Facebook wants to make friends with Ireland’s start-ups

19 May 2016

Joe Morley, director of partnerships EMEA for Facebook and Instagram. Photo credit: Conor McCabe

Facebook has said that it wants to make its international headquarters in Dublin more open and accessible to Irish and European start-ups and become a focal point for peer knowledge-sharing.

In an exclusive interview with Siliconrepublic.com ahead of last night’s Founders Series event at the Facebook HQ in Silicon Docks, Joe Morley, director of Partnerships EMEA for Facebook and Instagram, said the social media giant is aiming to become more visible in its support of start-ups.

One of the first steps was hosting the Founders Series, where six founders of companies, including Axonista, Zartis.com, Yvolution, PageFair, Zandar and Barricade, talked candidly about some of their worst failures on the start-up journey.

‘Dublin is important to us. Now that there is a lot more depth to the team in Ireland, we are in a better position to engage with the community’

“Tonight was about bringing together like-minded entrepreneurs. It’s all about peer learning and, for Facebook ourselves, we can get more connected with start-ups,” Morley said.

“Ironically, the reason we haven’t really done it to date is because, as an organisation, we keep ourselves deliberately small. It keeps us fast-moving and lean.”

Facebook wants to stick close to its start-up roots


Pictured: John Joyce of Yvolution, Claire McHugh of Axonista, John Dennehy from Zartis, Joe Morely from Facebook, Sean Blanchfield from PageFair, Deirdre Smith from Zandar and David Coallier from Barricade. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography

Morley has a point. Despite Facebook having 1.6bn users worldwide, WhatsApp with 1bn users and Instagram at well over 400m users, the size of its workforce stands in the region of just 13,500 people.

The company has been expanding at full tilt. In 2008, it came to Dublin initially to employ 80 people – that number now stands at more than 1,000 in Silicon Docks, and the social network is also building a €200m data centre in Clonee, County Meath.

“We wouldn’t have been the most visible on the start-up scene because we’ve been so busy.”

Either way, a number of start-ups from Ireland have engaged with Facebook and gone on to enjoy global success as part of Facebook’s ecosystem.

StitcherAds, originally known as Betapond from Waterford, has developed a cross-channel dynamic social ads platform for e-commerce and travel advertisers and has become a part of the Facebook marketing platform.

Another company, Bionic (formerly Flashpoint) from Dublin is also a successful part of the Facebook ecosystem and the company builds advertising technology aimed at advertising agencies.

“We still keep close to our start-up roots. We have an open culture when it comes to sharing information and we like to encourage people, including our friends and family, to come in and share the experience,” said Morley.

Morley, whose principal activity is working on Facebook and Instagram business-to-business partnerships with organisations from start-ups to tech giants like Adobe and IBM, said that the next step is finding ways for start-ups to more easily access the Facebook ecosystem, either via its platform partnerships or via B2B partnerships.

“We are also taking part in a not-for-profit start-up/multinational engagement programme being organised by the Dublin start-up commissioner, and see it also as a toe in the water to start dialogue.”

The Founders Series event last night was the second event to be held at Facebook in Dublin, with a previous event organised by the Halo Business Angels Network taking place a few months ago.

Morley said that the strategy going forward is to facilitate as many peer-learning events between the start-ups and also for Facebook as a company to interact with early-stage and mature start-ups.

“Start-ups and the SMB sector are very important for Facebook and we have well-established, structured programmes here in Ireland. We are engaging with businesses and the challenges they face,” Morley said.

“Dublin is important to us. Now that there is a lot more depth to the team in Ireland we are in a better position to engage with the community.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years