While inflation, energy costs and a talent crunch continue to pose challenges, Enterprise Ireland-backed companies are looking to foreign markets for growth.
Despite the current economic climate with high inflation and an energy crisis, Enterprise Ireland client companies are optimistic about the months ahead.
At the launch of its International Markets Week last Tuesday, Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy told SiliconRepublic.com that 84pc of companies backed by the State agency expect to maintain or grow sales this year, with 91pc expecting growth in 2023.
“And that survey was just taken over the last two or three weeks, so it’s very current,” he said.
The event at Dublin’s RDS, which was held in person for the first time in three years, saw more than 140 people from 40 Enterprise Ireland offices around the world come together to meet with its 580 clients and discuss their global expansion plans.
Announced at the event, the survey found that more than 80pc of Irish exporters are aiming to enter new international markets over the next 12 months. Of those companies, one-third said North America is the priority for them in 2023, with 27pc prioritising Europe and 19pc looking at the UK.
While these figures seem hopeful, Clancy isn’t oblivious to the challenges being faced by companies in Ireland. Rising energy costs and supply chain disruptions caused by macroeconomic events, such as the war in Ukraine, are hurting businesses financially.
“We know there is a lot of pain out there,” he said after the event, which was also attended by Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English, TD.
Clancy added that Budget 2023 announced last month aims to lessen the blow of some of the challenges. In particular, the €200m Ukraine Enterprise Crisis Scheme is set to help alleviate some of the costs associated with the crisis, providing up to €2m in grant aid for energy-intensive companies affected by the rising energy costs.
“I am pleased that the number of Enterprise Ireland companies entering new markets has increased and that companies remain positive and export-focused in a fast-changing world for the year ahead,” added English.
Peter Coppinger was one of the entrepreneurs speaking at a panel discussion during the event on the theme of ‘leading in a changing world’. The CEO and co-founder of software company Teamwork raised concerns about talent shortages.
“The biggest challenge for us is probably hiring. We are forced to go to other markets to hire people to scale faster to keep up with our ambition,” he said, referring to his company’s recent opening of an office in Denver to expand coverage in another time zone.
“But we’re actually in a pretty fortunate position. We don’t anticipate any slowdown in our business, we know exactly what we’re going after.”
Vivian Farrell, CEO of medtech company Modular Automation, added that accessing and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges for her team right now.
“We’ve been really busy, I suppose, in ensuring that we have everything that we need in place to retain and keep people as happy as we can on site,” Farrell told SiliconRepublic.com.
Clancy said that the Government and Enterprise Ireland are working on “many strands of practical supports” to help with the employee attraction and retention problem among early-stage companies – but there’s another thing that can go a long way in helping.
“We think the most important thing is that we create a sense of excitement among people about what working in an early-stage entrepreneurial company can mean for your career,” he said.
“And I think there’s massive opportunity for a lot of talent in Ireland to experience so many aspects of a business when you work in a smaller company. And that’s the kind of excitement we need to have.”
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