Featured Article 09 Apr 2014

Companies can no longer expect to become major global technology players without having an Irish base, a Dublin conference heard yesterday.

Addressing the US Embassy’s Smart People Smart Economy event, former senior Zynga operations executive Marcus Segal, said there was “incredible” talent and “just a great attitude” in Ireland.

“What I’ve seen since 2009 is that I don’t think it’s possible to be a major global player without having an operation in Ireland,” Mr Segal said, in a conversation with Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave.

Zynga, the inventor of online social game Farmville, established a European headquarters in Dublin in 2011. Mr Segal said IDA Ireland was the first international agency to contact the company about opening a base abroad.

“When the IDA first came in mid-2009, we weren’t really on anybody else’s roadmap. They came first and they came often.”

‘Ireland got it’
He said other countries arrived at the company’s door eventually, but “nobody really got it like Ireland got it”. It took six months or less to set up the Irish operation, while it would have taken longer to establish in another US state, he added.

Mr Segal plans to spend the next few months in Ireland with Mr Cosgrave’s Summit organisation to work with start-ups and encourage them to reach the next stage of their development.

“Part of my decision to relocate to Ireland for a time is that there’s something special happening here,” he said.

“I’d like to see start-ups in Ireland choosing between going public or being acquired by Google for billions of dollars.”

Mr Segal called on the Government to help things along by making it easier for talented professionals from abroad to work here. He also urged policymakers to focus on making the schools system better, with a greater focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem), so that top international professionals would be happy to move their families to Ireland and so that Irish children could receive a “top-notch education”.

Children’s coding
Stem should be particularly emphasised in less privileged school areas, and among girls, according to Mr Segal. He praised the children’s coding movement, CoderDojo, saying it’s “all about that introduction of a spark”.

The conference also heard about the importance of schoolchildren being made aware of industry and of the benefits of businesspeople visiting schools and children seeing industry first-hand. Parents also need to be able to learn about what their children are being taught, delegates were told.

“I think we should be looking to some massive disruption,” prominent entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den investor Seán O’Sullivan of SOSVentures told the event. He said Ireland should not be afraid of making our education model obsolete in favour of something better.

“We cannot waste our next generation’s lives and the minds of our children,” said Mr O’Sullivan, noting that he “grew up poor” and was able to change that through education.

Content supplied with the permission of The Irish Times Ltd. For more see www.irishtimes.com

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