Limerick wants you! Post-Dell start-up incubator gets into gear

3 Feb 2009

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Entrepreneurs in the Limerick area are establishing their own start-up incubator – free from bureaucratic public-sector ‘red tape’ – to counter the shock of Dell’s culling of 1,900 workers in recent weeks.

When Digital pulled out of Galway in 1993, rather than languish on dole queues, experienced executives put their experience and knowledge to the test and established their own companies. A strong local technology and medical devices industry bears testament to their ingenuity and refusal to compromise.

Entrepreneurs in the Limerick region are hoping that Dell workers with experience and contacts will turn their own fortunes around, rather than succumb to shock, disillusion and inertia.

Enabled by the globe-flattening power of the internet, their expertise and a can-do attitude, former Dell workers are being encouraged to unleash a wave of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

The proponents of the proposed new start-up incubator for the city believe that the dark clouds of global change could actually come with a silver lining.

That silver lining could be the long-overdue vibrant industries of the future, fulfilling entrepreneurial careers and gainful employment in Ireland’s regions. The Dell departure could be the spark. After all, necessity is the mother of all invention.

Evert Bopp, a member of business networking group Limerick Open Coffee Club, has announced that he is opening up a new incubator “that will put function before form.”

The well-publicised inertia of the Irish Government in reacting to the global economic crisis, as well as muddling over the make-up of the so-called ‘task force’ to combat the fall-out from the Dell redundancies, are not the responses entrepreneurs are seeking.

Bopp said: “It has become apparent to me that there is an inherent conflict in expecting a public-sector body to stimulate private-sector enterprise. The involvement of a public-sector body in a private enterprise (a start-up in this case) brings along a large amount of bureaucracy and red tape. It’s simply a fact of life and not a negative reflection on the public sector.

“However, the last thing a start-up entrepreneur needs is to become entangled in paperwork and red tape and any other activity that does not directly lead to product/service development or revenue,” said Bopp.

“Start-ups would have the option to pay rent like a ‘normal’ tenant or, if they are short on cash, to agree to pay equity in lieu of rent for the first 12 months.”

Tenants, he said, will have to go through a “vetting” process similar to Seedcamp, Dragon’s Den etc. “They will be vetted on the strength of their business plan and management team, not on how well they can fill out forms.

“The primary goal of the incubator would be to let the entrepreneurs and start-ups concentrate on developing their business by removing all ‘non-essential’ activities from their workload and offering them not only work space but also advice, guidance and hands-on participation, if needed. We will not only tell you how to do it, we will also show you how to do it.”

Bopp’s ambition is to ensure that the centre will have state-of-the-art IT systems, good canteen facilities with real coffee, in-house legal, accounting and investment services, as well as short-term leases and hot-desking facilities.

Other aspects of the proposed incubator will be free parking and daily or weekly Open Coffee Club-type meetings. “This is an essential part of the centre. You meet, you discuss and you share. No hiding away in your office and not talking to anyone.

“The concept rotates around a management company that will operate the incubator. All the investors in the centre will be shareholders in this company and will receive a return from it in this way. However, this is not just a commercial operation. The aim is to stimulate entrepreneurship and initiative in the Limerick region, and thereby improving the local economy and community.

“Everyone will benefit from this initiative by the creation of employment and revenue. It is time that people no longer look to the public sector for help.

“The real strength lies in everyone doing their bit towards the good of everybody!”

Bopp said that office space has already been offered to the new incubator, and he and his colleagues are hard at work trying to seek voluntary support in the form of office fit-out (plasterwork and painting), office furniture, lighting fixtures, telecoms and IT equipment, legal services, accountancy services, and, of course, the involvement of private or institutional investors that may be looking to invest in start-ups.

If you can offer support or want to find out more details, you can contact Evert Bopp via email on: contactevert@gmail.com or by phone on: +353 86 864 5099

By John Kennedy

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com