Handy.com. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Adrian Weckler Chatting with Oisin Hanrahan from Handy.com. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Bono throws a paper plane back at the audience at the Web Summit at the RDS in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Bono throws a paper plane back at the audience at the Web Summit at the RDS in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Paddy Cosgrave speaking at the Web Summit. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Paddy Cosgrave speaking at the Web Summit. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

One attendee grabs forty winks on a couch at one of the pitching stages as the summit winds down. Photo: Maxwells

One attendee grabs forty winks on a couch at one of the pitching stages as the summit winds down. Photo: Maxwells

Attendees at the Web Summit yesterday. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Attendees at the Web Summit yesterday. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

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Adrian Weckler Chatting with Oisin Hanrahan from Handy.com. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Ireland is closing the gap on Silicon Valley as a place to build tech start-up firms.

Home-grown tech superstars John Collison and Oisin Hanrahan praised the opportunities for Irish firms as the Web Summit came to a climax at the RDS.

They said that there is now no reason why the latest wave of cutting-edge tech firms could not be grown in Dublin - or the rest of Ireland.

"Ireland is a good place to start a company, with some advantages over the US," said 24-year-old Collison, whose online payments firm Stripe is now valued at €1.5bn.

"When we started out in 2010, it would have been much harder for us here because our business depended on dealing with banks and none of them would talk to us here. Also, some of the people we needed to hire were in Silicon Valley. But I can't see why a company like ours couldn't set up from Ireland now."

And the Irish co-founder of Handy.com, an online firm that has received over $40m in venture capital in the last year, said Dublin has become one of the most important places for tech firms to do business.

"We're looking for engineers and this is one of the places to come for them," said Oisin Hanrahan. Handy.com allows people to book cleaners and home improvement professionals in the US and London and is one of the fastest growing Irish-led online tech firms, with over 200 employees.

The success of the Web Summit has hammered home Ireland's position as a key player in the digital world. Other recently arrived tech firms have also started to increase their bases here. The chief technology officer of Hubspot, the online sales software firm, said that the company's Dublin office is growing "rapidly" because of the city's growing tech ecosystem.

"A couple of months ago we were at 60 people, now it's over 100," said Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot chief technology officer and co-founder. "To be honest, I can't see that growth here slowing down. Dublin is now a great place to be for tech firms."

Mr Shah is also a serial investor in start-ups, with over 60 investments.

Meanwhile, the vice president of the US database software firm Pivotal said the company was currently scouting a new Dublin office because it had "no choice".

Issues

"We initially set up our European headquarters in London," Russell Acton told the Irish Independent. "But we can't not be in Dublin anymore. It's reached a tipping point and is clearly now one of the cities where we need to be."

Meanwhile, the co-founder of the Web Summit said he hopes to keep the event in the RDS next year, despite issues with failing Wi-Fi at the venue.

Paddy Cosgrave said he is "imploring" the RDS to improve their Wi-Fi.

"I think it's unfortunate that huge global companies such as Vodafone and Cisco, that provide Wi-Fi for conferences bigger than this, are not allowed to do it here," he said.

The Web Summit is believed to have paid the RDS an estimated €400,000 for Wi-Fi at this year's event. "Our only option is to hope the RDS is prepared to work with us, which I believe they are," he added.

Mr Cosgrave said that the 2015 event is already being planned, with discounted tickets set to go on sale this month.

And he hopes Prince Charles will bring a UK initiative in agriculture to the technology conference next year.

Irish Independent