Primer: The Digital Hub

Digital Hub Dublin

2003 is a long time ago in tech years, but Dublin’s Digital Hub, which was founded that year, is still very much going strong.

The Hub occupies eight buildings in the Liberties, near Dublin’s iconic Guinness Brewery – it will add a ninth this summer, and tenth is currently under construction. The current buildings are nearly completely full – there are around 90 companies at the Digital Hub at any given time. The residents are diverse – homegrown startups mix with American multinationals and FDI companies looking to establish a base here. Etsy has only just left the building for a new office off Capel Street. Stripe has just arrived, as have Slack. Eventbrite and Boomerang Pharmaceutical Communications share a home with the Irish Internet Association, the NDRC and Silicon Republic. Previous tenants have included everyone from Amazon to Daft.

“For over a decade, we’ve acquired an in-depth understanding of what digital enterprises need to do in order to develop and scale,” says Chief Executive Gerry Macken, “Since the project was established, we’ve offered flexible office space and lease arrangements and access to talent, funding and collaborators within the wider digital sector.”

Aimed at tech companies which are beyond the ideas stage and anticipating rapid growth, the Digital Hub gave Dublin a coworking space before coworking spaces properly existed here. It’s quite different to the average open-plan office – the main building, formerly a labelling factory for Guinness back when it was sold in glass bottles, is kitted out with movable partitions which create individual offices with adjustable walls. The concept is that the company will need to expand at some point, and can easily add to their space without the need to leave the building.

Digital Hub Dublin Chimney

It’s a plug and play environment: you can move in and start with a couple of desks, without the need to sign up for the long term (the leases, like the design of the office, are flexible). Applicants have to fit certain eligibility criteria and are carefully reviewed. Around 60% are companies founded in Dublin, and the remaining 40% are foreign and brought in through FDI, primarily through the IDA. Current residents come from the likes of France, Norway and the US.

The Hub also plays a role in its surrounding community, one of Dublin’s oldest and strongest, engaging locals young and old via a number of popular community programmes. The Liberties as an area is steeped in industry: aside from Guinness, which historically supported local businesses in an area where most of its workers and their families lived, the locale was once full of whiskey breweries – the iconic windmill outside the Digital Hub was once a key feature of Roe’s Distillery. Now, it’s reborn as a centre of innovation and creativity – the National College of Art and Design is just down the road, and the Irish Museum Of Modern Art a short stroll away. The faint smell of hops, an essential component of the brewing process, still permeates the air.

Ultimately, The Digital Hub plays to many of Dublin’s strengths as centre of innovation, offering a space where international tech players can comfortably share space with emerging companies. It’s a scene – and a thriving one at that.

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