It’s not the eighties all over again

21 Sep 2009

It’s funny, but some of us almost seem to take perverse pleasure in declaring that things have come full circle and here we are again – albeit with our Starbucks, organic vegetables and Ikea – with rising unemployment, pay cuts, young people emigrating to Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and a collapse of faith in our government.

Every day people are telling me that 2009 is like the eighties all over again.

I disagree. I have faith in our recovery because this time things are different.

My faith is invested in Ireland’s entrepreneurial spirit and independence, and this belief was reinforced by attendance at Saturday’s Bizcamp Dublin 2009.

Bizcamp combined all the ideal elements of a supportive start-up environment: the event was free to attend, the organisers are from the start-up community and gave their free time to run this event, most speakers were genuine dyed-in-the-wool business owners and just as significantly, official bodies and big businesses sponsored this event.

While 3 Ireland and Bank of Ireland sponsored the grass-roots event, both Enterprise Ireland and Microsoft Bizspark also gave insightful talks, and law firm Mason, Hayes and Curran provided a free all-day walk-in clinic.

This is the second Bizcamp Dublin event and attendance shot up from 200 at the first one to 500. Everywhere I went I was bumping into enthusiastic business people with a start-up or an idea for one, and their enthusiasm was fed by practical advice from the 40 presentations on how to get your business off the ground.

The theme of this Bizcamp was ‘Entrepreneurs Healing the Economy’ and this was highlighted with the panel discussion on ‘Taking the Rough With the Smooth.’

Successful entrepreneurs including Jerry Kennelly of Stockbyte, Colm Lyon of Realex Payments, Kevin Traynor of Sonic Academy and Asheesh Dewan of Jaipur restaurants and Segala gave candid histories of their often bumpy roads to success, maintaining that financial stability is often possible against the odds.

The perverse pleasure in a return to the recession that I talk about actually has some logic: not simply a desire to return to simpler times but rather the dawning realisation that out of hard times comes innovation as the recently unemployed start out on an entrepreneurial road or the business on a shoestring manages to find value in offering value, trimming the fat and doing this in a ground-breaking or alternative manner.

And in a time when most entrepreneurs cannot afford to attend pricey seminars it was a great sight to see on Saturday: hundreds of business cards swapped, hands shook and light bulbs appearing overhead as people spread their ideas and hopefully came up with new partnerships.

Although Bizcamp originally had it roots in the technology start-up space, the attendance on Saturday was a broad mix from all sectors, with technology acting as the glue.

“Bizcamp’s roots as an international movement were initially planted in the tech community, attracting those involved in the software, internet and IT industries,” said Keith Bohanna, one of Bizcamp Dublin’s voluntary organisers and CEO of social networking site for guitar collectors, dbTwang.

“We wanted Bizcamp Dublin to encompass all industries and sectors and with that in mind we extended a special invitation to those involved in non-tech businesses and those who may have been recently unemployed and want to start their own enterprise.”

By Marie Boran

Photo: Some 500 business and entreprenurial-minded folk attended this year’s Bizcamp Dublin.