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3
Jan 14

Entrepreneurship in Ireland: Strengthening the Startup Community.

Crowdfund InsiderThe below presentation was created by the Entrepreneurship Forum in Ireland, an organization that is determined to strengthen the startup community in their country.  They believe that while boosting the startup culture is facilitated by the government the initiative must be led by private business leaders.

Change starts with culture.  Building an environment conducive to innovative new companies requires more than just access to capital – but being able to finance a business is key to success.  According to the presentation the majority of funding for small businesses is the boot-strap / self-funding route.  Crowdfunding can fix this.Source of capital for Small Businesses in Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6
Mar 12

Firing ahead through rose-tinted glasses

Norman Crowley: “the idea doesn’t come first – the ambition does.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Norman Crowley is almost the textbook definition of an entrepreneur and his track record of successful start-ups suggests there’s more to come, writes FIONA REDDAN

IF YOU’VE never heard of him before, Norman Crowley gives a succinct summation of himself. “The famous thing about me is that I was two hours away from closing a deal for a billion dollars,” he says, still a hint of dismay in his voice that the deal went belly-up. But with his new energy efficiency company, Crowley is hoping to put the wrongs of the past to right – and this time, get that $1 billion deal across the finishing line.

A farmer’s son from Cork, Crowley is almost the textbook definition of an entrepreneur. With no third-level education, he has never worked for anyone else and started his first company, Trinity Commerce, in 1995 with just a “passion for technology and engineering”. It quickly became Ireland’s biggest internet provider, and in 1999, after growing it to 150 employees, he sold it, at the age of 29, to Eircom for £14 million (€17.8 million).

He retired for six months after the sale, but was soon back at work, looking out for his next big idea. In 2001, he was temporarily distracted from his path by the collapse of Trinity Commerce, which had become Ebeon under Eircom. “It was profitable when I sold it,” he asserts, adding that the experience was a “harsh lesson”. But if there was a lesson in Ebeon’s collapse, another one was on the way.

His new company, Inspired Gaming, was soon setting the standard globally for server-based gaming, and by late 2007 it was attracting the interest of Icelandic hedge fund FL Group. When FL launched a $1 billion bid for Inspired, it appeared that Crowley and his team had hit the big time. However, after months of due diligence, two hours before Crowley was due to sign on the dotted line, FL ran out of money as Iceland went bust.

“We were waiting for a car to take us to the lawyers,” recalls Crowley, adding that he found the experience “completely devastating”. “It affects you very, very deeply. We didn’t need the money, but I saw it as a huge coup. It was a rite of passage to be able to do that.”

But Crowley picked himself up – “fear motivates you” – and before long he had sold the firm for €300 million to Vitruvian Partners. This time, Crowley forgot about retirement and set straight to work looking for an idea for a new company. Unlike would-be entrepreneurs waiting to be struck by lightning with a world beating idea, for him, the idea doesn’t come first – the ambition does.

“We research a space and figure out an opportunity. It doesn’t just come to us,” he says. He looked into renewable energy first, but decided it wasn’t a great business model, so concentrated on energy efficiency. “Nobody else was really doing it,” he notes. As a result Crowley Carbon was born, to save companies “large amounts of money” by reducing their energy spend. With no global leader in the market, Crowley is keen to position his company in that space. To date, it’s been a “phenomenal success”, with revenues last year of about €16 million, and has been profitable for the past 12 months.

He’s also working on establishing Navitas, which will sell software to enable engineers to cut their company’s energy costs. “It’s not an app for 99c – it’s an app for $100,000,” he says, adding that he has also set up Capital-e, a €300 million fund to invest in energy projects. And he’s also working 16 hours a day, seven days a week to pull off that goal he still dreams of.

“I’m working harder on this one than I’ve ever worked before,” he says, adding that he has a four-year time frame to getting that $1 billion deal. To cope with these growth prospects, Crowley is hiring about one staff member a week, but his management style may not be for every potential recruit. Inspired by some of the great business leaders such as Jack Welch of General Electric, Crowley has his own take on how to boost company performance. “It involves firing people,” he laughs, pointing out that he aims to get rid of employees ranked in the bottom 20 per cent every quarter. But his current crop must be working out given that he hasn’t fired anyone in eight months.

“We’re very good bosses and at the same time, very scary,” he admits, adding: “This isn’t a polite organisation. I’m very clear about what we’re doing here.” But his tough approach to HR becomes more understandable when he explains some of the candidates he has encountered. “I asked one interviewee why he wanted to work with us. He said, ‘I don’t want to work here. I don’t want to work at all. My Dad made me come to this interview’.”

And while some employees might face the chop, others are amply rewarded. Many of his team have been with him since 1995 – he describes them as the “Ronaldos or the Brian O’Driscolls of engineering” – while one new recruit was promoted four times in one year.

Crowley is also crystal clear on the corporate culture he wants to develop. From his penthouse office suite in Powerscourt, Co Wicklow, Crowley views the world through rose-tinted lenses – and encourages his staff to do the same. In his world, there is no television news, no newspapers – and no negativity.

“It’s very important to stay positive. There is a lot of negativity around. Tune in to the things you want to tune into. We only talk about positive things,” he says. When a teacher at his childrens’ school started teaching them about the recession, he was moved to talk her out of doing so. “I see a lot more value in learning about how Richard Branson is such a success than in how Seanie Fitz f***ed up.”

