The Big Read, powered by Vodafone: Emmet Ryan is a busy man, and then some.
By day, hes the editor of The Sunday Business Posts Connected Magazine, and a regular contributor to the Posts tech pages. But thats only the beginning; he indulges his twin passions for sport and craft beer via his YouTube series The Pint Of View and the two sports sites he edits: European basketball site BallinEurope and one-stop sports presence Action81.
We interviewed Ryan as part of our ongoing series of interviews with prominent Irish tech journalists.
What do you think has contributed to making Dublin the tech destination that it is right now?
It helps that we are pretty straight talking people. And Dublins come a long way. On a basic level, socially, theres a lot more variety in terms of things to do, places to drink, places to eat, and its really compact. To me, Dublin is big, but then I grew up here. If you think an office is close in the Palo Alto region, youre probably still talking about a serious drive. Here, its usually a ten-minute walk. At thats at my pace (laughs), for most people its probably five.
The tax thing has been completely overplayed. Theres a number of reasons why Dublin is happening. Were cheaper than London, for example, but we speak the same language, were in the same time zone and were reasonably well-educated.
Do you feel like there’s been a fundamental change in how we view ourselves, and how we do business?
Yes. Someone like Liam Casey twenty years ago, wouldnt have had the confidence that Liam does today. He works in an environment where he doesnt have to apologize for being the best at what he does. Chances are, back in the day, someone Irish like Liam would have said I make stuff. And probably left it at that. And thats a massive shift.
With so many startups in Dublin, what makes a company interesting to you as a journalist?
Truthfully, I try to ignore the companies who use the word disrupt a little too much. I like the ones with great ideas. Companies like StatSports in Dundalk; when I saw that they got shortlisted for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year I felt a bit smug, as Ive been the only person covering them heavily for the past two years. They are an Irish-made company that creates hardware for sports monitoring, theyve got a bunch of international clients from Man City to the NBA, and theyre making a real thing, software as well as hardware. Theyre hi-tech, theyre really good at what they do, and I can explain it to my Mum, whos not remotely techie. To me, thats the dream company to cover. And now theyre on the same shortlist as the Collisons. Im like I told you! I like taking a punt, fighting to get a company in there. Its usually paid off.
— Emmet Ryan (@action81) July 4, 2015
One thing that Connected does very successfully is to address the different levels of tech activity in Dublin, from multinationals to startups to SMEs
Take the Mattress Mick story we did. I knew that was a risk, but hes a really interesting dude, and its a great story. Hes not going to be a billionaire, but he represents a lot of the SMEs out there, working away, embracing technology in different ways. If youre doing something interesting, then I want to talk to you. Im all for capitalism, but if your reason isnt singular, say a mix of capitalism and altruism, and if youre a little bit complicated and weird then chances are Im interested.
Youve also made a point of utilizing a new generation of female tech journalists.
Its really important to me. When I started we had a 4 to 1 ratio with male and female writers, now weve got a 7/6 split. And Im not doing this for token reasons; commercially, were missing out on a huge market with women readers, and using the Moneyball principle if the market is dominated by male tech writers, then Im seeing a huge gap there waiting to be exploited. Also, its the right thing to do.
We need more female founders in tech in Dublin. I see Tracy Keogh, whos selling the Galway story hard, theres Jayne Ronayne covering the Cork end, and then there are companies like Opsh and Love And Robots The problem is that I can name almost all of the prominent female founders in Dublin, and Im terrible with names (laughs).
At the last count, there apparently were more than 2000 tech startups in Dublin
And thats good. I always think of it in sporting terms. Im a sports guy. The more startups we have, the more likely we are to have good ones. New Zealand happens to have the best rugby team in the world, because its their number one sport. Its a numbers thing. If youve got a certain environment, with certain things in place, then itll happen, and thats the way I feel about the startup world in Dublin right now. Youve got more companies thinking internationally from day one, and sticking with it. Some ideas are going to take more time to work. I look at a place like Versari Hub (a dedicated facility for early stage EdTech companies) which is a much slower burn, and a long game. So youve got to know your territory, and your burn rate; if youre a new messaging app, and youve gotten nowhere in three months, then you know where to go.
Is all this activity sustainable?
If anything, its going to accelerate. The IDA are already talking about this being its biggest year ever, and thats because they basically kept bringing companies in, even during the bust. Tyco are coming back to Cork, for example, they never technically left because they kept a skeleton crew, but they went from hundreds of employees to about as many as are in this coffee shop right now (not many), and now theyre going back to hundreds again, in a much more central location. So if you see that with one company in Cork, then thats a very good sign for Dublin.
Youre writing the tech narrative for Dublin on a weekly basis. Where do you see it going?
The big thing is making sure that we keep the IP here. I agree with the Startup Commissioner on that one. If youre going to go to market, then go to the market, dont just talk about how great it is. Get your sales teams over there. Get yourself over there, at least some of the time. But we have to keep the intellectual property right here, so we can build up, and keep building. Thats what someone like David Coallier is doing in Barricade, and doing really well. And its not just Dublin, either: theres an amazing tech hub growing in the border counties, with companies like Performa Sports in Portadown, theyre doing some crazy stuff. And then you see the Skibbereen guys, with this Ludgate project Dublin can tie it all together. As long as we can get the broadband speeds sorted (laughs), were good.