Exposure to Silicon Valley helps companies quickly see where their product sits in the marketplace, she says. “Start-ups find they spend less time explaining their technology and can test it. The US is also a bigger audience than they are used to and they can shift product and grow faster.”
Many Irish tech companies have beaten a path to Silicon Valley. John and Patrick Collison, whizzkid brothers from Limerick, even started Stripe, their payments technology company, there.
One start-up that has just made its first tentative steps into Silicon Valley is Pubble, a Cork-based company whose technology enables consumers to submit questions about products to websites via their computers or smartphones and get instant answers to help decide whether to buy. The technology has been deployed by INTO, a university network in the UK, as well as a number of universities in Ireland.
Shane O’Leary, Pubble’s chief financial officer, is currently based at RocketSpace, an innovation campus in the heart of San Francisco known as the “Stanford for start-ups”. The hardest thing to adjust to is the scale, he says. “One e-commerce company, One Kings Lane, recently secured $113m (â‚¬87.5m) in funding that valued it at $1bn. There are a lot of companies like that here, that’s the scale you’re dealing with.”
Understanding the culture is key, says John Pryor, an Irishman who works at RocketSpace. “Everybody out here is intelligent and hard working — you won’t last out here if you aren’t smart,” he said. “Getting meetings with the people you want is very competitive — so you need to be at the top of your game.”
RocketSpace hosts 130 start-ups in its building and acts as a hub for 20,000 start-ups. So far, $2bn in venture capital has been raised by RocketSpace-based companies.
The campus is about to move to two new buildings in San Francisco, where it will double its footprint to 70,000 sq ft. It is also about to go international, starting with hubs next year in New York and London.
John Hartnett, co-founder and chief executive of the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG), has been based in Silicon Valley for 16 years. “The valley culture is part of my DNA in terms of the positive experiences I’ve had and the ‘go for it’ attitude,” he said.
Hartnett began working at Palm in the 1990s, when the company was a start-up. “We created a $2bn company,” he said. “That wouldn’t have been possible without that attitude.”
The Silicon Valley opportunity is vast, he notes, with 40% of the world’s venture capital, an estimated $2.5 trillion, concentrated in the region.