Banking On Innovation: Startup Workbench Uncovered

Irish retail banks are on a mission to become synonymous with entrepreneurship in Ireland.

Putting their money where their mouth is, in April Bank Of Ireland opened Startup Workbench, a free, drop in coworking space located in their branch on Grand Canal Square.

The space is overseen by BOI Head Of Innovation Dave Tighe. “When I came into the role, what was important to me was finding innovation, and encouraging it from the ground up,” he says. “I found that a lot of innovation was happening on our doorstep. We’re seeing some really interesting ideas coming through, particularly in FinTech, and we wanted to be able to work with those businesses and those companies, and support them. It’s hugely beneficial for everybody in the ecosystem.”

The open door policy at the Startup Workbench extends to the Dublin tech ecosystem at large. Located smack in the heart of Silicon Docks, the busy space currently houses a sixty-seat auditorium, a lounge and dedicated ‘workbench zone’ complete with hotdesks, interactive screens, free wifi and (never underestimate this one) complementary beverages on tap. It also serves as a thriving venue for an array of eclectic tech community events. The current Entrepreneur In Residence is tech industry veteran and Startup Ireland Co-Founder Gene Murphy.

“It’s free – free wifi, free coffee, free space, no strings attached,” says Padraig O’Brien, whose FinTech startup uses the branch as a base of operations. “We met Dave Tighe completely by chance at Startup Weekend, he mentioned that Bank Of Ireland were opening up a space, and we’ve been here since day one. They’ve been really interested in what we’re doing, and are always helping us in some way.”

BOI have been forward-thinking in embracing the nascent local entrepreneur; their popular Enterprise Lounge, located at the bottom of Dublin’s Grafton Street, and likewise open to emerging businesses, served as a prototype of sorts for this current venture. Now they’ve opened a second Startup Workbench, in Galway City, with plans for more spaces in the coming months.

“This space is bang in the centre of the startup community,” says Padraig O’Brien, “and every tech company worth knowing is a stroll away (pointing out window), Facebook’s here, Twitter’s there. As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t the Silicon Docks, this is the Developer Docks, where developers come, and we’re right in the middle of it. You can waste a lot of money renting offices when you’re a startup, and space is at a real premium at right now. A space like this feels like the future.”

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