Featured Article 04 Jan 2013

Ciara O'Brien
The Irish Times
January 4th 2013

With the arrival of well-known names and emerging firms, the future looks bright

The downturn may have hit the Irish economy hard, but there was at least one sector that continued to show some growth: the high-tech industry in Ireland continued to generate new jobs in 2012 as State agencies collaborated to bring new companies to the country.

2011 had been a tough act to follow, with 4,000 new jobs announced throughout that year. But announcements came thick and fast in the past 12 months, as more firms were attracted by the big names already operating in Ireland.

Joining the crop of established technology firms – Google, Intel, Microsoft – and newer recruits such as Facebook and LinkedIn, the reasons given by each of the firms were nothing new. Some cited the talent pool available, others were more concerned by the ease of access to European markets and the proximity to the US. A favourable tax environment and the co-operation of Government were also frequently given as reasons for choosing Ireland over the competition.

The arrivals were a mixture of well-known names and emerging firms targeted by IDA Ireland as the agency sought to lay foundations for future growth. The new entrants were part of a larger campaign to grow the high-tech sector in Ireland.

One of the best-known names to arrive in 2012 was microblogging site Twitter. The announcement that it would open here was made in 2011, but it was only early last year that the site began recruiting in any significant way.

An air of mystery initially sprang up around the location of Twitter, although it is now known that it is operating in Dublin’s Harcourt Road – Google Ireland’s former location.

The Dublin office was the third Twitter had opened outside the US and it continued to expand throughout 2012. At the CareerZoo event in the Convention Centre, the company was one of several seeking to expand its pool of employees, inviting potential applicants to join the company to be among the first 50 employees in the office.

But Twitter wasn’t the only big brand lured to Ireland. In November, LogMeIn said it was opening a new office that would employ up to 50 people within a year in Dublin. The company, which allows users to access computers and files remotely, started recruiting immediately for sales, customer support, marketing, finance and human resources staff.

Marketing software company Hubspot has earmarked at least $5 million (€3.8 million)in investment for Ireland as it seeks to grow its international base. The company is establishing a 150-strong workforce in Dublin over the next three years to oversee its international operations. The office will be responsible for supporting more than 600 customers and 100 resellers.

Late additions to the IDA’s wins for the year were Dropbox and Kobo. The online storage firm said in early December that it planned to open a European base in Ireland next year, creating about 40 jobs initially. Head of European business operations Mitra Lohrasbpour said that figure could rise if the company continued to grow at its current rate.

It’s the first office outside the US for Dropbox, with the Dublin operation looking after sales, account management and users’ operations, providing technical support to customers in Europe.

E-book technology firm Kobo was also keen to set up in business here, announcing mid-December that it would establish a software development centre in Dublin. The move will create 30 jobs when the Irish arm is up and running.

Emerging companies

IDA Ireland’s work on the emerging company front certainly paid off in 2012. The agency set up a dedicated division over two years ago to attract emerging firms to Ireland and has been quietly working away ever since.

In April, Culture Translate said it would establish a games localisation and testing centre in Dublin, bringing 30 jobs with it. At the same time, business consulting and software application firm Diaceutics said it would set up operations in Dundalk Institute of Technology’s incubation centre, creating 20 jobs over three years.

Another addition was customer support software firm Zendesk, which is locating its finance and development centre in Dublin, bringing 30 jobs over the next two years.

Although the numbers are small, the agency hopes these companies will deliver further growth in the future, eventually becoming major employers.

The security sector has been another area of intense interest for the Government as it tries to deliver on its promise of creating 100,000 jobs by 2016 under its employment action plan. There were some wins, with US firm Total Defense opening its European sales office in the capital, its first expansion into Ireland. The firm makes anti-virus and anti-crimeware software for business and consumer markets, covering everything from mobile to desktop products. Up to 100 jobs will come as a result, with the office in Ballsbridge to deal with customers across Europe. That expands the IT security industry here, which already includes Symantec, which owns the Norton anti-virus brands, and Webroot, which began operations in Ireland back in 2010.

Although many of the jobs were located in either Dublin or Cork, there were some firms interested in venturing a little further afield. Cloud company Imosphere chose Limerick for its international headquarters, creating 17 jobs in euro sales marketing and tech support. Also heading for Limerick was Extensys, which was set to employ 25 people at a sales and technical support office.

Another cloud firm,KeyedIn Solutions, is moving further north, locating its European software development, sales, marketing and technical support centre in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, bringing 20 new jobs to the area. And Drogheda will get 120 jobs as epayments firm Yapstone sets up its EMEA headquarters.

Established companies

The good news for the tech sector wasn’t just confined to new firms coming to the country. Well-established businesses were also increasing their staff numbers. In February, global online payments firm Paypal said it would add 1,000 extra positions to its Dundalk operation, with 300 roles set to be filled by the turn of the year. If all goes to plan, by 2016 the company will employ 2,400.

E-commerce giant Nextag, which opened a data centre in Dublin in 2011, is already recruiting staff to fill 125 positions at its Drogheda-based international headquarters as part of a three-year plan.

HP, meanwhile, said it would add 150 research and development roles, and 130 technical and support jobs. Apple said it would create 500 jobs in Cork, and Amazon said it would recruit more than 100 support, systems and network engineers, software developers and technical managers for its Irish operations.

It seems that Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton’s meetings with IBM paid off in 2012 too, with the company deciding to open a new global services integration hub in Mulhuddart, Co Dublin, creating up to 300 jobs.

While there were several blows to the games sector throughout the year – Popcap’s decision to close its Dublin studio in September, and the loss of 200 jobs at Blizzard announced in March – there were also some high points to celebrate too. Less than a year after Bioware’s Galway operation opened its doors, recruiting 200 people, parent company EA announced 300 more positions would be added over time. Separately in Cork, Big Fish Games decided it would beef up its cloud gaming and research and development in Ireland, recruiting 30 software engineers.

High-profile setbacks haven’t been enough to deter tech firms from coming to Ireland. As efforts continue to build a stronger, more resilient indigenous tech industry, it may continue to be one area that the Government can count on to deliver jobs.

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