Ireland and what we can learn from Silicon Valley (The Small Business Show)

Kehlan Kirwan from The Small Business Show examines how Ireland is embracing innovation that is the hallmark of Silicon Valley and how SMEs are at the forefront of this.

Ireland and what we can learn from Silicon Valley (The Small Business Show)

This is one of the most exciting times in Irish business, although it may not seem like it as many SMEs still raise questions over their futures. This week’s Small Business Show is centred on the question of whether Ireland can emulate Silicon Valley?

When you break down where Irish SMEs are now to where they were a number of years ago, it’s clear to see things have changed, not least in mentality and in innovation. That latter word of innovation has long been misdirected at the technology sector here in Ireland. Innovation is the trademark of technology — of that there is no doubt. But trademarks are representations of something; what defines them is not exclusive.

On last week’s show and in these columns, I spoke to Doireann Barrett from the Gluten Free Kitchen Company in Tralee, Co Kerry, a great example in food innovation.

Now, spiral out to sectors such as agriculture, professional services, retail, and even construction: Innovative ideas have come to the fore to help drive these industries forward and, as such, demand for them has not only increased in Ireland but across the world. Necessity really is the mother of invention.

Silicon Valley in California is the place to be for innovation and entrepreneurs. It’s where the capital investment is, where the movers and shakers are in world technology and thinking. Coupled with an ability to fuse together nations and races from around the world in the same place and you have an equation for top end success. This is what the ultimate innovation hub looks like.

However, we’re not capable of something like that in Ireland, are we? Actually, yes, we are. We see that we are already on the road to creating businesses that are innovative for their own reasons.

Venture capital, one of the biggest drivers of innovation, is becoming a standard sight here in Ireland. The likes of SOS Ventures and Atlantic Bridge are putting investment capital into Irish businesses and getting results to match.

For so long, we have stood and looked across the pond with envy, wondering what they have that we don’t. The reality is that we have it — we just need to nurture it. The venture capital is here, the thinkers are here, the entrepreneurs are here, and, what’s more, the hunger is here. Never before has Ireland seen so many entrepreneurs so enthused about its future.

There are many challenges ahead for the economy and small business. But with fresh thinking and new approaches, we are slowly creating the solutions to things that for so long have just been problems.

If Silicon Valley is the dream, then Ireland’s reality needs to be this road of new ideas. If you will it, it is no dream.

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