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Tycoon tells of his battle to invest his money here

A MILLIONAIRE businessman who applied for a work permit in order to work and invest in start ups here has told how he was turned down for the permit on three occasions.

Bill Liao, the multi-millionaire businessman, who is the co-founder of Xing, has been living in Ireland for the past three years with his family after he retired from business.

However when he decided to work with a venture capitalist programme which was funding businesses in Ireland he was met with resistance.

Despite his personal wealth and successful track record in business, the Australian was refused three times for the permit. "I was told by a friend that its a bit like a driving test in that first applications often need to be resubmitted," he said.


However, he never expected that he would face repeated refusals. "I was actually pretty shocked and worried as I have come to love Ireland and did not wish to leave. I did consider returning to Switzerland where I lived for 10 years."

Mr Liao is the co-founder of Xing, a social networking site for professionals which has more than 11 million members.

Earlier this year he met Sean O'Sullivan, an Irish American who has also settled here and decided to become involved with SOS Ventures, a $150m venture capital operation which O'Sullivan runs from Kinsale.

The businessman finally got the work permit but only because he refused to give up. He now wants to make sure that other rich businessmen are not put off from working and investing here. Mr Liao did not qualify for an automatic work permit because, as he dropped out of school, he had no third-level qualifications. However, SOS was to pay Mr Liao more than the €60,000 threshold required for a Green Card.

The businessman got a standard letter stating his application was rejected for one of 12 reasons, but did not specify which one. The department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation then suggested Mr Liao reapply and submit a CV.

The millionaire hired a professional CV writer and included references from a national politician and a technology entrepreneur. However, this application was also rejected.

Mr Liao applied a third time but was once again rejected.

The businessman's bid was backed up by a number of politician's before he was successful. He added: "Ireland needs to throw open its doors to top talent to build up the eco-system so that more jobs and opportunities are created here for locals and imports like me alike."

Mr Liao also recently set up Coder Dojo, a non-profit body that teaches software skills to children. Children over the age of seven attend for free and adults volunteer as mentors.