70pc of indigenous Irish software firms increased turnover in 2013

27 Mar 2014

Seven out of 10 indigenous Irish technology companies increased their turnover by an average of 30pc last year and six out of 10 are now looking outside Ireland for their main market, according to a major survey of the sector by AIB.

The sectoral report, the first of several by the bank as it targets specific industry sectors, found that despite a strong multinational presence in Ireland, there is a scaling indigenous technology sector worth €2 billion in annual sales.

This sector alone employs 30,000 people accompanied by a buoyant emerging Technology start-up ecosystem that has evolved across the country.

The research, conducted in collaboration with Amárach, the Irish Internet Association and the Irish Software Association indicates surging confidence among Irish technology companies that they will continue to enjoy significant growth in 2014 and beyond.

Almost nine-in-10 (87pc) believe their outlook for 2014 is better than 2013 and three quarters (74pc) plan to grow their workforce this year.  There are also challenges facing the Technology sector, he biggest of which appears to be the issue of scaling their operations to deal with the anticipated growth and expansion.

There are in excess of 700 indigenous Technology companies and 27 accelerator-Incubators (which provide pre-seed funding, training programmes and other start-up supports) now operating in the Irish economy. Three-quarters (77pc) of the firms are privately held while just one in eight (13pc) of them are funded by venture capital.

Of the 106 SMEs that were surveyed in this Outlook Report, three-quarters (78pc) have employ less than 50 employees while 8pc employed in excess of 250 people. Almost six in 10 (59pc) of those surveyed had been in business for more than five years and an impressive, one in eight (13pc) is in business more than 20 years. Indicating the sector’s drive to compete, a consistent proportion of six in 10 SMEs invested in R&D in 2012 (61pc) and in 2013 (62pc).

AIB’s head of Technology, Media & Telecoms Banking John O’Dwyer said there is accelerator movement incorporating players like Wayra, NovaUCD, the NDRC and others are playing a considerable role in attracting talent from overseas which is vital for business owners trying to grow a business in the ICT sector.

“There is a definite momentum, there is good mentorship on the ground and the funding environment is very healthy.

“Plus Ireland has a great state agency in Enterprise Ireland, making us the evny of a lot of countries.

“The start-up ecosystem is also quite strong. The firms in Ireland don’t necessarily need to go abroad to grow fast and quick, they can do it from here,” O’Dwyer.

Focused banking

Also speaking with Siliconrepublic.com ahead of the report’s publication this morning AIB’s head of business banking said he believed indigenous SMEs in the tech sector are poised for significant expansion.

He explained that AIB has embarked on a considerable education drive to ensure that branch managers are up to speed on the latest technologies so they can greater understand the growth issues of businesses in sectors like ICT and energy.

“We are taking a different approach to banking. It’s about how do you partner with customers and help them to make a difference. It’s about getting dealflow and building pipelines.

“We give staff in our branch network a general knowledge of industries like retail, ICT, exports and energy so they can understand the business challenges and have a working knowledge of how these companies function.

“And they have the back-up of a central specialist. For example, in the case of Enterprise Ireland HPSUs we can ensure they are assigned to experienced people who understand their challenges.

“We have a new leadership team and management team and we’re busy rebuilding the bank and putting the right structures in place so we can work with specific industry types in a purposeful, meaningful and supportive manner, sensitive to the complexities of their industry types,” Burke said.

Business software image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years