Generation Repatriation: Why We’ve Brought So Many Irish Home


We’ve hired over 100 incredible people from all over the world in the last 12 months, from engineers to data scientists to sales people and more.

Wired, VentureBeat and many others have profiled our technology-driven approach, while our careers page covers a little more. We’ve plucked American’s out of San Francisco who’ve helped scale some of the fastest growing tech companies in history and brought them to Dublin. We’ve lured Brits who’ve run communications for Google in Europe to Dublin. But we’ve also gone out of our way to hire a long list of experienced Irish working abroad, returning them to Ireland. What follows is our story as to why we’re bringing so many Irish home relative to our size as a company and why we think more Irish startups should too.

The Back Story

It started as a trickle 2 years ago with an email from a young management consultant in London. He wanted to know, “Are you hiring? I’m Irish and based in London. I’ve got experience you won’t find in Ireland. CV attached”. My email back was short: “Yes, but hiring only for Dublin office, sorry.”

I thought nothing more, until a few days later he replied, “That’s great. I’m looking for good reasons to come back, can we chat?”

That chat turned into our first ‘repatriation’. Since then we’ve repatriated Irish from San Francisco, New York, Melbourne, Berlin, Beijing and more to Dublin.

Here are just some of those we’ve pulled back from across three continents:

1. Dr. Aaron Meagher was a physicist based in Berlin, working in a particle accelerator when we found him.

2. Anna O’ Hare was working at Skillshare, a fantastic New York based startup, and had previously worked at Foursquare.

3. Dr. Steve Tobin was an applied mathematics researcher in Melbourne University.

They’re all now back in Dublin working alongside some equally talented folks from more than 20 countries around the world, who’ve relocated alongside their repatriated colleagues.

Of course we still hire lots of incredibly talented folks based in Ireland, but as a startup scales, and we’re now well past 100 employees, you need to make increasingly specialised hires (Hint: we’ve more than 50 specialised open positions).

Unfortunately, those specialised hires are sometimes thin on the ground in Ireland. Thankfully they exist in abundance abroad. And sometimes they’re Irish, which very often makes relocation/repatriation even easier.

So, if you’re an Irish company, here’s why hiring Irish abroad and bringing them back to Ireland is a good thing, and how to go about it, based on our experience.

Why repatriate Irish from abroad?

The answer isn’t immediately obvious, but when you start to scratch at the surface it’s pretty straight forward:

1. First, the talent pool of Irish abroad is enormous. More than 400,000 people left Ireland over the last decade. Not only were many of them amongst our youngest and our brightest when they left, but untold numbers have since gained incredible experience in rapidly scaling startups and other fantastic companies the world over.

2. Second, here’s a hard truth: When it comes to scaling startups, specialised talent is thin on the ground in Ireland. We’ve now lots of early stage startups, but few startups that have truly scaled out of Ireland in recent years. By scaling I mean 50 to 500 or more employees. There are of course examples from the last 10 years and more, but the list is by no means endless: Paddy Power, Openet, Hostelworld, Cartrawler, Newbay, etc. Look outside of Ireland and you’ll find Irish in companies all over the world that have and are scaling rapidly. Hire them.

3. Third, here’s a simple reality: If you find two equally talented potential hires in New York and one is Irish and another American, on the law of averages which one will more readily relocate? You know the answer. And when time and resources are tight, as they are in any scaling startup, these are the types of hiring hacks you should consider. A caveat: By all means relocate non-Irish into Ireland. We’ve employees from more than 20 countries, including lots of senior folks. Our head of communications is an English-man who ran communications for Google in Europe from London, and was previously the news and features editor of the Times. Operations is lead by a Frenchman, design by a Polish man, marketing by a Spaniard and finance by a Portuguese. You get the picture.

4. Fourth, the location of satellite or subsidiary offices of multinational tech companies in Ireland has had an incredibly positive effect. High potential Irish employees are regularly hoovered-up and out of their subsidiary in Ireland to be taken to the mothership in San Francisco or New York or elsewhere. While subsidiaries in Dublin provide great, high paying jobs, most of the responsibility for key decisions in these companies is understandably concentrated in the mothership. It’s here you’ll find hundreds of Irish in key positions the world over who’ve been given opportunities to accelerate their careers in a way that few of their peers in Ireland have. Lorraine Twohill of Google is perhaps the greatest example of this. Find the next wave of Lorraine’s and hire them.

5. Fifth, Ireland is an incredible place to live. More than 400,000 people left in the last decade, many with fond memories of the country but few with fond memories of opportunities for great jobs. Offer them that great job and most would love to come back here. And when they do, they will add something a little extra to your team.

Hiring hacks for repatriation and relocation

We’ve lots of repatriated Irish who recently relocated working for us, so we’ve learnt a few hard lessons that will help you find people fast, and relocate them more seamlessly.

1. Renting in Dublin sucks. It’s a headache for anyone considering moving to Dublin. Our solution: We’ve a six bedroom house in Dartry, 4 minutes from our offices, where folks flying in for interviews or recently hired can stay rent free while they’re finding a permanent place in Dublin. It removes a massive headache, creates a little sense of community for new arrivers, and could just about be one of the best things you do.

2. Use Facebook graph search, it’s amazing. To get you started type in, “Friends of my friends from Ireland who live in San Francisco, California” and you’ll find an almost instant hit list. What a list!

3. LinkedIn is obviously great. But Facebook can be even more powerful sometimes.

4. The first repatriation or relocation will always be the hardest. But once you’ve repatriated one person, you instantly have a reference case and it becomes easier. The same goes for making your first senior hire from San Francisco or London who’s not Irish. It’s powerful.

I hope this post has been helpful to both Irish startups and Irish abroad considering one day returning to Ireland.

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