Dublin’s new startup commisioner, Niamh Bushnell has been blitzing her way round Dublin.
Tonight she was at the UCD Innovation Academy in Newman House, Stephen’s Green.
She has been officially in the job for less than two weeks, and was ready to shoot from the hip in terms of calling it as she saw it.
Bushnell was quizzed by the Innovation Academy’s director Johnny Ryan. First of all she gave a brief outline of her own background and experience. Moving to the US 16 years ago she had a range of relevant roles including as a consultant, investor, and mentor. When she saw the current job description she felt it was made for her. She felt that there is now much more of a buzz in Ireland in terms of start ups than there used to be, with more optimism and positive belief in what is possible. She said that Ireland was now ready for a role like this.
Bushnell described her job as to promote what is happening in Dublin. Not just to make things happen, but to publicise the things that are already happening. She felt that Ireland has a profile issue, as it does not talk itself up as much as other cities and countries do. Ireland also needs to help startups scale better and more quickly. There are a dearth of scaling mentors. She saw Ireland as being great at early stage development, but less so at entering bigger markets.
‘Go to the market and keep the Irish connection’.
There needs to be more of this to help grow companies that are global in nature.
Ryan then asked her if it was true that there were no KPI’s. Bushnell basically agreed with him, saying she had been given a lot of latitude to try things. She called her office a start up, and that she aimed to be as mobile as possible and not office based. He then asked her what was missing in Ireland?
Bushnell then expanded on this, saying Ireland needed to market itself more, saying that this was really important. Spend money on good logos, and do work on having big visions. While Americans can sometimes too quick to over state the value to the world and civilisation of their latest ideas, Irish companies can sometimes do too little of this. She called for more of the ‘Big Vision’, something Ireland does not do enough of.
Ryan challenged her that perhaps the Irish were not good at selling. Bushnell disagreed and said that one to one the Irish were as good as anyone at selling, but perhaps lost context too quickly, and did not retain a global vision for their product. She also cautioned that to be told
your product is very interesting …
actually means, your product is dead in the water and they won’t be calling you back.
Bushnell called for more tenacity, hunger, and chasing, chasing, chasing, and following up on potential sales, to be hungrier when it came to trying to sell your products and your company.
She feels Ireland is more connected and smarter. She would just like start ups to try and grow quickly, asking lots of questions, talking to people, and rapidly testing out their ideas. She didn’t feel that we are in a tech bubble. While there are some examples of overvalued companies, overall she feels the current situation is not like the first dotcom bubble and subsequent crash.
It was an interesting and entertaining conversation, with good questions from the audience, and an openness and willingness to be frank and engage with the challenges and issues faced in Dublin and Ireland. Bushnell seemed approachable and excited at the state of affairs in Ireland moving forward.