We have a deep rooted problem in Ireland with getting young people to take part in the start-up culture. Every kid who leaves college with a degree in engineering/computing/business in the US wants to build something great. Every kid who leaves college in Ireland with a degree in engineering/computing/business wants a nice job in a bank or multi-national. This has to change.

I’ve been interviewing people for many years in all my different jobs. I’ve always been deeply disappointed by new tech graduates due to their total lack of personal interest in technology and technology businesses. They see a career in software development as no different to a career anywhere else, it’s just a job.

“Just a job” people don’t build Googles or DIGGs or YouTubes. Irish graduates are more than capable of building any of those businesses, they simply don’t seem to have the interest or the will. It is left to old farts like me who love business, love technology and love working in start-ups to try and do it instead.

The dotcom crash destroyed all faith in tech businesses in Ireland and the number of people doing tech degrees 6 years later proves that confidence hasn’t returned. Add to this the lack of training in entrepreneurship (as opposed to business) in Irish colleges and it is no wonder that there is so little activity from (under)grads. We teach people in Ireland how to be employees so there is never any incentive for them to try and build something interesting.

Rather than just griping about this, I think there are practical things we can do. David Copithorne in Waveson has proposed some fantastic ideas for bootstrapping tiny companies in Ireland. I hope he blogs these soon. My angle is basically a pre-SeedCamp one using many of the same ideas as David but targeted at a very specific audience. The deal would be this:

  • Every summer we run a Hothouse in one/more of the colleges

  • It is open to those who graduate that summer or the following summer

  • 10 weeks long

  • Build something you can demo

  • You’ll have subsistence money to live/eat

  • A limited company will be formed for you and all legals/IP taken care of

  • You’ll get introductions to everyone you need to help you get the thing built

  • You present your product at the end

  • If your pitch is successful, you get further funding to launch and run it (equity angle could come in here)

  • It might be a nice way for some of the multinationals based here who have zero local engagement with the local start-up scene to finally engage. The whole thing could be sponsored as follows:

      * Amazon - EC2 and S3
      * Google - Scalability training and maybe server farm access? Intro to some relevant SV people
      * Microsoft - Entire dev suite and run-time licences
      * Top 5 law Firm  - All legals
      * SUN - servers, OSes
      * EMC - storage, intro to some relevant Boston people
      * UCC/CIT/UCD etc - the location, accommodation, business training
      * EI/CEB - access to compressed START or Genesis-style training
      * Delta/Trinity/Kernel - Pitch training and introductions
      * BIC - Angel introductions
      * All of the above - money

The first run of this will probably not work very well for all the reasons I outlined at the beginning. But bit by bit the message will get out that there are more interesting things to do with your summer than working in a pub in Newark. By year three, the competition to get in will hopefully be cut-throat.


p.s. for those of you wondering who the hell David Heinemeier Hansson is, he’s the young guy who created Ruby on Rails, the framework behind many of your favourite web applications. p.p.s yes of course there are some great webapps being built by young guys/gals here. Just not enough!