The entrepreneurial opportunity

1 Feb 2010

Speaker Dylan Collins is arguably Ireland’s poster boy for the sheer breadth of opportunities presented by the internet for Irish-based business start-ups with a global outlook. He spoke to Ann O’Dea.

Three years back, Dylan Collins, just 26 at the time, sold his Dublin-based games-software company Demonware to the world’s biggest computer-game firm, Activision, for US$15 million. Not that retirement was what he had in mind. Just this November, he scored another coup when global games-store franchise GameStop made a major undisclosed investment in his latest venture, internet games company Jolt Online. He has spent the last few years building Jolt up to be one of the most pioneering free-to-play browser games firms in the world.

Jolt today employs some 25 people in Dublin, Belfast and in the UK, and earlier last year received international acclaim for striking a deal with Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire to bring out an online game called Playboy Manager, earning the company coverage in such prestigious titles as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, San José’s Mercury News and TechCrunch.

The rise of free-to-play browser games

One of the largest computer game retail giants in the world, GameStop reportedly saw the rise of free-to-play browser games, with their major potential in advertising and micro-payments, as an emerging market just too hot to ignore. It’s a testament not alone to Collins’ talents, but also to the border-less nature of digital business, and the potential for Ireland to become a hub for such entrepreneurial activity.

Collins admits he grasps every opportunity possible to call for greater and more targeted support for other young internet entrepreneurs in Ireland. “It’s something I feel pretty passionately about,” he tells us. “Because internet start-ups are so much cheaper – relatively speaking – to start, I think it would be great to see the Government actively pursuing dedicated grant aid towards that space in a much more meaningful way than they have done previously. 

“It’s a sector that probably gives you your best return on investment, in terms of generating companies, generating jobs, than any other sector, by virtue of those very low start-up costs. If you spent just €2 million on grant aid for internet start-up companies, you could probably get 200, 300, 400 companies moving in this space.

“So I guess my soapbox moment is really in calling for specific investment in a) an area that the country is clearly good at, b) an area in which we can go a long way on a relatively small amount of money, and c) an area that is clearly a growth space to be in – which globally speaking is a bit of a novelty these days!”  

This is an edited extract from a feature which appeared in UCD Business Connections magazine, spring/summer issue 2010

Photo: Dylan Collins, CEO of Jolt Online Gaming

Ann O’Dea is the CEO and co-founder of Silicon Republic and the founder of Future Human