by Thomas Koesters, founder European Startup Initiative

In March this year, Irish startup Intercom gave the country its first unicorn with a valuation at $1.25 billion. Still, Ireland is struggling to maintain the image it once held as the mecca for technology firms in Europe. In the Startup Heatmap Europe, an annual survey among European founders on their favorite startup locations, Dublin drops out of the top 10 – a position the Irish capital has held comfortably since 2016. Also, Brexit, which was hoped to boost Ireland as a plan B for UK companies does not seem to help.

After WebSummit left Dublin for Lisbon, the effects seemed to appear slowly. The world’s largest tech show, did give an apparent boost to the Lisbon startup scene, which jumped to rank 5 from 8th in 2017 in the ranking that is based on the opinions of over 1,500 founders and members of the tech community. However, Dublin did not drop immediately in the ranking, but maintained rank 6 until now. Only in the most recent survey, Dublin’s popularity fell from 9% to 6% of all founders, placing the tech hub 11th overall.

With High-Tech startups the drop was even more significant from 9% to 4%. The only vertical, Dublin could maintain its position was Consumer & Platforms, where it captured 10% of the votes and ranks 7th. Also on Big Data, Dublin makes the top ten, ranking 8th with 8% of the vote. Regionally spoken, the biggest loss appeared in the CEE region, where Dublin had secured traditionally a large share of its followers, with -8% points of the regional vote. Also, founders from the UK shunned the neighbor island, giving it a loss of 3% points. Only in Benelux Dublin could score better than the year before (+2% points).

Nevertheless, Dublin stays in group of Challenger Hubs, but next to its traditional competitors Stockholm and Vienna, Zurich and Tallinn catch up as FinTech powerhouses, while Milan also nears the group with a particular strong foot on eCommerce.

There is also some light on the horizon, as Dublin scored the 2nd highest approval rate of founders in the category of business-friendly regulations, with 87% of its followers being very positive about this factor. Only Tallinn in Estonia scored higher with 91%.

Ireland is not as open as the United Kingdom – when you look at founder mobility, Irish founders have left the country only at a rate of about 17%, approximately the same amount of foreign founders having come to the country. In the UK, the numbers are 28% of British founders having left the island, while 51% of current founders are foreign-born.

In terms of investments, Dublin was able to attract 3% of all international deals in Europe, while London captured 21% of international investments. As a comparison, Dublin’s competitor number one Stockholm reaches almost 5%. Vienna and Copenhagen have 2%, Munich 1%. However, compared to Lisbon, Dublin still received a multiple of funds each year – the question is: will this stay this way?

Dublin vs. Lisbon funding


(Numbers are debated, as Scale-up Portugal report, reports >55mn € investment for Lisbon from 2012-2017, which is roughly 10mn € higher)

Dublin vs. Lisbon: Ranking

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