By Kevin Kline, American journalist living in Dublin, Ireland.
You may not know it, but somewhere in the government buildings of Dublin is a belt buckle larger than you’ve probably ever saw. It was a gift from Governor Greg Abbott to Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he opened Ireland’s consulate in Austin, Texas last year. It was Ireland’s sixth consulate in America, and is a sign of two city’s bonds. Neither Dublin nor Austin are massive cities, but they are creative. Both Dublin and Austin are tech hubs where startups have the chance to become enterprises worth billions.
Just as that buckle made the journey across the Atlantic, so did I from one cool tech town to another. It’s the journey like many in Dublin’s tech community experienced. So many voices from Brazil, the Netherlands, or America now call this community home. This is why my wife and I left our home in Austin to seek a new opportunity in Dublin.
The first thing to understand about Austin is that it is a small part of a big state. Texas is eight times the size of the whole island of Ireland and has four times as many people. Most people think of cowboys, oilmen and those giant belt buckles. However, Austin is sort of the rebellious teenager of Texas. She’s the capital city, home to powerful people, but most long-time Austinites are far more bohemian. There is so much more.
Murals cover walls across town. Honky tonks almost always have some musician playing. Of course, every March is the South by Southwest festival. Thousands come for music, films, and the next generation of interactive technologies.
Tech companies fit into the landscape of the Silicon Hills (as a publicity poster once put it) beautifully. Companies like Home Away, Indeed and Dell were born there. Major tech company like Facebook and Google opened offices there, typically focused on creative or operational work. In more recent years, Austin has become a hub for health tech. Clothing maker Under Armor now owns apps that track fitness. Where do those geeky athletes work? Austin. The companies want young and talented workers who to do great things in a great place. The city is as much of a selling point as any perks.
It’s the tech businesses that brought Ireland to Austin. The city is on the bleeding edge of technology and culture. At the ceremony opening the new consulate, the taoiseach and governor spoke at length about expanding businesses into each other’s realm.
I was a journalist there but had several friends living the startup dream: launch, incubate, grow and go public/sell. It’s a matter of having the idea and the passion to make that dream come true. Austin exudes that passion along with a laid back lifestyle.
Live music, cold beer, swimming holes, and barbecue create an environment that brings people together in the Texas heat. Austin is much smaller than the big cities like Houston or Dallas, but Austinites don’t have a second city mentality. Like most Texans, Austinites think quite highly of themselves. “Don’t Dallas My Austin” was a rallying cry along with “Keep Austin Weird.” Still, Austinites do not act ostentatiously. They simply live.
Which brings me to Dublin. The opportunity to move abroad called and we answered. The walls throughout Dublin have more than a thousand years of stories to tell. One can sense the history unfold here. There’s a warmness all around despite the rain and the cold. One can feel the inspiration that once encouraged great writers like Joyce to the pen.
Today, I can see it encourage great minds to create great businesses. We often talk about the American Dream, the idea of picking yourself by your bootstraps and achieve some prosperity. Many Irish families did it in America. My ancestors achieved it in a way. In my time in Dublin, I feel that yearning. The American Dream, as I know it, is alive in Dublin.
Certainly there are challenges like a lack of housing, but Dublin can solve those challenges. It’s people have the spirit to form new and bold companies like Intercom and hundreds of other organizations. Thousands of years taught the Irish people the future is in their hands alone. I can feel that energy and it energizes me. With every start-up launched in either Austin or Dublin, the world is becoming a better place.
I’m not a Dubliner yet. That will take time. I’m just glad I get to try.
— Kevin Kline (@KevinKlineNews) September 13, 2016