Ireland’s Digital Finest Gather in New York

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“Meet Here. Go Far.” So read the tagline of Alley, the location for the last gathering for 2016 of the New York Digital Irish community.

A fitting tagline for a night celebrating some of the best FinTech companies to come out of Ireland and conquer New York and the US. Together with our co-organisers, Enterprise Ireland and the Irish International Business Network, we welcomed more than 200 guests in the Chelsea space, the most we have seen at an event since our founding in 2013.

Started by Feargall Kenny in late 2013, Digital Irish was born from what Kenny saw as a ‘critical mass’ of Irish startups looking to establish in New York. That mass needed its own dedicated group to help with introductions to the right people.

He gathered a board of fellow tech and digital entrepreneurs based in New York – Barry Navan, Aidan Hayes, Mary Ann Pierce, Breiffni Ó Domhnaill, Shane Lennon, Gavin McMahon and myself. Irish expatriates and Irish Americans who work in the digital media arena joined the group.

Created to provide networking resources for digital startups and established businesses alike, we started out with 40 members. But as the night of November 17th showed, the community has outgrown its Irish ties. We now have over 1200 members, from companies such as Facebook, Diageo, CNN, Snapchat, Google, MTV and the New York Times. The guests at our events no longer come out for heritage, rather they do out of curiosity about Irish companies.

At the gathering CodeEast, GECKO Governance, TransferMate and Deposify pitched to the audience eager to learn about the FinTech cluster coming out of Ireland.

“Ireland has developed a strong cohort of companies with FinTech expertise that are proving themselves around the world. The event was an excellent platform to showcase some of the best ones to a New York audience of tech savvy movers and shakers,” Ross O’Colmain, SVP of Enterprise Ireland, New York told me.

Bill Aulet, Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship at MIT and senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, was the keynote speaker of the night. He spoke about the 7 myths of entrepreneurship. While they are powerful reminders, it seemed our Irish entrepreneurs had fallen for few of them.

If the past three years prove anything, it is that Ireland’s tech scene is definitely buzzing loud enough to be noticed here in New York City. That drove us to establish an angel investor network, the Digital Irish Angels, a year ago. The group enables US based investors to invest in and support early stage companies in Ireland. To date, Digital Irish Angels have met with more than 15 promising Irish startups and have invested $500,000. The angel network as our top priority but we plan on keeping it a grass roots organization.

In 2017 we will continue to support the Irish startups and welcome all those in New York curious to meet and work with them. Our next event will be at the end of January. If you are an Irish startup looking to expand in the US and want to pitch at our events, get in touch – Aisling@digitalirish.com

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