Small Business Column: Start-ups popping in from abroad

With the creation of offices and virtual offices, we are seeing start-ups and small businesses arrive in Ireland and are quickly becoming the small business hub of Europe.

Ireland has a reputation for attracting companies from outside. The IDA has been instrumental in ensuring that the names of some the world’s biggest companies locate here. From Apple to Google to IBM, we have become synonymous with companies who span the globe and influence the very interactions of people’s lives.

But recently, something more has begun to happen. Now we are seeing start-ups and small businesses arrive in Ireland. With the creation of offices and virtual offices, we are now becoming the small business hub of Europe. It is estimated that in Silicon Valley, nearly half of businesses started and operated in the region are run by people who are from outside the United States. That’s a big portion of people with new thinking and new ideas on how business works. Now it seems we are at the forefront of a start-up movement where we are the place to be.

A number of months ago for the show and column, I spoke to Tom McEnery. Tom was the former mayor of San José and an adviser on the Irish Technology Leadership Group which aims to support Irish tech start-ups in Ireland and in the valley. The conversation was about how Ireland creates its own Silicon Valley here in Ireland. As he spoke, he said we already had form in big-name companies coming here, but he added that big names don’t necessarily lay the foundations of an entrepreneurial ethos. To do that, you need start-ups, the drivers of ideas. Some people will say that it’s the corporation tax. However, that is a very small piece of an ever-increasing pie. I have spoken to American companies who have set up here in Ireland. “Was it the corporation tax?” I’d say with a wry smile on my face. The answer is always ‘no’.

It’s who we are that is attracting people. What good is a corporation tax if you don’t have smart people to run the companies? What good is corporation tax if what you live in a terrible city? Perhaps sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we are doing right now. With the constant hacking of government budgets and personal finances, it can be easy to see why. But as a man much wiser than me once said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step” and the small business community of Ireland is growing and getting stronger.

The planes are full, but this time they coming not going.

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