Irish Creating Their Own Luck, Attracting Investment

When government officials and business professionals meet here in Wisconsin to brainstorm ways to make our State a better destination for technology startups and to attract more investment capital, we often look for ideas from nearby states like Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio. It’s certainly important to understand what Wisconsin’s neighbors are doing to promote their tech sectors, but Wisconsin should really set a goal to be the leader, rather than just keep up, here in the Midwest and beyond. Perhaps it’s time to seek some inspiration from farther afield.

My business partner, Preston Austin, and I recently had the opportunity to spend several days in Dublin, Ireland because our company, murfie.com, was selected to participate in a gathering of 150 of the top new companies from around the world (an event called START) that took place alongside the Dublin Web Summit. While in Dublin, we spoke with a wide variety of people on the public and private side of economic development in Ireland, including Naoise Ó Muirí, the current Lord Mayor of Dublin.

It turns out that Wisconsin and Ireland have far more in common than our ability to brew and drink great beer. Ireland’s population is 4.7 million versus 5.7 million in Wisconsin. The Irish GDP is $217 billion versus $251 billion in Wisconsin. In both Ireland and Wisconsin, about 25% of the general population has a college degree, and we both host a strong public university system.

Both Ireland and Wisconsin have made it a priority to attract and grow technology startups and the sources of investment these businesses require. We’ve both established venture loan programs and tax credit programs for angel and venture investors. Ireland has several venture co-investment programs in place similar to those currently under discussion in Wisconsin.

Ireland’s approach to growing its tech sector appears to be working. Many venture funds have opened offices in Dublin, and these funds now account for $800 million in available growth capital for Irish startups. Not all of this capital is guaranteed to go to Irish companies, but 70% of the capital invested by these firms last year did.

Companies here in Wisconsin often visit (or even relocate to) the coasts to gain access to pools of venture capital this large. I’d love to see that change. While I have no intent to give up my Capital Autumnal Fire in favor of Guinness, it’s worth looking at the similarities and differences and seeing what Wisconsin and Ireland can teach each other.

Snapshots from the Dublin Web Summit

It’s official: the people love photos. 1) Pictures are ooh! shiny! 2) Pictures are fun to look at when you’re bored.

Murfie co-founders, Matt Younkle and Preston Austin, are currently jaunting through Dublin for the Dublin Web Summit, Europe’s fastest growing tech conference. And they’re leaving behind a wake of photography.

Here’s a smattering of snapshots from the event and the city.

Room full of startups, media & investors @ Dublin Web Summit
Our lil booth @ Dublin Web Summit
Murfie CEO, Matt Younkle, with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Naoise Ó Muirí
Matt, UW-Madison alum, shares the W @ Dublin Web Summit
No trip to Dublin is complete w/o a Guinness Storehouse stop

Start It Up: Murfie Selected to START 150

Here’s to me, and here’s to you! The reason for good cheer—Murfie has been selected to join START, the new, invite-only sister event to the acclaimed f.ounders. START brings together “150 of the world’s most exciting and disruptive startups” plus a mix of investors and media at an exclusive gathering in Dublin on October 17 and 18.

The START event is organized by the team behind f.ounders and the Dublin Web Summit, Europe’s largest tech conference. In making their 150 selections, the organizers were looking for “incredible young companies” under 3 years old, from any corner of the world.

Matt Younkle and Preston Austin, Murfie co-founders, will be tripping it to the Emerald Isle to represent Murfie Inc. at the START 150 event.

“Coming from Madison, Wisconsin, we’re honored to be recognized alongside such a small and exclusive group of early-stage startups from around the globe,” said Younkle. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to network with global business leaders and entrepreneurs and share our innovative business model. Of course, we’re also excited to conduct some in-field research on the differences between Irish and Wisconsin beer!”

Expect another START-related blog post to come from Matt and Preston. They’ll be sharing their impressions with us on location in Dublin :)