Bootstrapping Startups in Ireland

Conor talks about bootstrapping startups in Ireland and the idea sounds good at first blush, but this is Ireland, not America or India. When YCombinator gets to pick the best of Stanford or Andy Bechtolsheim gives 100,000 dollars to two guys with an idea  the demographics have already done there work.

Populations of multi-millions trumps populations of 4 million everytime. I hate to burst people’s bubble, but we simply won’t generate as many entrepreneurs in Ireland as India or the USA, and even if we could we don’t have a touchstone tech  centre where you can go and expect to find them.

What can we do? Go back earlier in the supply chain, get this stuff into the schools, and then we have some hope.  Sorry to rain on the parade guys.

11 thoughts on “Bootstrapping Startups in Ireland

  1. Of course we won’t generate as many entrepreneurs as the USA but proportionately we are still far behind.

    Finland’s population is not much bigger than Ireland but they have far more visible _global_ activity.

    Ditto the other Scandanavian countries all of whom have far more onerous business conditions than here. We are just missing the “will” and that’s the bit we have to work on.

    I like the school idea but you are up against a far stronger ingrained “employee” mentality there. I signed up for the ICT champions scheme for three schools in Bandon. None of them took me up on it and no girl’s schools in the town even applied.

    You change attitudes with a thousand small initiatives not a couple of grand ones. I’m just proposing another small one.


  2. You’re being too hard on all of us. We just have to concentrate on what we are world leaders at – begrudgery 🙂 Nobody can touch us on that. You know I remember Paul Graham when all he had was that funny old LISP interpreter …


  3. Agree with everything you say, Conor. My question to you is what were the initial conditions for the scandanavian countries success?

    YCombinator works because once those companies get of the ground they have access to practically limitless venture capital and a talent pool that spans everything from legal to sales and marketing. Who are you going to hire to do your marketing if Loudervoice takes off?

    We do need lots of small initiatives, but those initiatives need to be tailored to Ireland’s situation and needs rather than a straight transplanting of the YCombinator model.


  4. I see two motivating conditions in Scandanavia; The failure of traditional industries which forced people to fend for themselves and the success of a few great _local_ tech companies like Nokia.

    We were lucky to get all the new multinationals into Ireland to solve the employment problem in the 80’s and 90’s but maybe that’s now the thing getting in the way. The Scandinavians didn’t have that luxury. They innovated or died.

    What I’m proposing is nothing like a straight lift of YCombo. I’m talking about involving Universities, State bodies and existing successful companies to bootstrap an ecosystem and a mindset. YCombo gives B&B and access to a fabulous Rolodex to some lucky teams.


  5. Contrary to what some people want to believe, Finland is neither that visible or that successful. It has Nokia and that’s pretty much all there is to it.

    As for making Ireland more attractive to entrepreneurial spirits, how about making the country truly liberal, for a change?

    Hint: there’s plenty of Americans, Canadians and Kiwis living in Europe, all with a zillion ideas they would love to bring to a dynamic country with good taxations laws. However, lacking the EU passport means that companies established in Ireland will pass them, rather than take their chance at getting them the residence permit they need to get rolling. This also applies to starting companies with another EU national: the EU national co-founder gets a categoric yes, while the non-EU national co-founder gets a cautious maybe.

    This also applies to long-term residents and foreign spouses of EU nationals. In theory, a residence permit is “free for the asking” in Ireland, if someone is married to an EU national. Said EU national doesn’t even need to follow said foreign spouse to Ireland. In practice, people like myself have repeatedly lost top jobs and the possibility to build something in Ireland, simply because nobody wants to take their chances with someone lacking an EU passport.

    The only way to solve this is to make the law factually equal for people married with an EU national and for holders of the EC long-term resident status: let them literally walk out of a plane and start working or putting their company together in Ireland right away, no questions asked, the same way that you would let a Finn walk out of a plane and do whatever they damn well please. Give them the same 3 months to do that whatever without having to apply for a residence permit as you give to any damn EU national. Then, maybe things will improve dramatically.


  6. That makes total sense Martin-Éric. I see the hassle that great “foreign” tech people like Bernie Goldbach and Paul Watson have over here and it enrages me. This is government interfering with the building of great businesses.


  7. Conor, it’s mostly businesses chickening out of a potential top hire, simply because of a lack of EU passport, regardless of the fact that the candidate is factually allowed to work on par with an EU national, because of either being married to an EU national or having exceeded 5 years living in any EU member state and acquired EC long-term resident status. However, the mere fact that hiring a non-EU national still requires paperwork, even though a YES is practically guaranteed for someone married to an EU national or having acquired EC long-term resident status, is enough to deter most employers

    Since the issue of numbers (Ireland’s 4 millions, versus USA’s 300) was mentioned, let’s put things into perspective: Ireland’s biggest contender as an entrepreneurial land and fiscal paradise inside EU is Estonia. Their population barely exceeds 1 million, but they accomplish countless feats, simply because they dare scrap laws that are proven to be a hindrance to economic growth.

    The current one being discussed in Estonia is a massive reform of immigration procedures (the Law itself would barely change, just which office handles residence permit requests would be revised). The current Law clearly puts deterrents towards non-EU nationals (mainly intended as a way to prevent more Russians from flooding the country), but nonetheless leaves clear openings for entrepreneurs and high-skill labor.

    The current hindrance is that someone has to surrender their passport four times, to four different instances, each for about one month. There have been cases of all but one instances giving the go-ahead on granting someone a permit, for often frivolous reasons.

    Skype’s CTO recently blogged about a case where one Indian employee was meant to transfer from their London head office to the R&D office in Tallinn and getting denied, simply because Estonia’s immigration law categorically denies non-EU nationals, with very few exceptions.

    Many Estonian companies are now threatening to leave the country for others with more liberal immigration laws that would allow them to get not just top-level workers such as software architects (Estonia allows these) but also lower-ranking coding monkeys (which Estonia refuses). This is what prompted the current debate about simplifying the procedure and having clearer guidelines about which type of worker shall get the go-ahead in a systematic way. The resulting procedure would also involve surrendering one’s passport exactly once and for a maximum of one month.

    This is the sort of practical, non-nonsense policy that Ireland needs to adopt. Let’s not fool ourselves, Estonia’s stance of reluctantly letting EU nationals through while blocking non-EU nationals remains, but accommodations for the local industry’s labor needs and a more coherent, simplified immigration process is coming this autumn.

    In closing, I think that countries who consider themselves as civilized ought to stay away from Guest Worker legislation and instead focus on selecting future citizens; people who are not just gonna come to pocket a fortune and go, but who will instead gladly learn the language, contribute and settle down.

    The few Americans, Aussies, Canadians and Kiwis that bother coming all the way to Europe for work usually come to stay. However, guest worker legislation and other similar crap eventually wears them down and makes them reluctantly go back or bitterly end up in some third-world country where they at least feel welcome. This ought to be avoided at all cost.


  8. PS: I was talking about guest workers, because most EU member states consider non-EU nationals coming to start a business on par with guest workers. In other words, as permatemps.


  9. I think if every business put together one minimum wage salary for one entrepreneur/developer then we’d have a better world.

    Kinda like what I’m doing 🙂


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