Start Me Up: Moving to Dublin 101

The Big Read, sponsored by Vodafone: The twitter bio of David Scanlon, a Venture Investment Leader with NDRC and former project executive in Enterprise Ireland, reads thusly: “Used to sell Ireland”.

I was one of those he sold it to, two years ago, albeit unintentionally. Having lunch in Bulgaria together, he treated my girlfriend and myself to the entrepreneurial story of a country we knew very little of. The support of governmental bodies such as EI for entrepreneurs, the warmth of the ecosystem, as well as the enthusiasm to be better and grow, all sounded surreal back on East European turf.

Less than a year after his pitch, I landed in Dublin with three suitcases and two bikes. There are many reasons why you should pack your bags and do it too. Here are some pointers on how to do it legitimately, with a few personal stories added for the craic – one of many fascinating Irish words you will learn.

The Startup Visa:
“We knew we wanted to grow and that had to happen outside of Iran. We wanted to go to an English speaking country. Our investors from SOS Ventures, who had a role in establishing the Startup Visa scheme, suggested Dublin. It turned out to be the most favourable option in terms of cost, funding requirements and research support,” says Parsa Ghaffari, founder of AYLIEN, a company providing text analyses through AI, which moved to Ireland in October 2012.

The Startup Entrepreneur Programme was established in 2012 and requires foreign entrepreneurs to have a solid proposal for a high potential startup in the innovation economy, plus funds of €50,000 for the first founder and €30,000 for second and subsequent entrepreneurs. Unlike in other countries, that money does not have to be solely the company’s – it can also be a combination of a business loan, Angel/Venture Capital funding, as well as a grant from an Irish State Agency, such as Enterprise Ireland. Initially the visa is issued for 2 years and. if the business is solid, it is renewed for another 3.

Parsa and his co-founder had an interview with Enterprise Ireland who assessed the application and the business worth of the company. Almost four years, and a second visa, later, AYLIEN has increased its operation to 12 people, recently announced an additional funding of €580,000 and found a happy home in Dublin 7.

For those starting very early-stage, there is also a 12-month visa available for entrepreneurs attending incubators or innovation bootcamps in Ireland. It is also available to students who graduate with advanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) degrees in Ireland and want to spin out companies. More info HERE.

The Investor Visa:
Another way you can come and be part of the ecosystem is as an investor. Created the same time as the startup one, the Investor Visa Scheme makes a provision for individuals with a successful business background to invest in and relocate in Ireland. A range of six investment options are provided with different thresholds, ranging from €400,000 – €2m. Investors would need to have a net worth of €2m to be eligible. There are six different investment opportunities to choose from. NB: Physical residence is not required to operate as an investor in Ireland, but a visit once a year is. Read more HERE and HERE.

Other visas:
There are nine other types of employment permits, including the Critical Skills Employment Permit. Hosting agreement for research purposes is another option, particularly suitable for research-heavy companies such as Aylien. “Getting a visa for Ireland was far easier than anything anyone would have to go through in the US,” says New York native Kim Pham, who came to Dublin two years ago to join Frontline Ventures. “I wouldn’t be in Dublin if I didn’t think we could find and invest in tech companies in Ireland. There is great enthusiasm here.”

How to establish a company:
“Establishing and running a business in Ireland is easy. I read a statistic that from an administration point of view Ireland is number four in the world for least amount of administration when it comes to paying taxes,” says Robert King, a Dublin-based accountant. Statistics are backed by his own experience, having worked in several European countries as well as the US.

A designated Company Registration Office deals with company registrations, issuing certificates of incorporation within 3 days. “I was fascinated how little downtime we experienced in moving from Switzerland,” says Alessandro Prest, LogoGrab’s co-founder. The fascination didn’t end there for Prest and his co-founder Luca Boschin. The very same day the two arrived in July 2014, they attended a meetup where they met Clyde Hutchinson, CEO of Nasc Connect, who introduced them to David Larkin, who would eventually become COO of LogoGrab.

“It’s only in Dublin that you can meet a VP from a company such as Salesforce, who wants to get back in the entrepreneurial trenches. He transformed the sales process in LogoGrab, ” Alessandro continues. LogoGrab has accessed more talent locally, and currently employs a staff of 20. The ease of the visa procedures, the lower cost and the presence of Enterprise Ireland were among the reasons that got them to move. “After Switzerland where you are looked upon strangely as an entrepreneur, we were positively shocked about the enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in Dublin”, he says.

While attending the array of meetups on offer and unlocking the serendipity on offer at every turn, founders also need to unlock a PPS number. After obtaining that, they can register for the all-important 12.5% corporate tax, as well as payroll and VAT. There are different tax reliefs and refunds offered for startups in Ireland, such as newly introduced Intellectual Property reduced tax of 6.5%.

And with that, a company and its founders are legally all set. “David Scanlon is a very good salesman,” Alessandro says. He is a very good storyteller, I would add. And we are all lucky to share the Dublin tech story.

Postscript: Other Useful Links
This will give you a helpful starting point for legal structures and taxes. You’ll also find more helpful information for taxes here.

Enterprise Ireland has a Competitive Startup Fund especially for foreigners. Read EI’s guide to Starting A Business in Ireland here, find out about the funding support available here and find your nearest EI office globally here. Finally, read more about international companies who found a home in Ireland here.

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