He has little time for people complaining that there are no jobs in Ireland. “I was sitting a dinner party next to a conveyancing lawyer, who said business was tough. I asked him for how long – he said three years. It’s about change.” But perhaps his approach can be summed up in the acronym “DOTF”. It’s a phrase he first heard when touring India last year as part of the Ernst Young Entrepreneur of the Year. One of his peers in the competition coined it in his speech, but Crowley took it on board so much that it now emblazons the sleeves of his employees’ jackets when they’re out on client visits. So what does it mean? Well, Crowley’s interpretation is that when something looks like it’s not going to work out, you “Drive on to F***”. “Just move on,” he advises.

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5
Mar 12

110 technology jobs created in Galway and Dublin

JOBS MINISTER Richard Bruton has announced the creation of 110 new technology jobs in Galway and Dublin.

Cloud computing company SourceDogg.com is to create 80 jobs in Galway, in engineering, IT support and professional services roles, while data processing company Datalogic ADC will create 30 new jobs in Dublin.

SourceDogg chief executive Mark Scanlon said the new jobs would offer “a great opportunity for individuals to be an early part of an Irish success story”, and predicted that his company would be the largest in its sector, in the world, by 2014.

SourceDogg operates in five countries and has a growing number of clients, including Aer Lingus.

Datalogic operates retail scanners and mobile computers for use in industries including retail, transport, entertainment and healthcare. Its Dublin premises will operate as its headquarters in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Chief executive Bill Parnell said the jobs being created there would include roles for accountants, sales personnel and order managers.

“We are confident that Ireland has all the necessary elements to assist us in driving our European growth,” he said. “We are confident that this strategic location will allow us to strengthen our European customer relationships, propelling our business to even greater success.”

Richard Bruton said a “powerful engine of indigenous enterprise” would be necessary if Ireland was to return to high levels of employment.

“I am determined that, with the proper supports from Government, companies like SourceDogg can drive the sustainable, enterprise-led, job-creating recovery we so badly need.”

Referring to the jobs being created by Datalogic ADC in particular, Bruton said business process outsourcing was a “key sector” where the Irish economy had significant potential.

“With implementation of the Action Plan for Jobs I am convinced that many more announcements like this will be possible in the coming years.”

A further jobs announcement at payments processor Western Union, based at Clonskeagh in Dublin, is due later this morning.

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5
Mar 12

Jobs potential in heritage, says council

INNOVATION maybe the Government’s favoured job creation focus, but the “wild passion” associated with maintaining Ireland’s built history could also generate hundreds of jobs, the Heritage Council said.

There is a 440 per cent gain for every 100 per cent investment in maintaining heritage, council chairman Conor Newman said at a heritage and job creation workshop at NUI Galway (NUIG) at the weekend .

For every €1 spent by the Heritage Council, the tourism industry receives €4.40 in revenue, the council has found. It estimates its projects have the potential to attract 18,700 tourists.

The “speed dating” workshop in NUIG was the first of a series the council is running to nurture networks between craftspeople, businesses, community initiatives and State agencies holding a responsibility for heritage.

“We are encouraging people to recognise what they already have around them in terms of natural, cultural and built heritage resources and to explore how these assets can create direct and indirect employment,” Mr Newman said. Hence the workshop theme: “My Place, My Resource”.

The restoration of Claregalway castle in north Galway, by a team harnessed by surgeon Eamonn O’Donoghue, was one of five projects used to illustrate the potential.

Dr O’Donoghue spent 10 years restoring the 600-year-old former De Burgo fortification with his brother Nioclás, hiring specialist Mike Herwood, woodwright Paul Price, builder Martin Cunningham and French stonemasons, including Jean-Baptiste Mauduit and Sebastian Osuch.

Materials were sourced locally where possible, with limestone coming from Ballinasloe, east Galway, and the green oak for the extensive woodwork from Mountbellew.

There were also presentations on the experiences of Slieve Aughty Equestrian Centre, Turoe Pet Farm near Loughrea, Athenry Foods and Sven Habermann Conservation in Letterfrack, while Caroline McDonagh of West of Ireland Networking ran an “ideas” workshop.

The Heritage Council, which published its five-year plan last week, has suffered several cuts to its annual budget – down from €20 million in 2008 to €6 million this year. “Even in a recession, our €6.2 million grant programme last year still sustained 449 jobs,” its chief executive Michael Starrett said at the weekend.

“When we spend hundreds of millions of euro marketing Ireland, we also have to remember that the heritage which attracts people – as in built and natural landscape – also requires care and maintenance,” he said.

The council is one of a number of State bodies on the Government’s “critical review” list for June 2012.

Galway county manager Martina Moloney spoke at the workshop of the great diversity Galway has to offer – citing its landscape, seascapes, lakes, rivers, towns, iconic monuments and hidden gems, the Aran Islands and the Gaeltacht – “book-ended by Galway’s world-famous arts culture”.

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3
Mar 12

€500m research fund to focus on 14 areas

The Government has selected 14 areas where it plans to spend the majority of its €500m annual budget for scientific research, based on the potential for job creation.

The list of 14 – which includes future networks and communications, medical devices and marine renewable energy – were identified in a report by the research prioritisation steering group. The group was chaired by Jim O’Hara, a former general manager of Intel Ireland.

The move is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs.

Launching the steering group’s report today, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton said Ireland had built up a substantial base of world-class scientific research.

The Minister said the challenge was how to ensure this translated into sustainable business and jobs. ”With determined implementation of the recommendations of this report we can make sure that this happens,” he added.

A Prioritisation Action group is also being set up to oversee the implementation of the recommendations in the report. The group will be chaired by the Minister of State for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock.

Mr Sherlock said that all relevant government departments, as well as research funders, will be involved and input and from external experts and industry will be secured.

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3
Mar 12

Referendum wording will be technical