Comment: Cork is lacking a start-up hub

Cork well-placed to attract firms, but infrastructure boost needed, says Leanna Byrne

30th September, 2016
Cork city has strong start-ups, but space an issue. Pic:

While nosing around looking for Irish company stories and talking to start-up owners this week, I found myself down in the south-west, mostly in Cork City.

Still reeling after the European Commission (EC) ruled that Ireland is due tax benefits of up to €13 billion from Apple, Cork City has suddenly been thrown under the spotlight.

One Corkonian I spoke to said he had been called by several major news organisations – from Business Insider to the New York Times – to comment on the landmark tax ruling.

Then a Cork chief executive I spoke to had been interviewed by the New York Times on his belief that the Irish government should stick by Apple and appeal the EC’s decision.

After all, he said, it’s not our money.

That’s the general mood from the start-ups too. For them it’s about jobs and keeping a tech hub here in Cork.

There are some good start-ups in Cork, but from what I could glean from my two-day visit, the scene is in need of an infrastructural boost.

Office space is limited. While some major developments like One Albert Quay – a €60m, 16,258 square metre office block – is set to come on stream, 60 per cent of it is already pre-let by electronic security system Tyco and accounting firm PwC.

Even with many more developments being built, those spaces will be snapped up by larger, more established companies. For companies starting out, the price and the size could be too much.

What the start-up scene is lacking is a central hub. Down in Cork, there’s no NDRC accelerator or incubator space to hot desk.

With some of the other major tech companies like Teamwork and Voxpro are located in business parks outside of the city, Cork is lacking the “Silicon Docks” effect like we have in the capital.

When tech companies big and small are all centred in one location, it creates a tech start-up nexus. Companies can feed off each other and a network is formed. But without that environment, founders have to go it alone without the excitement a vibrant start-up scene generates.

But for all these issues, it presents a big opportunity. Accelerators and incubators should be taking a long, hard look at the south-west. That goes for any co-working spaces too.

As Dublin overheats, Cork is the city best-placed to attract start-ups and new talent to the banks of the River Lee.

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