I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have been involved in a number of start-ups and to have been working with and mentoring start-ups over the last 20 years to get them started up and staying in business. It’s an excellent environment to work in as the passion, creativity and enthusiasm is infectious and talk of the recession is left outside the door!
As we think about Dublin as the best city in the world to start a business in (which was the topic of a presentation I was asked to give at Start-Up City #startdublin, an initiative of Dublin City Council, Dublin City Enterprise Board, the Digital Hub and the Institute Without Boundaries (based in George Brown University, Canada), let’s first consider what the basic needs of start-ups are?
These basic needs fall into four broad categories:
- Information and education – start-ups need to be able to easily access information about what’s happening and available in Dublin that’s relevant to start-ups. Also, while most people who start a business are technically brilliant in their own area, many lack the fundamental business knowledge, skills and expertise to get themselves off the ground and they can get this easily through off and online education
- Facilities – start-ups need the best possible facilities and services to help them start-up. We need to be able to provide the necessary facilities to entice, encourage and support start-ups, and make sure that the correct platforms are in place to give them the best possible chance of start-up and longer term success
- Support – start-ups need encouragement and support from peers, mentors and networks in order to help them with their businesses. Networks provide many more benefits and much more value than just peer support and can provide an opportunity to learn from others so that they can grow their business and indeed access new sales opportunities
- Finances – we need to make sure the correct platforms and financial supports and structures are accessible to the people looking to start businesses
Making Dublin the best city in the world to start a business is not all about creating an environment that leads to a whole load of individually self employed persons – it’s about building startups that can become businesses which create further employment.
The great thing about Dublin is that mindsets have changed in the last 20 years, and while not perfect, more so than ever before entrepreneurship is encouraged and it is no longer frowned upon as it would have traditionally have been. Entrepreneurship is taught in schools, with young entrepreneur schools programme, and other initiatives such as NIFTE, and programmes run by the various enterprise boards – these get students thinking about entrepreneurship and setting up business as an option for employment in later years.
A lot of excellent incentives and programmes exist in Dublin for start-ups and testament to this, Forbes magazine last year listed Dublin as one of the top 7 cities in the world to set up a business. Strengths cited included being English speaking, having excellent hardware, being cheaper than the UK, having business friendly policies, having a low corporation tax rate and having numerous European headquarters of companies such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google. With all of this in mind, it is a good and exciting time for us to be thinking about Dublin being the best city in the world to set up a business in.
Some of the initiatives for start-ups that already exist include enterprise centres, facilities, education centres and programmes, networks, events, awards and online forums which –all already based in Dublin:
This list isn’t exhaustive. Nor does it touch upon the various financial help available to start-ups which includes supports such as grants, corporation tax of 12.5%, seed funding, Microfinance, tax relief, the BTWEA, employment and investment incentive schemes, R&D tax credits, innovation vouchers, accelerated capital allowence, revunue job assist, Jobsbridge, employer job (PRSI) incentive schemes, funding through incubators, business angels, venture capital, and of course, the banks.
So, there is so much already happening in Dublin that benefit start-ups – so much that can already support, encourage and entice businesses and start-ups here in this city. But…………
IT IS NOT ENOUGH.
Its not enough because unemployment is at 13.7%. Its not enough, because, as the HEA reports, out of 60, 000 students that graduated in 2011 from undergraduate and postgraduate education, less then half have found employment after 9 months. And its not goood enough, because, as I’m sure you know, we’re back in a recession.
Not only this, there’s anopther point that highlights that whatw e are currently doing is not enough: over 2,000 people per month set up in business, passionate and motivated and full of energy and excitement at the start up stage. However, a great number of them end up a few years down the line having a job that is low-paid, with long hours and from which they cannot take off time for a holiday or even to be sick if they need to. These “poor jobs” are not financial assets and it is difficult to get an exit strategy from them and yet they are inherently risky. This gap in education needs to be filled and we need to educate people to Build Businesses, not terrible jobs!
One entrepreneur can have a massive effect. Not only do they create employment for themselves and for others, but they become positive role models for the people around them. They provide work for suppliersand have a positive effect on the economy. Entrepreneurs and the ripple effects they create will get this country off of its knees.
The game is changing, and we can see already this happening. Cities around the globe are competing and vying to become the most entrepreneurial cities possible. Now is a great opportunity to revist and rethink the current models, whether they be financial, or employment, or otherwise, that have existed in the past, but which now need to be updated, because they are broken, such as the venture capital model. New funding models such as Kickstarter and Y-Commodator are providing new and innovative ways to give funding access to start-ups. Dublin can help drive this change.
No doubt we will get things wrong, and no doubt we have already made mistakes, but everyone does. Now is not the time to dwell on mistakes but to move forward and look ahead. Now is the time to come together as a community to make this city more entrepreneurial. Len Middleton, professor of entrepreneurship at Michigan State University is currently researching a concept he has coined e-towns, the development of communities and creating “entrepreneurial towns”. Over these past two and a half days, think tanks in Start-Up City n the Digital Hub have been tackling the question as to what is the best solution to make Dublin the greatest e-town. Let’s work as a community and make Dublin the best eTown and the Best City In The World To Start A Business!