Poll: Is it possible to build a billion-euro startup in Ireland?

The Republic has yet to see a homegrown tech company reach ‘unicorn’ status.

By Conor McMahon Deputy editor, Fora

CHIP DESIGNER MOVIDIUS was tipped to become Ireland’s first tech ‘unicorn’, or billion-euro startup – but those hopes faded last week when computer giant Intel snapped up the firm for more than $300 million.

In an interview with Fora, Movidius co-founder and chief technology officer David Moloney called the acquisition “a validation of decades worth of blood, sweat and tears and it means that the technology has a life outside of this island”.

“Intel brings scale to the business (and) the deal takes us to the next level, it gives us a chance to focus more on our technology and gives us capacity to roll out designs and products,” he said.

Some pundits were disappointed at the news, as Ireland has yet to bring a major indigenous tech firm to scale.

Although the country has produced billion-euro companies – take Ryanair and Paddy Power, for example – few would be classified as startups.

Analysts reckon our relatively small population and Irish entrepreneurs’ tendency to sell their businesses when they reach a certain size as some of the reasons why Ireland has failed to produce its own tech unicorn.

Helen McBreen from Atlantic Bridge, one of the firms that backed Movidius, told Fora she doesn’t think Irish tech companies sell too early, arguing that “the decisions made by companies to sell are decisions to extract the most value”.

“The customer may be in Europe but they could also be in the US or the far east. You may have traction early on with an Irish company (but) large revenue is generated from customers internationally,” she said.

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She added that she felt Ireland is an environment where startups can scale to reach significant valuations.

With that in mind, we’re asking readers: is it possible to build a billion-euro startup in Ireland?