John Collison: Limerick could have ‘best computer science programme in Europe’

7 Jan 2022

John Collison poses for a selfie with winners of the first TECS competition at University of Limerick. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

On a visit to Limerick to award rising young tech stars, the Stripe co-founder lauded the immersive software education programme launched by University of Limerick last year.

Stripe co-founder and president John Collison was in Limerick on Thursday (6 January) to award the winners of the inaugural TECS competition.

TECS is named for its search for promising young technologists, engineers, creatives and scientists. While hosted at University of Limerick, the four-week contest was open to senior secondary school students across the island of Ireland.

Entrants first had to submit a project idea and then provide weekly updates on their progress. A total of €5,000 in prizes were given to the projects with the most impressive development.

The top prize of €2,000 was presented by Collison to Abutalha Alam, a sixth-year student at Castletroy College in Limerick, where both John and Patrick Collison completed their secondary school education before taking off as Silicon Valley superstars. The school was also awarded €1,000 for Alam’s winning project, a sign language translator.

‘We want to continue to grow the tech ecosystem selfishly’

TECS was organised through the Immersive Software Engineering (ISE) programme at University of Limerick and Patch, the accelerator for teen entrepreneurs supported by Dogpatch Labs and Stripe.

Announced last year, the ISE programme sets out to meet industry demand for software developers with a shake-up of computer science education.

The integrated undergraduate and master’s degree programme is backed by more than a dozen tech companies in Ireland including Stripe, Intercom, Zalando, Analog Devices and SoapBox Labs. Students on the programme combine classroom learning with real-world experience through multiple residencies at these tech companies.

UL has also provided a purpose-built studio for the ISE course and has constructed the programme so that students work in small teams led by professors.

Speaking to RTÉ News in Limerick, Collison said Stripe’s backing of the programme will encourage the next generation of software engineers and Irish entrepreneurs. “We want to continue to grow the tech ecosystem selfishly,” he said. “It’s what we want at Stripe, but also it’s what everyone needs.”

Collison revealed that the programme has about 50 industry partners. “I think we could have the best computer science programme here in Europe, bar none, and that’s the goal of the team here at UL,” he said. “I think they have a really good plan to do that.”

Founded by the Collison brothers, payments company Stripe is one of the most valuable private companies in the US at around $95bn.

Dual-headquartered in San Francisco and Dublin, Stripe is currently expanding its team in Ireland. Collison revealed that there are now 500 people working at the Dublin HQ, while the company strives to recruit 1,000 more over the next five years.

Collison said that many of those new hires are graduates, and ISE may help to identify more future recruits. He also mentioned that hiring international workers in Ireland is “a bit slow at present” and that streamlining the work permit process would be better for the ecosystem overall.

Collison was also asked about Stripe’s rumoured plans to go public this year. “We’re very happy as a private company. We’ll let you know if that changes,” he said.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.