Outstanding Opportunities For Fintech Innovators in Ireland


Spurred on by a highly supportive ecosystem, Ireland’s fintech businesses are reaching a crucial new stage in their evolution, says Patrick Walsh, founder of the Dogpatch Labs start-up hub. Read on to find out the outstanding opportunities available for fintech innovators in Ireland:

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The fintech sector in Ireland is in rude health and entering a new phase of development. That’s the view of Patrick Walsh, founder and managing director of the Dublin-based start-up hub Dogpatch Labs, an organisation that has played an important role in the development of numerous financial technology companies.

“We are located in the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) so there was always a natural link between us and fintech activities,” Walsh explains. “But what we’re seeing now is fintech taking many different shapes and forms: look at something like a crop-insurance business, to take one example. The question is, is that agricultural technology or is it fintech? I think the lines are starting to blur over what is fintech and what is not.

“The reality is that every industry has payments in it so we are starting to see companies that we could describe as fintech but you could also describe as everything from retail tech or regulation tech to agtech and cyber security.”

Walsh adds that Dogpatch hosts monthly meetings for blockchain developers, as well as for entrepreneurs involved in machine learning and artificial intelligence. “A lot of the discussions there are around those things that are evolving within the context of fintech.”

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Going for growth

Since being set up at the start of 2015, Dogpatch has expanded to fill three floors of The chq Building, and from 30 members to almost 400. The hub runs programmes to support start-ups, as well as to help established corporate partners to explore new opportunities and new ways of working. “The last four years have been a story of growing our community in terms of headcount but also in terms of the programmes we run – the events, the incubators, the accelerators,” Walsh says. “It’s been quite an evolution.”

Ireland – Dublin in particular – occupies a unique position in Europe’s technology landscape, he adds. “I used to work in a UK-based tech company, which had an Irish founder. One of the challenges we faced was deciding where to go next after we had conquered the London market.”

“We talk about operationalising diversity so that it is built into our hiring processes, our facilities, the language we use – and so it is all-pervasive in everything we do as an organisation”

Patrick Walsh, founder, Dogpatch Labs

Walsh pushed for the firm to look to Dublin. “It’s a great market, very open-minded and with a progressive economy. Look at MyTaxi, Deliveroo, Just Eat – Dublin is one of their best-performing cities.

“We love new technology here, we love the sharing economy – so Ireland ends up being a really interesting pilot market for a lot of technology companies. Dublin is large enough to be a meaningful test bed and you can run a pilot marketing campaign without the level of spend you’d need in, say, London.”

Recommended reading: Ireland Proves Fertile Ground For Fintech Sector

A strong history of tech

Another big advantage today derives from the presence of technology firms that set up in Ireland a decade or two ago, Walsh explains. “Google, which along with Ulster Bank is one of Dogpatch’s longest running partnerships, has just celebrated its 15th anniversary here. So you now have people who perhaps joined Google 10 years ago, who have become leaders in that organisation – they are now starting to create start-ups or help other companies scale up.”

Meanwhile, the country continues to attract leading global technology firms. “Look at Stripe, the Silicon Valley fintech business set up by two Irish entrepreneurs. They have just announced Dublin as their second engineering hub. These companies aren’t simply using Ireland to base their sales or customer service operations.

“What this means is that engineers going to work there aren’t just joining one of the most exciting fintech companies in the world – they’re doing it in Ireland. And in five years from now, those engineers may go on and join another new fintech company in Ireland. I think that’s a really exciting new chapter for us.”

Inclusivity is a key driver

One of the highlights for Dogpatch in 2018 was the visit to the hub of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – in July. “A lot of the work we have been doing is related to supporting young people and diversity,” Walsh says. “That’s why we were chosen for the visit – and the Duchess took part in a diversity round-table discussion.”

Dogpatch has also won two awards this year in recognition of having created a “value-driven, inclusive start-up hub”, according to Walsh. “From the start, we wanted to build a hub where people from every background could feel comfortable coming through the door.

“We are all unconsciously biased in some way, so we started to think about addressing potential biases a bit more deliberately. We talk about operationalising diversity so that it is built into our hiring processes, our facilities, the language we use – and so it is all-pervasive in everything we do as an organisation.”

Walsh adds: “We have 80 different start-ups here and they are all forming their own cultures against the backdrop of the Dogpatch set of values. So there is an opportunity for these founders to think about the organisations they are creating. We think it is a really important part of the work we do.”

Next year, Walsh expects Dogpatch to make more physical upgrades to its site, and he is also looking to exploit the fact that the organisation is based in a “live retail environment” in central Dublin.

“Fintech is a live thing, and you need live-testing environments. So a lot of people are excited about the idea of opening up a new part of Dogpatch where there might be some sort of live-testing environment for payments technology.”

Another issue looming in 2019 is Brexit. “My hope is that London and the UK continue to thrive,” Walsh says. “Being a one-hour flight away from one of the top technology ecosystems in the world is really big for us, so I really hope Brexit does not change the innovation story for Ireland or the UK.”

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