Featured Article 31 May 2012

31st May 2012
Ciara O'Brien
The Irish Times

IDA IRELAND notched up yet another win this week, with four firms ranging from gaming to consultancy services announcing yesterday that they would set up operations here.

Red 5 Studios, Aasonn, Van Tibolli Beauty and Qualvu are all new client companies for the organisation. The announcements will create 100 jobs in Dublin and Cork, and could see further growth in the future.

A further two companies – Md7 and Infobright – said they planned to open their European headquarters in Ireland.

The jobs tally may pale beside some of its more recent announcements – 500 jobs for Apple in Cork; several hundred to be created at IBM’s Dublin operations; and 200 at Merit Medical Systems in Galway – but the announcement is part of IDA’s strategy to attract early-stage firms to Ireland to set up business.

A dedicated division, which was set up in 2010, has been working to identify targets that would be strategic to attract to Ireland, with a view to building up employment.

“With Horizon 2020, we set up a new division, the emerging business division. Our objective is to target early-stage fast growth companies that are scaling their operations effectively and attract them to Ireland,” said Barry O’Dowd, senior vice president of IDA Ireland’s emerging business division.

The agency is targeting companies that are typically seven years in business or less, with a revenue of up to €30 million, although these are not hard rules.

“It’s that trajectory of companies that typically have come through,” said O’Dowd. “You’re getting a spectrum of companies; they’re up and running, they’re proven themselves, they’re commercial, they’re through their beta stage in many aspects in terms of the technology they’re into – and they’re coming here.”

Life sciences, biotech firms and technology companies are all on IDA’s hitlist. The agency has a number of representatives in key locations in the US, all on the lookout for the next big thing.

In the past few months, IDA Ireland has announced a number of new business wins in this area. In April, Culture Translate said it would establish a games localisation and testing centre in Dublin, bringing 30 jobs with it.

As part of the same announcement, 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. Cloud company iMosphere, meanwhile, is heading for Limerick.

Other successes for the division include jobs search engine Indeed, which has located its EMEA headquarters in Dublin, and Engine Yard.

“We’re trying to spot them when they’re just scaling and these companies want to move, and grow their businesses further,” said O’Dowd.

O’Dowd heads up a team of people, with representatives at various locations in the US and Europe. “It’s a very challenging role because you’re dealing with a very diverse range of people and technologies.

“They’re very inspiring generally speaking. They’re hugely inspirational, a lot of young people and that’s great. We have a team here that we say is blended with youth and experience,” he said.

“We manage the process. We operate our own ‘search engine’ in terms of identifying who these would be and trying to spot who the companies are coming down the track. That’s a big piece of our business, so it means we’ve got to be out there, we’ve got to be out in the field, and international.”

The strategy has paid off. Before yesterday’s announcement, IDA’s emerging companies division had persuaded 42 companies to set up shop in Ireland, yielding more than 1,200 new jobs.

IDA Ireland has a number of approaches to entice early-stage firms to make the jump to Irish shores, with a mixture of one-to-one meetings with target firms, marketing events and network building.

“We’re always trying to work on networks and building them,” said O’Dowd. “That’s an important piece of it. In the early stage companies, networks are very important to the space.”

There are several factors that make Ireland attractive to start-up firms. Education is one aspect, with many firms lining up to praise Ireland’s educated workforce.

Having large companies such as Facebook and Google already located in Ireland has proved an advantage to attracting early-stage companies to the State.

“It’s easier to see the advantages rather the obstacles. There’s kind of a magnetic pull with things we have going on here,” said O’Dowd.

“There’s a great magnet in the clustering and the impact that we’ve made with clusters, like in the life sciences sector. The strength of our cluster there, the medtech industry and pharma, the strength and depth of that cluster is a great magnet for us,” he said.

“The other thing is the internet companies. A lot of these want to be with like-minded companies. That’s working to our advantage at the moment.”

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

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