- We coordinated and collected information from 5 cities, 30 groups in total
- On average, each group, in each city had 10 people, connecting with about 300 participants per city during the breakout sessions
- On average, each group in each city summarized 10 findings for each of the 6 themes that underpin startup ecosystems (Environment, Culture, Skills, Education, Network, State Support), contributing to a database of 300+ inputs in total that need to be refined, analysed and taken forward for follow up actions.
In addition we participated on Science Foundation Ireland Founders Forum event breakout discussions with two key challenge topics: “Embedding Entrepreneurial Thinking in the Irish Research Ecosystem” - How can entrepreneurial skills, thinking and perspectives be embedded in the Irish research ecosystem? And “Enabling Entrepreneurial Endeavour” - How can researchers in Irish researcher bodies be supported and enabled to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours?
Over the last 10 years, on behalf of the Irish Government, SFI has been investing in world-leading research in Irish higher education institutes. This investment is yielding results as is evidenced through our rising global scientific rankings and also in terms of commercialisation outputs – patents, licensing, start-ups, spins outs etc. But this was the first time that SFI brought together their funded researchers who have founded/co-founded a spinout, to share their experiences, raise questions and challenge policies in relation to the start-up sector in Ireland.
As part of our participation in these discussions and also in connection with parallel work we have done as Advisor for some EC Horizon 2020 program, we identified some common challenges and shared some already identified solutions to help embed entrepreneurial thinking and enabling entrepreneurial endeavour among research and higher education, as well as how more effectively move and utilize research findings as for innovation and more specifically to help feed the open innovation and startup ecosystems with deeper knowledge and research to make startups more competitive in a global scale.
While the work with Startup Ireland continues on various tracks and we will continue to analyse the inputs further, we share here some of the initial key findings that were asked to be summarized by each of the group coordinators and that resonate with the startup ecosystem concept:
- One way to view Startup Ecosystems is to envision them as factories, helping to output successful innovative startups. As like any factory, also the ecosystem can be designed to focus on supporting startups with target volume, quality and type. This should guide the work on how ecosystem is to be designed, developed and measured. Also the progress of the startup ecosystem development can be measured by the volume, quality and velocity of the ecosystem activities and output.
- We heard many times keywords like entrepreneurship, startups and innovation used loosely, while in spite of being connected, each have meanings that were understood differently by different parties. It is important to agree and build towards mutual understanding of the locally used definitions of key terms, as part of ongoing communication between and among various people, as "only things that are commonly understood can be improved".
- There was a clear sense of need to embed entrepreneurship skills and mindset at all levels of the education system via entrepreneurial curriculum to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and problem solving skills, businesses creation and sales for various education tracks. At the end of the day, what makes people create amazing things is the “can do” -attitude to make things happen and that attitude lies in values and principles, collaboration, risk aversion, etc. Young people are the future for Ireland and there must be a strong support towards them with events like CoderDojo as Ireland as a country wants to get global leaders, innovative startups and eventually to be competitive and attractive place to live and set up your business. We had the chance to share these thoughts with Jan O'Sullivan, Minister for Education and Skills. The message from her side was quite clear as they are implementing digital schools strategy that will ensure that technology enhances teaching, learning and assessment in their schools, as well as embedding developer & ICT skills.
- There is a wide variety of startup support organizations, services and instruments in each city (either public or private) that are doing a lot to help build successful startups but there is a general feeling amongst them about things would work better if they were able to better connect and act as “one stop shop” by increasing cooperation and communication level between and amongst them to effectively support startups. Because at the end of the day, startups have many available services and it is quite easy to get lost or even worse, wrong match for the service you need based on your current phase. Therefore, there is a will towards breaking the silos.
- From state support perspective, much of the government role is seen to help orchestrate the startup ecosystem as a whole and to focus on connecting, coordinating and promoting development of the startup ecosystem, as well as to measure the pulse and benchmark with other local and global startup ecosystems to identify ways to constantly improve the volume, quality and velocity of the ecosystem innovation output. This measurement should be based on first hand information and real-time primary data, not only individual views, opinions or vanity metrics that have limited relevance for measurable output, as "one can only improve what can be measured". Due to startups world is quite dynamic, it is always moving very fast and knowledge building from the startup ecosystem is a work in progress that must be placed in right hands to make effective decisions. Therefore, from Startup Commons perspective, instead of telling what to do, we focus to empower and enable local key people and organizations with knowledge, support and tools, that fit with the sense of belonging that eventually will inspire a joint effort.
- Another strong signal for clear government role was to focus on investing, developing and operating the physical and digital infrastructures, that enable each of the ecosystem to connect within and with each others and that these function effectively, without needing to really think about it.
- The end of Startup Gathering 2015 is the starting point for each of the cities to build a shared vision using the outputs from the Breakout Sessions to create a Startup Manifesto for each city.
- The aim of creating a draft Startup Manifesto by the end of November 2015 that can be shared at the Startup Gathering National Forum to also sync the local and national action points. Startup Manifestos typically contain a constructive set of goals to create a supportive environment for startups in the city, but above it, they must contain actionable items that drive to action as the only way to make progress is by doing.
- Startup Gathering 2016 is already cooking. Most likely, It will be on November so don’t miss out this opportunity to come to Ireland and connect with a vibrant startup ecosystem.
It is fantastic to discuss about how to see or develop startup ecosystems but in essence, startup ecosystems are about doer people, about their visions, motivations and actions to make a region more innovative and prosperous. We saw that in the eyes of each of the Startup Gathering team members. They are hungry to shake the world. Eoin Costello, CEO at Startup Ireland, and all his team can be proud. The real challenge and commitment starts now. The national effort is guaranteed. The irish future is promising. Let’s make it happens.
Click to see video summaries from each of the cities: Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway