Tech will always go to where it can grow

Carlo Gualandri, Soldo
Carlo Gualandri, Soldo

Ireland's tech ecosystem needs to be protected and nurtured, says Soldo founder Carlo Gualandri

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20 October 2020 | 0

In association with Soldo

“We know that the tech ecosystem in Ireland is both developed and resilient,” says Carlo Gualandri, founder and CEO of Soldo. “However, in order to weather the storm of Covid-19, we must each play our part as a community to protect this ecosystem and its foundations.”

Whilst most of Dublin’s multinational residents have so far fared better than many domestic businesses since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year, implications for future investment in the tech sector appear on the horizon. A report from EY in recent months estimated a 20% fall in foreign direct investment projects this year. Although a significant reduction, this is still ahead of projected performance levels of other European states. So what makes Ireland’s position as Europe’s tech capital so robust?

 

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Leo Clancy, IDA’s Head of Technology, Consumer and Business Services division says Ireland gives big tech investors confidence.

“We were a country that took an IMF loan and then beat all of the performance targets set by the EU and the IMF through a very fiscally responsible approach. That created a lot of confidence globally,” Clancy says. “When the global economy takes a hit, we can take somewhat of a worse hit and when the global economy grows strongly, we bounce back faster than most places.”

Building on Ireland’s reputation as a stable location for tech innovation will act as the best means of defence in the face of further economic uncertainty, according to Gualandri, who cites government incentives, a highly qualified workforce and a robust ecosystem for tech start-ups, as some of the factors leading to Soldo’s decision to establish its European HQ in Dublin last year.

Policy matters

Engaging with the Central Bank of Ireland in securing Soldo’s e-money licence, Gualandri notes that the regulator’s approach was one of openness, transparency and seriousness, with Soldo’s company-wide policies and procedures strengthened as a result. The Central Bank, along with State agencies such as the IDA, all play their role in ensuring the ecosystem is marked by the highest standards.

“Ireland offers a range of supports from State agencies that nurture and encourage tech research and innovation. The externalities of this benefit other tech companies, creating an ecosystem that appeals to both large multinationals and start-ups alike.”

A similar perspective is shared by Isabelle O’Keefe, principal of Sure Valley Ventures, who cites the presence of both start-ups and multinationals within the Irish tech sector as one of the country’s USPs.

“Large companies based here need the services of disruptive start-ups. I recently met with a company using machine learning to help better calculate insurance underwriting risks. Another is building a platform to make it easier for insurers to manage their legacy, paper-based archives. Their first big enterprise customers are already here.”

Central to accelerating growth in the tech sector for new and established businesses alike is a strong supply of talent, with Ireland’s skilled workforce a common denominator for businesses seeking to invest. Again, the presence of big tech also adds value here, with workers upskilling through experience in the multinational space, before venturing out themselves into the start-up scene.

Start-up/scale-up

“In the Irish start-up/scale-up space it is automatically considered attractive to be involved in something creative and new,” says Fidelma McGuirk, Founder and CEO of Payslip. “Talent is interested in joining companies where it can have a real impact, so in that respect you can attract good people.

Talent is also the foundation of Ireland’s tech scene, in the eyes of TradeIX co-founder and CEO, Rob Barnes.

“The majority of our product team are there, too. The reason is simple: it’s a superb source of talent. Ireland is full of enthusiastic, experienced, very well-educated individuals and it’s been a fantastic choice for us.”

However, with more players in the market, demand for talent can be greater than supply, notes Barnes. How competition for talent develops in the coming year could be one of the more acutely felt hallmarks of Covid-19.

“It is a tight market for talent, but frankly, up until Covid-19, it was a tight market for talent everywhere. And if you want to build a truly world-class organisation, talent is a big issue across all aspects of the business, not just in development but also in sales, marketing and the rest. We just try to find the best talent because what makes and keeps us unique is our people and how we work together.”

“Tech will always go to where it can grow,” says Gualandri. “Like other businesses looking to expand, Soldo considered all of its options however, the offering in Ireland was stronger than other European cities.

“The ecosystem that exists in Ireland is robust however, not immune to external shocks, such as Covid-19. It needs to be protected and nurtured, to benefit new investment as well as the players already here. A strong ecosystem benefits us all.”

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