John MacNamara, Enterprise Ireland’s software department manager, is leading the agency’s charm offensive at Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, this year, and sees huge potential in the companies joining him.
Between the companies at the mobile Mecca this week, and the high-potential start-ups back home, there’s no need to worry that the stream of new technology companies will dry up anytime soon, he said.
That confidence is based on the range of start-ups supported by Enterprise Ireland last year, which Mr MacNamara said would ensure the continued health of the indigenous technology scene.
“There was an event held in Dublin Castle recently, which was basically a celebration of the class of 2015,” said Mr McNamara.
“We’re talking about more than 200 start-ups supported by Enterprise Ireland last year.
"The future is looking very rosy indeed. High-potential start-ups are very well-represented in Barcelona; there’s a very strong pipeline [of companies].”
Eighteen start-ups travelled to Barcelona with EI this year, to exhibit on the Ireland stand, among the thousands of other exhibitors and roughly 100,000 attendees.
Such is the scale of the conference, being part of a national stand gives smaller companies more of a presence in what, for many, is their first foray into the MWC battleground.
“One of the biggest challenges, for the companies, is not to get lost in all of that. One of our objectives is to allow them to position themselves well,” said Mr MacNamara.
“Participating as part of a national stand gives them a profile that they would not otherwise have, if they tried to go it on their own, apart from the actual expense of it.
"For a small company, it’s horrifically expensive to try and get your own stand.”
Of course, if it is expensive for Irish companies to pitch up at MWC on their own — as some have this year, in addition to those with Enterprise Ireland — it can not be cheap for a government agency to bring a cohort of 18 businesses along, either.
Providing a return on that investment is something Mr MacNamara is conscious of, but which he admits is difficult to measure.
“The return on investment is always very, very hard to quantify, but if you look at the event in its own right, the event is massive,” he said.
“There’ll be over 100,000 people going through the event and, if you think about it, the public’s not allowed [in], so this is 100,000 industry professionals, movers, shakers — these are the guys that really decide on the direction of this industry, so it’s a remarkable event.
"Our end metric is the creation of quality jobs and this will add to that.”
The work, however, did not just begin upon arrival in Spain, but has, instead, been ongoing for weeks, with Enterprise Ireland’s overseas staff laying the groundwork with potential customers, so they are not brought to the stand ‘cold’.