New start-up space for Dublin — Dogpatch and Ulster Bank to develop 8,000 sq ft vaults

25 Jul 2015

Ulster Bank's Maeve McMahon (foreground) with Patrick Walsh briefing Minister for State Simon Harris (background)

Historic 200-year-old vaults with 8,000 sq ft of space beneath the chq Building in the IFSC are to be transformed into a focal meeting point for Dublin’s burgeoning start-up community after a deal was reached between co-working space provider Dogpatch Labs and Ulster Bank.

Dogpatch Labs managing director Patrick Walsh told that the start-up community in Dublin needs a central location to host meet-ups, workshops and hackathons.

“The idea is to rekindle the flame of collaboration made possible when the Engine Yard and Wayra facilities were available. The lack of a focal meeting point for hackathons and workshops has left a vacuum at a very pivotal time in the history of start-ups in Ireland.”

He said that development of the vaults will begin immediately with plans to open doors in November.

A new focal point for Ireland’s start-up community


The stairs leading to the vaults at Dogpatch Labs

The move will embed Ulster Bank within Ireland’s growing technology ecosystem, particularly in terms of fintech, and coincides with the rollout of the IFS 2020 strategy. As part of this Ulster Bank will be locating a six-person solutions team at Dogpatch Labs to soak up start-up spirit and the vaults will serve as an off-site innovation hub for Ulster Bank workshops and demos.

Walsh said that for 200 years the vaults beneath chq Building were at the heart of commerce in Dublin and he intends the vaults to be a focal point for a new generation of businesses to meet, learn and collaborate.


A concept illustrating one of the series of meeting areas in the vaults at Dogpatch Labs

“The start-up community needs this kind of infrastructure in the centre of Dublin. It will be available not just to Dogpatch Labs residents but also the wider tech community in Ireland.”

He cited the example of groups like Python Ireland, whose meet-ups have to change locations if hotels get paid bookings.

‘The start-up ecosystem is organically growing to a point where it needs an events space for meetups and grassroots movements’


Dogpatch opened its doors in Dublin in September 2011 initially as an accelerator owned by Polaris on an invite-only basis, hosting fast-emerging Irish start-ups such as Intercom, Boxever, Trustev, Logentries, Profitero and CoderDojo.

The new Dogpatch Labs headed by Walsh instead operates on a “pay-to-play” basis. Current tenants include some of IDA Ireland’s most promising clients — Udemy, NuoDB and Twilio — while local start-ups include ChangeX as well as regionally headquartered but fast-moving start-ups like Cork’s Teamwork and Waterford’s NearForm.

Fired up for fintech

Minister of State Simon Harris, who is driving the IFS 2020 strategy, said the move could be useful in terms of growing Ireland’s fintech community, given the proximity of the new vaults space to the IFSC.

“I particularly welcome the model that this partnership embodies – the large corporate supporting a thriving and dynamic start-up space. I commend Ulster Bank for their foresight.”

Walsh agreed that the model is similar partnership models between corporates and start-up co-working spaces in San Francisco, as typified by players like Rocketspace.

“I think it is about safeguarding the momentum of the start-up community in Dublin and in Ireland right now. Not only are we at the heart of Dublin and reachable by every form of public transport but it is easy for start-ups from all over Ireland to reach too.”


Floorplan for the new start-up meeting space in Dublin, comprising a networking area, auditorium and rooms for meetings and workshops

Walsh said that the 8,000 sq ft facility will consist of a dedicated events space capable of hosting more than 100 people at a time as well as a number of sectioned-off rooms and spaces ideal for meetings and tech workshops that can hold 25 people apiece.

“This isn’t a sponsorship for us – any organisation could put money into a venture – Dogpatch’s ethos exemplifies our ambition for Ulster Bank and supporting businesses to reach their potential,” said Maeve McMahon, director of customer experience and product at Ulster Bank.

“There is something unique about Dogpatch Labs which can’t be articulated and we are delighted to be supporting the next stage of its development.

“It will help us connect even more with the Irish start-up community, as well as provide an innovative environment and culture for the bank. We hosted Ireland’s first banking hackathon at the beginning of the year, which was aimed at exploring better ways of serving customers via an intensive peer-to-peer collaborative process. We have also been working with the FinTech Innovation Lab which mentors start-up companies through a 12-week programme,” McMahon said.

Walsh said that the whole point is to create a central meeting place for the start-up community and fill the vacuum left by the loss of the meet-up spaces previously provided by Engine Yard and the 10,000 sq ft Wayra facilities.

“The start-up ecosystem is organically growing to a point where it needs an events space for meetups and grassroots movements,” Walsh said.

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