Ireland needs more entrepreneurs, says ISA

12 Nov 2007

Ireland’s economic future will rest on the shoulders of entrepreneurs – “the foot soldiers of innovation” – and one sector in the vanguard of this formation, the software sector, will need to better communicate its economic importance, the chairman of the Irish Software Association (ISA) Pat Brazel said on Friday.

Speaking at the ISA’s annual dinner and awards on Friday night, Brazel said: “I see a sector full of potential, driven by people willing to take risks, in companies creating new markets using new business models such as Saas and Web 2.0, and overall creating huge value.”

However, when talking about the sector, which employs 16,000 people in Ireland, Brazel usually sees a glazed look descend. “They don’t realise the importance of a sector with around 650 home-grown software companies. As a sector we are inarticulate in communicating our values.

“How is this hampering our development collectively? We have a responsibility to hammer home the positive messages about our sector at every opportunity. It’s the only way to get results.”

Brazel said that key victories achieved by the ISA in the past year were the expansion of the Business Expansion Scheme funding and the ongoing removal of restrictive procurement practices that stop SMEs winning public sector business in Ireland.

While technology companies are well placed to deliver innovation and economic growth in Ireland, he believes the message is being distorted.

“I’m slightly uneasy when a government official quotes stats about how Ireland is investing huge sums of money in R&D. R&D spending is an input, not a measure of efficiency, effectiveness or productivity. Innovation is rarely a direct consequence of budgetary investment. I believe investment alone will not secure Ireland’s economic future.

“Only well-educated, entrepreneurial people being facilitated in interacting with other well-educated entrepreneurial people will do that.

“We need more entrepreneurs, the foot-soldiers of innovation. I believe that indigenous software companies should be entrusted to play a larger role in moving Ireland towards a knowledge economy by Government.

“They have the experience in the technology sector. This enables them to pick the right start-ups, and supply advice and connections as well as money. And the fact that they have a personal stake in the outcome makes them really pay attention,” Brazel said.

At the ISA Awards, Company of the Year went to customer experience management software player Arantech, which achieved 100pc sales growth in the past year.

The New Company of the Year Award went to Ammando, a social networking site for charities that aims to attract socially responsible but time-strapped people who want to help their favourite charities.

The Sales Achievement Award went to Globoforce, a company that provides employee recognition outsourcing services for some of the world’s biggest companies.

This year’s Technology Innovation Award went to games software company Havok, which was involved in the development of the largest ever selling computer game, Halo 3.

The Partnership of the Year Award went to Allfinanz for its partnership with Zurich Financial Services. Allfinanz’s technology underwrites large volumes of insurance claims, work that traditionally was carried out manually.

By John Kennedy