A great overview of the tech transformation that has come to Ireland, and Dublin in particular, over the last three decades. Edited by Pamela Newenham
@PamIrishTimes, 2015, published by Liberties Press
A great idea for a book at an opportune moment
This book was a good idea at a good time. The Irish tech and startup scene is entering another boom. It is therefore a great time to take stock of what happened before, and what brought us to where we are now.
The book gives an overview of the Irish scene prior to the arrival of the tech multinationals, both in Dublin, and across the rest of the country. Despite many chapters written many several authors, the narrative of the book is coherent and not repetitive. Overall it is a really useful book, and a great introduction to the current scene that now exists, both around the Silicon docks themselves, and the wider Dublin area.
Good, more investigation needed into the present day situation
When it gets to the present day, some passages read like they were written by the PR departments of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn among others. It’s fair a point that these companies are notoriously reluctant to talk to the media, but there is no sense that their policies or actions are questioned in any depth. This unfortunately meant at times the book read like an official and airbrushed history as decreed by these companies.
Repeatedly you wanted the writers to ask critical questions about decisions made by these arriving multinationals. The appallingly low levels of tax paid is only briefly mentioned and with no attempt to consider the fact Ireland Inc. may have not got as good a deal as it could have.
Talk to the Irish people involved
Even if it is difficult to talk with these US companies, it would have been great to have at least spoken to some of the Irish people mentioned in the book. People such as Barry O’Dowd IDA, @, Eamon Leonard, entrepreneur @ or Naimh Bushnell @, Dublin’s startup commissioner among others. These people are all here on the ground, active, speaking and attending events on an ongoing basis as part of Dublin’s startup scene. There are no fresh interviews or insights from any of these people or any others in the Irish Tech Scene, both here in Dublin, Cork, nor anywhere else in Ireland.
There are some great reasons for US companies to chose Ireland for EMEA offices
The book is a good starting point to understanding how Ireland has managed to make a name for itself as a great tech location. The IDA did a great job in the beginning, lobbying companies to open a first European office here. Gambling, correctly, on the logic, if you could get them to start here, they would be much much more likely to remain here, rather than upping sticks and starting all over again somewhere else. Another key factor, alluded to, though not explicitly stated in the book is the fact that it is an English speaking country, with much more benign tax laws than the UK.
This combination, allied with many Americans having Irish links was a very alluring proposition for US companies looking to open a European / EMEA office. Ireland’s climate also actually counts in it’s favour when it comes to looking for lower temperature ranges for housing large numbers of servers for your data centres. As much as we curse the weather here, it has actually proved to be a blessing for the Irish tech ecosystem.
Useful overview of Irish Tech scene
Overall the IDA has played it’s cards very well, and hopefully Ireland as a whole will continue to enjoy the benefits of these strategic actions. The book is a good read. Helpful in giving a great overview to the current situation, with a good understanding of the past events that helped to create the roots of the current positive tech ecosystem in both Dublin and Ireland as a whole.