The Rise of The Silicon Docks

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Since becoming host to tech juggernauts Facebook and Google a couple of years ago, the Grand Canal Docks (pictured right) have been transformed from a desolate – and partially abandoned – part of the city into Ireland’s answer to Silicon Valley.

Just what makes this area vital to the technology sector and how can we sustain and develop its reputation as the Silicon Docks?

“It’s certainly going in the right direction, especially in the last number of years,” said Declan Fitzgerald, the Recruitment Manager for HubSpot Ireland, a marketing software company based in the Docklands.

“Not only are we seeing the larger companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter come in and establish sizeable operations in Dublin, we’re also seeing a lot of fast-growing, smaller and exciting companies like HubSpot and LogMeIn building their European HQs here.”

You only have to take a brief walk around to see just what Declan is talking about; Facebook will soon dominate Grand Canal Basin with their sleek new headquarters next to the Grand Canal Theatre. Google own three buildings on Barrow Street and are in the process of buying a fourth.

“In little more than a year we’ve gone from having zero employees to 70 and we plan on hiring another 40 to 50 this year,” said Declan. “We’re delighted with the calibre of the work force we’ve hired in Ireland. It’s exceeded our expectations and we’ve invested in a support team and engineering team, which weren’t in our original plans, but because there was so much great talent on offer in Ireland we’ve decided to invest.”

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) over 80,000 people now work within information and technology. That’s an increase from 70,000 in 2007. Many of these positions became available because companies, and start-up projects like HubSpot, are lured to the Docklands thanks to our low corporate tax rate, which stands at 12.5%, making it one of the lowest in Europe.

Dublin is also the home of a mixture of nationalities, making it quite popular with companies dealing with many languages, like Google for instance. Our population is also increasingly younger and obtains above average third-level credentials. Those who study information technology are more employable, according to a report published in 2013 by Dr Vivienne Patterson called What Do Graduates Do.

Recently, Fortune magazine listed Dublin as one of the best cities for startups, describing it as better than London and zeroing in on Grand Canal Dock in particular as “the home for tech giants”. The New York Times also pointed out the success of this area, saying it has become the “home for big Silicon Valley companies”.

“Ireland just had the right mix of things that we were looking for,” said Aidan McLaughlin the Head of International Communications for the employment website Indeed who are also based down in Grand Canal Dock, having established their European Headquarters there. “I think what we’re building here is an eco system of technology companies for Europe and even the places beyond Europe. This is becoming a launch-pad for companies. We appreciate the term the Silicon Docks, it’s a nice way to talk about what’s happening here.”

In comparison to the United States, our tech sector here is relatively small – according to Enterprise Ireland €54 million was pumped into the emerging tech sector with €175 million promised as part of their Seed and Venture Capital Scheme, which was launched in 2013 and runs until 2018.

“I don’t see this stopping any time soon and I see the future for Dublin being very bright for the ICT sector,” said Declan.

By Liam Cahill