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14 March 2016

5 Reasons Start-ups are Choosing Galway

Posted By: AIB Business

Galway isn’t just a great place to live; it’s an ideal location for entrepreneurs who are starting their own businesses. John Breslin (Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway and Director, TechInnovate) outlines why start-ups are increasingly choosing Galway as their place of business.

Galway is an excellent base for start-ups. It's compact enough to walk around most of the city area; it's a college town with a young feel to it and lots of skilled talent; it's multicultural; there's lots to do within a one-hour drive of the place, from the Burren to Connemara; and it has a diverse tech ecosystem between the ICT and medtech sectors. One thing that was missing up until now was a downtown innovation cluster (like Dublin’s Digital Hub or Silicon Docks), with a density of creative, innovative and entrepreneurial types. But we are working to make that happen and to allow start-ups to flourish in proximity to transport, cafés and restaurants and shops, the harbour and the sea, and everything else that Galway has to offer (the PorterShed innovation hub, backed by AIB, is part of this effort).

Here are a few more reasons why start-ups should choose, and are choosing, Galway.

1. Friendly and Welcoming to Entrepreneurs

Galway has a long tradition of welcoming tourists and visitors – so much so that it was recently named as the “Friendliest City in the World” by Travel and Leisure Magazine – and that welcome is now being extended to entrepreneurs who want to start here and others who want to join existing start-ups here. This is being accomplished by the emergence of coworking spaces with seats for visitors, new start-up incubators, and initiatives like Enterprise Ireland’s dedicated competitive start-up fund for the West of Ireland. These initiatives, combined with the quality of life and the range of larger companies already present in the Galway tech ecosystem, makes it an exciting and enjoyable place to found, or be part of, a start-up.


2. Tech and Medtech Ecosystems

We are seeing closer cooperations between the multinationals and relevant start-ups in their space and related spaces – knitting together the ecosystems. Galway is a global medtech hub, with eight out of the top 10 medtech companies having operations on its doorstep. There have been some great indigenous medtech successes, with Embo (a spinout from BioInnovate) raising €3M in cash, and others like Apica and Creganna being acquired for tens or hundreds of millions. Similarly, there are exciting companies emerging in the ICT space: ExOrdo’s research conference management solution is contracted to major US corporates and is a preferred provider for IEEE conferences; Pocket Anatomy in Galway won The Next Web top start-up award for their 3D app of the human body and joined the US StartUp Health Academy; are gaining attention for their platform that provides customer demographics from email addresses; and BuilderEngine have a fantastic CMS offering to rival WordPress and Drupal that features easy-to-use inline editing and ecommerce functionality.

3. Downtown Hubs in “Silicon Square”

As with all capital cities, Dublin is where most of the start-up activity is happening. However, rents are overheating in the capital (for both company space and employee accommodation) and don't show any immediate signs of cooling. Fortunately there are various efforts underway to make the regions more attractive to start-ups. One such example is the Galway City Innovation District, which we are currently kicking off with a new downtown innovation hub – the Portershed, backed by AIB.

There are also other hubs emerging in this cluster, all close to what Barry O’Sullivan from Altocloud has dubbed “Silicon Square” in Eyre Square, including SuperPixel Labs, StartLab, and DoSpace.


4. Lots of Events and Networks to Learn From

As you can read in the recently published Galway Startup Guide (, there are loads of regular events going on for start-ups, from the monthly Start-up Galway Pitches Meetups to the annual JCI Galway TechGate festival.

These kind of events can help people to figure out how to get started, but also how to scale: it’s important to be able to hear stories from founders in companies like Creganna, Apica, Fintrax, etc. about scaling their (successful) companies, because start-ups often get stuck at a certain size and don't know what to do next.


5. Close to Shannon, Not Far from Dublin

For global impact, start-ups need to know where the market is and realise that it most likely won't be in Ireland due to the population. They will often have to travel to find out where it is, what the challenges are for the people there, and of course figure out how best to create that global impact from their base in Ireland. Lots of Galway companies can do it: OnePageCRM, TitanHQ, Altocloud, Netfort and Rivada, to name but a few, have a great global presence with most of their customers outside of Ireland. Being relatively close to Shannon Airport and its US preclearance facility is key here, and when the last part of the M18 motorway is completed by 2018, it will become easier than ever to get to the US (and elsewhere) from Galway. It’s also only two hours away from Dublin City on the M4/M6 motorway (travel times from Galway to Shannon, Knock and Dublin Airports are 1h10m, 1h20m and 2h10m respectively).

In a nutshell, if you are thinking of starting a business or working for a start-up in Ireland, there’s never been a better time to head west.


Written by: John Breslin (Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway and Director, TechInnovate)


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