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The Future of Dublin Tech, Part 1: U.S. Firms Tout Market, Talent

The Future of Dublin Tech, Part 1: U.S. Firms Tout Market, Talent

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personal tax policies and educational options more favorable for tech workers, and investing in basic amenities like broadband access and public transportation.

But if companies are worried about a talent crunch coming, they’re not showing it.

“Recruiting is easy—if you’re doing interesting work,” says Colum Twomey, who heads up Zendesk’s 70-odd staff in Dublin.

Zendesk, a customer-service software company based in San Francisco, is a bit of an outlier, in that its Dublin operation is primarily focused on engineering and products. In particular, the local staff lead the firm’s efforts in mobile and voice-based technologies. That product focus comes from Twomey, a software engineer who previously ran an Irish development-tool startup called Wilde Technologies and also led Informix’s European development team in Dublin (the database business was acquired by IBM).

Other U.S. companies run key engineering and business functions out of Dublin, as well. HubSpot, which recently had an IPO, has around 100 people in its local office, and about a dozen of them are engineers; they are in charge of the mobile layer of HubSpot’s marketing software. What’s more, site leader Jeetu Mahtani says the Boston-area company makes 15 to 20 percent of its global sales from Dublin.

Another Boston company, TripAdvisor, opened an engineering center in Dublin in 2013—its biggest outside of headquarters. The online-travel giant saw an opportunity to grab top talent in Dublin. “We generally do not find that specific engineering skill sets vary much by region,” says a TripAdvisor spokesman. “We’re just as likely to hire an amazing engineer in Ireland as we are in the U.S. if they fit the criteria we’re seeking.”

Companies like HubSpot, Zendesk, and Dropbox may represent a bridge between the big, established multinationals and the emerging entrepreneurial community. Indeed, there seems to be a rise in interactions and talent flow between Dublin’s tech startups and its big companies (more on this to come in Part 2).

Look no further than Google, one of the biggest tech operations in town, with about 3,000 employees. Paddy Flynn, a veteran of five and a half years in the Dublin office, leads a team focused on product quality for the Web giant. In his spare time, he also heads up the local Google for Entrepreneurs program, which is a global initiative to support entrepreneurial clusters.

“When I started at Google, the startup community didn’t really exist like it does today. It’s vibrant without necessarily being big,” he says. “My goal is to get Googlers locally involved in the community.”

That entails hosting meet-ups, running startup community programs, providing financial support and resources, and working with organizations like Enterprise Ireland, Startup Ireland, Startup Weekend, and Seedcamp.

Paddy Flynn at Google's Dublin offices. (Image: Gregory T. Huang)

Paddy Flynn at Google’s Dublin offices. (Image: Gregory T. Huang)

It’s all part of a greater shift and maturation in Dublin’s innovation landscape—from isolated pockets of techies who didn’t necessarily talk to each other, to more of a thriving give-and-take between the different constituents in big companies, small companies, universities, and government.

“You’re seeing the public and private parts of Ireland coming together starting to happen,” Flynn says. “That’s critical.”

[Editor’s note: In Part 2, coming tomorrow, we’ll look at Dublin’s emerging startup scene and its challenges.]

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