Redefining The Docks

Redefining The Docks

Via The Sunday Business Post: When people think of Silicon Docks, they visualise the Grand Canal, offset on either side with corporate new-builds. But for new companies moving to Dublin, the area has expanded out of necessity.

Marius Smyth, managing director for EMEA with AdRoll, which is located on Burlington Plaza, has witnessed the growth of the region first-hand. Smyth worked with Google for eight years, joining just as the company moved onto Barrow Street. Now with AdRoll for two years, Smyth can see the growth around him.

“It’s almost a two-mile radius from Google now – it goes right up the canal. Even just on Burlington Plaza, Amazon and Groupon are really close to us here. Up at Grand Canal Place there is ZenDesk and Nitro and that seems to be the natural cut-off at the moment,” he says. “Google paved the way with regards to the type of structure that multinational US companies want to build in EMEA. There was somewhat of a blueprint there. Even with organisations like the IDA, they have used that example to attract US investment. When you’ve got that playbook, it gives a lot of confidence for people to go and invest.”

“Google has also proved that you can attract the talent over a long period of time. The companies that are coming know there is a trodden path, but also a ready pool of talent to work with and grow,” he said. “Aspirationally, a lot of the companies are trying to replicate what Google and Facebook have done. They are looking to scale into the EMEA market and if you think about the reach you can get here in Dublin, it goes right out to Russia and the Middle East. Increasingly, they are using the EMEA headquarters as their international hub. From a timezone perspective there’s not much difference dealing with Asia-Pacific from here then there is with the west coast of the United States.”

Collective positivity

For AdRoll, it’s been a rapid first two years in Dublin. Smyth expects growth to stabilise over the next while, but the company still sees huge benefits from its location: “Our next phase of growth will be a more stable one rather than rapid big bang that we had in the first 18 months.”

“If you look at some of the incumbent companies here already, and the talent pools they have amassed, the confidence that gives people looking to relocate is important because they know there are opportunities beyond the company they are coming here to join,” he said. “If we stood still, that would definitely reduce our ability to attract talent, but the story that you tell at this stage of your business – as opposed to a new kid on the block in Ireland, you have to change your approach and the type of narrative you are talking about. That may be more attractive or less attractive to some people. There’s a collective positivity and momentum. Regardless of what business you are in, the more people there are trying to attract talent and tell the story of being a multinational in Ireland helps. That really will only come to bear when a lot of people who come here go back and tell the story about the experience they had.”

Caribbean to the canal

While Smyth moved a couple of miles up the road when he changed jobs, Wendy Murphy gave up a career in the Caribbean to move to Silicon Docks. The Wicklow native moved back to Ireland to work with LinkedIn as the firm’s human resources director for EMEA. Now with over 600 staff in Dublin, with plans to double that at offices based near Baggot Street in Dublin, LinkedIn is one of the fastest growing firms in Silicon Docks. For Murphy, the return to Ireland three years ago was a pleasant surprise.

“Dublin had changed entirely as a tech hub. Just seeing it flourish made it hugely exciting to come back. The attraction of LinkedIn was that people were the number one priority and working in a hyper-growth environment presented an exciting and massive opportunity,” says Murphy. “We mapped our growth to our membership growth. When I started we had around 14 million members in Europe, now it’s at 89 million, and we knew this was the road map. Every second we’ve got two more members. That’s why we’re building next door to our current offices for the growth that is to come.”

“For us, sourcing talent may be a little different to how others approach it as we use our own platform. What is similar is our attracting strategy. We all work to make Dublin as attractive as possible for those who are not in Ireland or even Europe. It’s a daily thing we think about,” she said. “It’s about making sure we get quality hires doing the right roles at the right time. It’s one thing attracting talent, but it’s another to help them be the best professionals they can be. The big challenge is building out what our value proposition is for millenials. How do we continue to motivate and cater to them? Retention for all companies in Dublin is something we need to focus on going forward.”

Like Murphy, Aisling Hassell was overseas for most of her career before coming back to Ireland. Having spent 15 years working outside Ireland, mostly in the United States, Hassell came back to Dublin to join AirBnB as head of customer experience. The travel software business currently has 400 staff in Ireland and is aiming for 450 by year end.

“The first thing for the founders was the attitude to the hospitality industry in Ireland – it really fit with our brand. We had also seen how the likes of Google and LinkedIn had already come to Ireland and set up,” said Hassell. “It was really exciting for me to join a company that really believed in delivering a great experience on both the customer and employee side. We have a ground control team whose only job is to ensure the employee experience is what it’s supposed to be.”

“AirBnB definitely has consumer appeal – that is exciting. When they landed in Dublin, the general environment was just really conducive. Having so many companies that were born on the internet that deliver great products was a big draw. The IDA do a great job showing companies how easy it is to set up, making sure they meet the right people they need to for real estate and accounting. Once you’ve got a desire and there’s a fit, the reality of setting up is as straightforward as possible.”

A natural draw
The decision to locate in the city was, as it has been for so many firms, a straightforward call for AirBnB. “There’s a natural draw to a city environment. The demographic we go for, they come from all over Europe as well as Ireland, being somewhere central is important. Most of our employees bike or walk to work,” said Hassell.

“When I came back from the States it re-awakened the reality for me that Dublin is a village. There is a virtual pool of talent because we are all very close. We all socialise in the same places and we get to meet each other through networks of friends,” she said. “With our expansion, we have a lot of roles in Dublin already that operate across Europe. As we develop and mature as a business, there are other areas we can flesh out with other specialisations coming to Dublin over time. That’s where I see our trajectory over the next five years.”

MORE: The Next Step For Silicon Docks

Originally published in The Sunday Business Post.

Photograph via The Marker Hotel

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