Start-up backlash in Limerick could undo damage of Dell departure

13 Jan 2009

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The energies mustered by the anger and betrayal felt by the 1,900 employees of Dell in Limerick could be channelled into a raft of new start-up companies in a similar fashion to what occurred in Galway following the departure of Digital Equipment Corporation in 1993.

The Digital closure in Galway in 1993 with the loss of 800 jobs was considered economically devastating for the region at the time.

However, talented former executives mustered their energies and unleashed a wave of new technology start-ups, particularly in the areas of software, hardware and medical devices. Companies like hardware firm Multis and medical tech firm Embricon owe their origins to their management’s redundancy from Digital.

Internet publishing pioneer Liam Ferrie who established Irish Emigrant Publications credits his love of electronic media to witnessing his first electronic mail while working at Digital in 1979.

Last week’s news was not only devastating for the 1,900 workers at Dell but also the additional 2,000 people who work for companies supplying the manufacturing operation that has been in the region for nearly two decades.

However, Tipperary-based entrepreneur Evert Bopp has said that Limerick Open Coffee Club, the local spin-off of the global Open Coffee Club movement (www.opencoffee.org) is throwing their weight who will become redundant over the next 12 months.

Their monthly Open Coffee Club meetings in Limerick’s Absolute hotel are informal gatherings of entrepreneurs, start-ups, investors and anybody with an interest in business and technology to tell their story, discuss topics, exchange points of view and generally have a relaxing time.

During these meetings experienced entrepreneurs share their experiences with people new to the entrepreneurial world. The meetings are a very fertile breeding ground for new business.

Bopp confirmed to siliconrepublic.com that it is hoped the Limerick Open Coffee Club meetings will attract representatives of venture capital companies as well as angel investors and State agencies like Enterprise Ireland and the County Enterprise Boards.

“While state development agencies such as the County Enterprise Boards, Enterprise Ireland the IDA etc. have a role to play here I am convinced that the Open Coffee Club can play a valuable part in this process. The Open Coffee Club attendees have a wealth of experience and information that should be shared with people wanting to venture out on their own. I would like to invite any of the Dell employees that will be made redundant to attend our OCC meetings,” Bopp wrote in his personal blog.

Bopp, who runs his own wireless tech firm AirAppz continued: “I am following Sensorpro’s Chris Byrne example by offering free start-up advice to any of the Dell employees who believe that this is NOT the end and who would like to find out more about starting their own business. Assisting these people (and others) to create their own employment and also create jobs for others will hopefully create a solid base of Irish owned businesses.”

Bopp suggests that support could take lots of different forms; advice and mentoring is one, but another option is the creation of high benefit, low bureaucracy start-up centers.

“Take some of the many vacant office buildings and create an environment where a start-up or  entrepreneur can concentrate on what they need to do: getting their business of the ground.

“It is time that we stop looking at the government to turn around the current economic downturn. The economy can only be improved by stimulating homegrown industry. SMEs will as usual grab the country by the scruff of the neck and drag it out of the recession,” Bopp reasoned.

By John Kennedy

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com