After a decade abroad, I returned to Dublin in 2012. The country was still reeling from the recession, and the only bright spark was the emerging tech scene.
There was a spirit of entrepreneurship filling up accelerators and incubators, driving the formation of a new wave of world-class startups. This, combined with the arrival of the large tech multinationals and the rise of the Web Submit, was creating an ecosystem – a tech hub that could drive the economy. This vibe was reminiscent of Tel Aviv (TLV), which I had first visited over a decade previously. There, I saw both city and country develop into a startup nation. This transformation saw Israel, once at the mercy of rampant inflation (450%), having the largest venture capital industry per capita and tech exits totalling $6.94 billion in 2014 alone.
Although Dublin doesnt need to carbon copy Tel Avivs successes, I felt passionately that we needed to develop strong links with Tel Aviv and Israel in a business focused, non-political manner. Primarily, this meant connecting startups and investors from both countries to enable the sharing of connections, innovation and knowledge to enable stronger internationally focused companies to grow. This led me to set up the Ireland Israel Business Network (IIBN) – an immediate success in Ireland and Israel, and one which now has over 1000 people actively involved.
Every year, the IIBN runs START TLV Ireland, a competition that selects the brightest Irish startups to experience, first hand, the Tel Aviv ecosystem and in particular the DLD Innovation Festival. We have had two worthy winners in Trustev and Bizimply – Trustevs visit saw Pat Phelan lead a group of five other Irish startups to showcase best that Ireland has to offer. Pat has since remarked that the trip was One of best of his life… seriously, Israel is incredible. Tel Aviv has a startup scene like nothing I have encountered before. The search to find this years winner has just started, and interested startups should check out the START TLV Ireland website.
I often get asked: what is in it for Israel? The answer: a lot. As Ireland regains its title as Europes fastest growing nation, we remain the only English speaking nation within the Eurozone, a massive plus. We can serve as a European base for scaling Israeli startups – especially since Dublin is exactly halfway between Tel Aviv and New York. Also important for Israeli tech companies is Dublins status as European Headquarters for many of the tech giants, amongst them Google, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, Paypal and Airbnb, many of which have their Israeli desks based here.
One of the biggest issues standing in the way of a stronger link between Irish and Israeli ecosytems is that we dont have direct flights connecting our cities. Dublin has a genuine opportunity to be the central hub in connecting Tel Aviv to Silicon Valley especially as there is no direct flight at present from Tel Aviv to San Francisco. To aid the building of these silicon bridges, we have a launched the #DUB2TLV campaign, to show airlines that a direct flight between Dublin and Tel Aviv is viable economically.
Further details and sign up to our campaign can be found HERE.