New digital start-up hub emerges in Dublin – north of the Liffey

15 Jul 2013

Bridging two tech districts: Samuel Beckett Bridge, which links up the north and south of the River Liffey along the Dublin Docklands

There’s a new tech start-up hub in Dublin. And it’s right in the heart of the Dublin Docklands, a stone’s throw away from the so-called Silicon Docks over the river, where the likes of LinkedIn, Google and Facebook are beavering away. Eight start-ups that have just spun out of the Wayra accelerator are creating their own start-up co-working hub in the Liffey Trust building in Dublin 1.

The digital start-up scene in Dublin is alive and kicking right now. Every other day you hear of a new venture that is emerging to disrupt sectors, from gaming to health. But where do these start-ups set up shop to grow their ventures, especially once they spin out of accelerators such as DCU Ryan Academy’s Propeller programme, DIT Hothouse or the NDRC?

There’s a plethora of empty buildings dotted around the Irish capital, but start-ups are still finding it hard to find suitable spaces to move into so as to continue working on their ventures, take on interns, and potentially spawn new jobs for developers, salespeople, marketers and business heads.

Enter the Liffey Trust building on Upper Sheriff Street, Dublin 1. Sandwiched between the O2 entertainment venue, the Luas terminal and the new Gibson Hotel, the building already hosts a dance studio, residential spaces, retail units and more established Irish start-ups, such as Rentview (a former tech start-up of the week, which spun out of the NDRC) and the charity Habitat for Humanity.

The LiffeyTrust identified the immediate and urgent requirements of a new business setting up which were not covered by the State help agencies. One of these need is space and we decided to create a space in part of our building dedicated to ( Digital) start ups.   This incubation space will be a hub/ community for them to work from and hopefully grow creating jobs for the Irish economy.  

Some of the co-working space in the Liffey Trust building. Photo via The Liffey Trust

Now, the owners of the Liffey Trust building have spotted a niche to let out co-working spaces to technology start-ups.

And eight new start-ups are capitalising on the opportunity. These ventures have just finished up their stint on the Wayra accelerator. They are game-development company Glass Robot; predictive behavioural analytics start-up Conker; digital magazine venture; enterprise email client platform Hiri; social media rewards app Popdeem; social betting start-up Bragbet; mobile phone payment start-up player Paymins; and the gameful learning start-up Thoughtbox. The latter venture is also a former start-up of the week.

Russell Banks, the co-founder of Conker, said the co-working space is very “exciting” for the start-ups. He said it means they can continue the start-up ecosystem they had nurtured while on the Wayra programme.

“Our balconies open out onto one another, so there’s a type of Eastenders feeling around here!” he said.

According to Banks, there is room for another 30-40 people to rent out office space in the Liffey Trust building.

He said tech start-ups are finding it a huge challenge to find suitable co-working office space in the city right now, with rents still being too high and landlords often reluctant to take on the risk of housing new ventures.

‘Getting’ the start-up vibe in Dublin

In the case of the Liffey Trust, however, Banks says the managers there ‘get’ the tech entrepreneurship buzz that is sweeping across Dublin.

“I pitched them what I was prepared to pay in terms of rent in an ideal world and they came back to me and gave me exactly that. We got a good deal,” he said. “They have kitted out the place with office furniture and we pay our rent three months in advance. It mitigates the risk for them.”

As for the Liffey Trust building, there’s a bit of history attached to it. For instance, it burned down in 2002.

The Liffey Trust Ltd was founded in 1984 to help create jobs by assisting potential entrepreneurs, community and other enterprise groups to grow their business and charity ideas.

According to Michelle McDermott, general manager of the Liffey Trust, in terms of start-ups, the trust identified the immediate and “urgent” requirements of new businesses setting up that are not getting funding from State agencies.

“One of these needs is space and we decided to create a space in part of our building dedicated to digital start-ups,” she said. “This incubation space will be a hub and community for them to work from and hopefully grow – creating jobs for the Irish economy.”

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic