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Taoiseach’s address at the
Enterprise Ireland Access Silicon Valley event
Friday June 6 2014
Governor Brown, Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m delighted to join you this evening. Thank you for being here.
Ireland – California relations
Thank you in particular to Governor Brown. Governor, your presence here gives a very clear signal about the strong friendship and affinity between California and Ireland.
This evening’s event particularly reinforces the importance of the economic links between Ireland and California – and particularly with the Valley.
Silicon Valley is a phenomenally exciting place in which to be an entrepreneur. The energy is tangible, the enthusiasm and “can do” culture is infectious and the results speak for themselves.
Over the last few days I have visited some of the many companies in the Valley that have major operations in Ireland.
The investment and employment they provide have played a very significant role in the progress Ireland has made towards economic recovery since my last visit here in March 2013.
Ireland’s Economic Recovery
In December, Ireland became the first country inside the Euro area to successfully emerge from an EU/IMF Programme.
This is a testament to the sacrifices and commitment of the Irish people to bring about a new sense of stability. In response the Government remained steadfast in implementing necessary reforms and in taking responsible decisions to sort out our public finances.
Just as we had a plan to exit the Programme of Support, we now have a clear plan to support our economic recovery - a plan based on stabilising the public finances, restructuring the banking sector, and, most importantly, growing the economy and creating jobs.
It has two targets:
1.) Replacing all the jobs lost in the crisis and returning the country to full employment by 2020.
2.) Ending Ireland’s dependence on debt markets and borrowing by eliminating the deficit by 2018.
In the meantime we have fully and successfully returned to the international bond markets. Just three weeks ago, Moody’s further upgraded our sovereign credit rating by two notches. The yields on Irish bonds are now lower than they have been for many years.
While there are still too many people unemployed, we have seen strong annual employment growth of 2.3%. Unemployment is now down below the eurozone average and will continue to fall with increased growth and labour market reforms.
My firm conviction is that the only pathway for the Irish recovery is one that maintains and renews our competitiveness, allowing us to win new investment from overseas, while strengthening the export performance of Irish companies.
Enterprise Ireland, from their office in Silicon Valley, work with over 400 Irish technology and software companies either already exporting into the US or looking to export.
And I should also reference the over 220 Irish companies employing tens of thousands of people across the United States.
So this is a two-way win-win relationship.
Investing in Ireland
For those of you here who are already doing business in Ireland, you will know how strong a proposition we have. We have a reputation as the Internet Capital of Europe.
Tech giants Google and Facebook have their international Headquarters in Dublin and other industry leaders such as Linkedin, Twitter, Zynga live close by in a city that is roughly one-fifth the size of San Francisco. Over the last two years Ireland has seen over 70 Silicon Valley-based fast-growth start-ups expanding into Ireland.
Companies like Airbnb and other fast growing companies like Engine Yard, Etsy, MongoDB, Squarespace, Zendesk, Hubspot, Qualtrics, Marketo, New Relic, Adroll and Nitro are amongst the many choosing to locate in Ireland.
Ireland’s business friendly environment offers a compelling solution in a multicultural English speaking location.
Last December, Forbes magazine put Ireland at the top of its list of the "Best Countries in the World for Business”.
Intellectual Property & VC
Ireland is also a very favourable location for holding and exploiting Intellectual Property. We have a robust legal framework offering sophisticated legal protection for Intellectual Property (IP). We offer a very beneficial IP tax regime.
And in recent years we have attracted many leading VCs to Ireland. To date DFJ Esprit, Polaris, Highland Capital and Sofinnova have a presence in Ireland. They know Dublin has the talent, the culture and the access to Europe, Middle East & Africa that they need.
It is fair to say that innovation and entrepreneurship can only be driven by the right talent - ambitious creative people with ideas that can create economic growth and employment which is so vital for both the US and Ireland.
In this context, I want to say a few brief words on immigration reform.
In my opinion, the vibrancy and energy that is the hallmark of San Francisco, and the lifeblood of Silicon Valley is fuelled by multi-culturalism. Such diversity is enabled by an immigration system that can entice and accommodate the best talent from across the globe.
Immigration reform offers an opportunity to solve a problem of enormous personal significance to an enormous number of people.
And it offers economic opportunity as well. American entrepreneurship, American innovation, American success is built on the contribution of immigrants. The existing system does not work effectively – either for business or for the many millions of people affected.
Ireland supports, and will continue to make the case for immigration reform at the highest political levels in Washington.
Access Silicon Valley event
But this evening’s event is about Irish companies breaking into the US market, or looking to partner with US firms.
I know that since Enterprise Ireland launched Access Silicon Valley in March 2013 over 80 Irish Start ups companies have participated in the 3 phases of the programme. And 40 have come here for the intensive two week programme.
I would like to congratulate Julie and the EI team for their work on this really excellent initiative.
The Irish entrepreneurs participating this evening are here to make connections, pitch business concepts and gain an insight into how to deliver tangible strategies and market entry plans.
From meeting you earlier I could clearly see your ambition and your drive to succeed.
Some of you are seeking investment. But I know that investment is not the only end goal. Most of all, this event is about plugging into an exciting and vibrant innovation ecosystem.
An environment which can provide support and insights from those who have already been through the process or are active in the VC, corporate, academic or technology community.
Of course, the environment for start-ups is hugely competitive. I believe that there are in the region of 25-30,000 start ups in Silicon Valley alone at any one time.
So getting the right air-time, getting the opportunity to pitch to the right people in the right companies, is a challenge in itself. This is why events like this are so valuable.
Having met the companies earlier, I am greatly impressed with them and their vision.
They are the current & future creators of wealth, opportunities and jobs for Ireland and California alike.
So, please take some time and get to know them and their business. You will not be disappointed.