Dublin has long been home to Big Tech’s European outposts, drawn by low taxes and Ireland’s position as the largest English-speaking country in the European Union. Historically, however, this has negatively affected local startups: Big salaries and cushy positions at Big Tech companies made it difficult for smaller, nimbler companies to compete.
That situation is finally changing: “Over the past few years, the culture has shifted away from Big Tech,” says Nicola McClafferty, chair of the Irish Venture Capital Association and a partner in Molten Ventures, a venture capital firm operating in Ireland. “We’re seeing more and more people and talent wanting to come out of those companies, and really thinking about joining earlier-stage and high-growth startups.”
That’s in part down to Irish startup successes like communications platform Intercom and payments system Stripe, which have proven homegrown wins are possible. “What’s interesting in Ireland generally is that the ecosystem is expanding, and there are hubs popping up other than Dublin,” says McClafferty.
Founded in 2018 by serial founder Bobby Healy, Manna has fast become one of Ireland’s buzziest startups. The company was born out of frustration: “I live in a suburb of Dublin,” says Healy. “It’s impossible to get delivery from local restaurants to my house in a reliable way, and in a way that is economical for the vendor or the driver, so I decided to build autonomous drones to make this efficient, easy, and affordable.” Local businesses and brands that use Manna can reach customers within a 30 square mile radius at a fraction of the cost of delivery by car or van. Average delivery time is currently two minutes and 40 seconds. “We charge about 3 quid (roughly $3.40) for delivery, and of course, you don’t need to tip the drone,” says Healy. The company’s large white drones, roughly the size of a seagull, have completed more than 110,000 flights. Manna has raised $30 million from Molten Ventures, Dynamo, and ffVC, and has plans to enter the US and another European market by the end of 2022. manna.aero
Kinzen cofounder Mark Little has been one of Ireland’s best-known foreign correspondents and news anchors for nearly two decades. Little left TV channel RTE in 2009, and with former political correspondent Áine Kerr, he founded Kinzen in 2017. “Kinzen’s initial mission was to help internet users improve the quality of their newsfeeds,” says Little. It now uses a mix of machine learning for automatic speech recognition, and human moderation to further review controversial content and spot dis- and misinformation and hate speech—including by providing podcast moderation services to Spotify. Funded by partnerships with content platforms like Spotify, public health authorities in Ireland, and content moderation companies, Kinzen will soon offer support across 26 languages, with local analysts across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. kinzen.com
When 19-year-old Greg Tarr won the BT Young Scientist of the Year award in 2021, people took notice. The annual award had previously been won by Patrick Collison, CEO of Irish tech unicorn Stripe—and those who win generally go on to make waves in the Irish tech sector. Inferex, the company Tarr founded in 2021, automates the development of AI models, simplifying jobs that took weeks or months into a few lines of code. “We want to do for AI what Stripe did to payments,” he says. “Engineers spent far too much time on DevOps and infrastructure,” says Tarr. He leads a team of nine fully remote employees across Ireland, Portugal, New Zealand, Spain, and the US, and has raised €3.6 million ($3.5 million) from Frontline and Seedcamp. inferex.com
When cofounders Eoin Hinchy and Thomas Kinsella left DocuSign to found cybersecurity firm Tines in 2018, they wanted to make staying safe online easier and more efficient. The result? A platform that allows people who don’t know how to write code to automate repetitive, manual tasks. Tines is used by security teams at companies including Coinbase, OpenTable, and Canva. The company, which has 129 staff members, was valued at $300 million in April 2021, when it raised $26 million in Series B funding, and has offices in Dublin and Boston. In total, the firm has raised $41 million from the likes of Accel, CrowdStrike, and Blossom Capital. tines.com
Founded in 2019 by Charlie Gleeson, dockless scooter startup Zipp Mobility was one of the few firms to be approved for a 2020 trial by the UK Department of Transport. The company differentiates itself from competitors in the crowded scooter space through its sustainability credentials: It uses only electric vans and cargo bikes to replenish the fleet, reducing its carbon footprint, and runs operations in-house, shunning outsourced workers. Operating in eight cities across Poland and the UK, the company launched its ninth city in its home market in March 2022. Three months later, the company raised €6.1 million (about $6 million) in investment, led by Fasanara Capital, to help it expand its team. zippmobility.com
“Evervault began with a Google search,” says Shane Curran, the founder of the Irish encryption infrastructure startup that has raised $19.4 million from angel investors including Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook. Curran, an amateur cryptographer and software developer, was building software for his local school and struggled to keep private information secure. In 2019, he set up Evervault with a mission to encrypt the web and the data that companies on the internet handle with a single line of code. Currently used by companies across the fintech and healthtech sectors, Curran and his 30-strong team ultimately hope to permanently eliminate data breaches—and are working on building out product suites to cover payments and crypto functions. evervault.com
Global gifting platform &Open solves the tricky issue of sending corporate presents. It’s a challenge that cofounder and CEO Jonathan Legge identified with his previous firm, Makers & Brothers, when he would try to fulfill corporate gift requests: 30 percent of the homeware platform’s revenue came from corporate customers who knew whom they wanted to send items to, but not necessarily where they were. From finding the right gift to getting the address of the recipient, &Open addresses that problem. Launched in 2017, &Open is now active in more than 120 countries and includes clients like Airbnb. Legge, his wife Ciara, and his brother Mark oversee a team of more than 90 in Ireland, the UK, and US, and landed a $7.2 million funding round in May 2022. andopen.co
Keeping personal data safe is a challenge, but it’s one Robert Pisarczyk learned to tackle when studying mathematics at Oxford University under Artur Ekert, one of the coinventors of quantum cryptography. Founded in 2020 by Pisarczyk and Jack Fitzsimmons, Oblivious supports the safe operation of software as a service provider. Cloud providers offer “secure enclave” hosting that offers additional protection but has high hurdles. Oblivious automates the process of applying for that secure hosting. The 10-strong company has lured former senior security architects from antivirus giant McAfee and raised $1 million in pre-seed funding to grow further. oblivious.ai
The technology required to create holograms is expensive, but Volograms, founded by Rafael Pagés, Jan Ondřej, and Konstantinos Amplianitis in 2018, simplifies the process. The company transforms regular videos captured on smartphones into “volumetric holograms”—which it calls volograms—using AI-powered algorithms. Taking video and turning it into a vologram involves little more than capturing footage within Volu, the firm’s smartphone app. The goal is to power the incoming augmented and virtual reality revolutions triggered by the arrival of the metaverse. The startup has attracted €2.4 million (around $2.36 million) in funding from Atlantic Bridge, Sure Valley Ventures, and Enterprise Ireland. volograms.com
Bee tech startup ApisProtect has raised €3 million (around $2.95 million) to date. CEO Fiona Edwards Murphy founded it in 2018 with cofounder Pádraig Whelan, a former lecturer at University College Cork and an expert beekeeper, after studying the application of internet of things (IoT) tech to beekeeping. “I realized that this is a massive market with a unique opportunity for applications of sensor and big data technologies,” she says. ApisProtect remotely extracts real-time data from hives—similar to the internet of things in people’s homes. That data—which includes temperature, humidity, and sound within the hive—is analyzed to provide insights that help beekeepers protect their hives. apisprotect.com
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