'In Ireland, large firms often view startups with a mix of fear and intrigue'

There’s a lot more to be gained by collaborating with young firms rather than being threatened by them.

By James Jenkins Yates CEO, Airsorted

THERE IS A promising amount of untapped potential to work together that exists between businesses in Ireland.

When we first arrived, we found Dublin awash with new ideas. A buzzing community of young, smart entrepreneurs were hatching plans across the capital.

Tech was thriving and accelerators accelerating. However, while startups and larger, more established companies coexist, rarely do the two meet here.

Startups, it seems, are often viewed with a combination of fear and intrigue. Partnerships between new and long-existing businesses are rare, even when very real, commercially viable opportunities exist.

Airsorted brought with it a business model that it had inherited from its UK counterparts. Gung-ho from a rapid rise in its previous two cities, London and Edinburgh, Dublin’s startup scene seemed like the natural next step. The eurozone awaited.

Our business model relies on the ability to connect multiple contractors in one streamlined service. Airbnb hosts require their apartments to be cleaned, their laundry to be laundered, breakages to be repaired.

Our platform is an on-demand marketplace for these contractors to service a large community of hosts. The model was rolled out with relative ease in London and Edinburgh.

There already existed established contractors who were ready to service this new lucrative online market with minimum notice and maximum flexibility. There was a genuine appetite for collaborative change.

It was expected that Ireland would be the same, that given the thriving tech scene and general embrace of innovation, that our time to market would be minimal.

However, despite the rapid ascent of sharing economy websites such as Airbnb, and the development of online marketplaces, it appears that many established businesses in Ireland are struggling to keep up with the pace of the change, even when the opportunity presents itself.


One of our hurdles came in the form of linen. Few of the many large-scale linen contractors that we spoke to would entertain the notion that a profitable market for rented linen could exist outside hotels, hospitals and nursing homes.

Even when we presented the data to support the claim that a lucrative business awaited, they couldn’t fathom adapting their business model to such an extent to supply small-scale, high turnover properties.

Many startups we spoke to were facing similar setbacks. A market could exist, if only collaborators, large and small, had foresight, flexibility and some similar appetite for risk.

Why was it so difficult for companies of different sizes and stages to speak the same language of growth? A real opportunity exists for all companies to capitalise on the rapidly expanding, fast-paced, online, on-demand marketplace; this is nothing new.

But the notion that a small startup may offer the products and services for a much larger company to succeed does deviate from common practice.

Unsurprisingly, the tech giants are somewhat of an anomaly – they’re in the business and most of them are oversized startups anyway, so the culture and appetite for risk are more aligned with smaller companies coming down the tracks.

Some other large firms are catching up; Accenture’s heavy investment in its new centre for innovation, The Dock, is an attempt to be at the forefront of change.

However, there are so many companies and sectors that have yet to evolve. Many attempt to adapt, spending excessive amounts of money on developing bespoke systems that are inflexible and quickly obsolete.

At the same time, many startups dream of securing big clients for their clever inventions but are turned away again and again.

Change is afoot and adaptation is necessary for survival. If larger, stagnant companies don’t outsource new, fresh ideas or at least embrace innovation internally, then they will inevitably lose market share.

James Jenkins Yates is the founder and CEO of Airsorted.

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