I’ve known Shane Ross since I was in Trinity College (in fact I’m pretty sure I voted for him as senator). He’s a very smart guy who certainly knows what it takes to start a business. But he’s missing an important point in his takedown of Enterprise Ireland.
EI is obviously far from perfect. Like a lot of large organisations (whether it’s semi-state or not) it has plenty of inefficiencies. But for all its problems, it’s a critical part of Ireland’s technology startup ecosystem. Who is the co-investor in most tech startups launched in Ireland? Indeed, who do you think is the cornerstone investor in every single Irish venture capital fund which invests in those same startups? Although there have been definite exceptions (and realistically probably always will be), Enterprise Ireland has been involved in virtually every startup success to come out of this country. You’ll rarely read about the work that Tom Cusack, Ray Walsh, Simone Boswell and several others do (it’s why I’m proud to be one of their Startup Ambassadors). There’s a lot of company founders who owe them a favour or six.
Starting companies is a messy, ugly, bloody business. The media does a good job at glorifying it but the reality is that most of the time you’re fighting for survival, breaking rules and grinding. I’ve talked about this before, the statistical outcome of most startups is death. Which means that a lot of EI investment (in its various forms) will end up in companies which don’t succeed (hence job losses). This is normal. This is how it plays out. This is the necessary failure which is part of any technology startup strategy.
EI has lots of room for improvement. By all means call that out. But criticising them for unsuccessful companies and job losses is spectacularly missing the point.