Dynamism, Entrepreneurship & Engineering an Ecosystem

A layman’s read of a recent Brookings Institute study on “Declining Business Dynamism” in the United States” has left me feeling more positive than ever about an entrepreneurial ecosystem on the Louth/Monaghan/Down/Armagh border. Our self-styled Emerald Valley.

Business dynamism is the process by which firms continually are born, fail, expand, and contract, as some jobs are created, others are destroyed, and others still are turned over. Research has firmly established that this dynamic process is vital to productivity and sustained economic growth. Entrepreneurs play a critical role in this process, and in net job creation.¹

It has huge implications as I learned in a talk on “Competitive Immigration”² delivered at the National Business Incubator Association (NBIA) Conference aptly named Entrepreneurship Energizing Economies.

Torsten Kolind, serial entrepreneur and YouNoodle.com cofounder, cited this study.Unknown He’s a Scandinavian born entrepreneur living and working in California. His startup employs dozens and generates significant revenues. Yet, his residence status in the US is in limbo. And he’s not alone.

Microsoft has been locating more and more facilities in Canada, because of US immigration policy. Talent is hard to find and foreign nationals educated in American often cannot remain. Starting up in the US is not as easy as it once was, best evidenced by the fact that ST>RT-UPCHILE, Chile’s innovative program to create the biggest start-up community in the world, has its highest percentage of applicants from the US.

Why does “dynamism” matter? America’s economic success story was owed to dynamism. The political, banking and financial institutions were long owned by a power elite, at first descended from the earliest settlers and later by second and third generation immigrants, all conservatively protecting their acquired wealth.

It has always been the latest wave of immigrants who were the risk takers, the entrepreneurs, the mavericks. Restriction on immigration since the end of the 20th century has stopped the tide.³

America’s dynamism has been rapidly declining since 1978.

What does it mean for Ireland?  Their loss is our gain. Our economy has never been more dynamic. In part because millennials are more entrepreneurial by nature, we have a large immigrant population (foreign nationals formed 14% of UK start-ups) and a shortage of the “pensionable” jobs that would have employed many. There were over 10,700 new start-ups recorded in the Republic in the first quarter of 2014.

Efforts by Enterprise Ireland (EI) and Invest Northern Ireland (INI) have continued the steady flow of traditional FDI and we are now attracting young companies, even from Silicon Valley. “Start-up visas” work to our advantage and are available in the ROI & NI .

Dublin is poised to overtake London as Europe’s IT Real Estate Capital,  “It feels a little bit like a mini-San Francisco…” says one recently relocated founder.

These startups are the third wave of tech companies moving to Ireland. Beginning in the 1970s, Apple, HP, Intel and Dell went there to establish a European presence, get a tax break and begin expanding into the multinational corporate giants they are today. They were followed by Google, Facebook, Zynga, PayPal, LinkedIn and Salesforce.

Silicon Valley no longer holds a monopoly on innovation. First class regional tech clusters have grown up  across the globe. In Ireland, there are Dublin’s Silicon Docks, Belfast’s Northern Ireland Science Park, Derry’s Imagineering Quarter & the Northwest Regional Science Park among others.

Where’s the opportunity? Dynamic national economies, globally interdependent will prosper. Ireland, both Northern Ireland and the Republic, have invested heavily in attracting FDI. Entrepreneurial ecosystems have emerged in cities across the island. Specific investment is being made in creating centers of excellence for Fin(ancial)Tech, Life Sciences and Digital Creativity among many others. A commitment to growing our digital economy island-wide would bring economic growth outside the Dublin/Belfast corridor.

How will we do it? This will require us to “engineer” regional tech clusters. There are many we can model ourselves on. Dino Vendetti a VC at Bay Partners outlines the formula used to create  a regional tech cluster in Bend, Oregon. The steps are simple and straightforward.

Geography and Diaspora are our distinct advantages here. Bend, Oregon is over 500 miles and an 8 hour drive from Silicon Valley. Nowhere in Ireland is that far from the centers of excellence already established in Dublin, Belfast & beyond. We don’t have to look far for “Entrepreneurial Density” or travel far for “Local Entrepreneurial Community Entrepreneurial-driven Events“.

Excellent “Universities” and technical colleges exist across the island.

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 7.41.51 PM

Local Early-Stage Risk Capital” is where the Diaspora comes in. We now have an investment vehicle in the Republic that will allow for fund creation attractive to American investors.*

And we’ve done all this before. In 1959 “free zones” were a brand new concept, the Shannon Development Company was the first to be formed…

as a development agency. Its mandate was to generate alternative sources of business and traffic through the airport. It acted on three fronts 

  • It established the world’s first industrial free zone
  • It developed a number of tourist products within the Shannon Region and promoted tourist traffic through the airport
  • It also marketed the airport among the airlines of the world as a training base, refueling stop, maintenance and repair center, and a destination stop.

From the outset, Shannon Development was an immediate and dramatic success. The free zone attracted some major international companies e.g. De Beers Corporation, Jonathan Logan, Standard Pressed Steel and General Electric.

At the time, no one imagined these companies would locate here. They did. The skilled workforce that grew up around them seeded new businesses and industries. It paved the way for Apple, HP, Intel & Dell.

Dynamism, let’s rethink our economy in terms of these advantages and expand our digital economy island-wide.



¹ Hathaway & Litan, Declining Business Dynamism in the US, Brookings.edu, 5. May 2014

² From the 28th annual NBIA.org conference:

Competitive Immigrationimages

Find out some of the latest international efforts to lure the best entrepreneurs. Presenters will explain how several countries have launched start-up visa programs, how cross-border migration affects the entrepreneurial ecosystem, what current policy initiatives are happening, and how to help your program stand out in the increasingly competitive global landscape. Torsten Kolind, CEO and co-founder, YouNoodle, San Francisco, Calif. Sunil Sharma, Managing Partner, Extreme Venture Partners and EIR, Hyperdrive Accelerator, Toronto, ON, CanadaModerator: Stan Tomsic, Executive Director, PortTechLA Innovation Center, San Pedro, Calif.

³ Hathaway & Litan, Declining Business Dynamism in the US,

* Courtesy of Global Perspectives founder Shane Brett, author “The Future of Hedge Funds & The AIFMD Cheat Sheet”

Emerald Valley – One year old!

It has been a year to the month that we set up on Canal Street, and we are Empowering Change in Emerald Valley now!

We’ve grown, we’ve pivoted and we’re better than ever!

…at the Bath House:

Artful First Fridays is now a regular feature. Launched in October, Peadar Jackson generously shared his work. Ten pieces are on display through November. It has transformed the space. Visit and tell us which should become part of our permanent collection!Rostrevor artist Colum McEvoy will exhibit in December with an Artful First Friday reception on December 7th. We are open by appointment and most Friday evenings.

Winter Showcase!  “Good News” stories abound.  Join us Friday, 23 November.

The Women that Work group is hosting an open house and members will display their products and services. Start your holiday shopping or visit to see how our professionals can help market your business with their services.

Our partners at Absolute Entertainment Ireland have kept the Bath House busy! We were delighted to have hosted the filming of a music video by Allison McGrath.

With Wasted, we added film to our arts & culture repertoire. Cathy Brady and her film crew were resident for two weeks. A Newry native, she returned from England to set her latest film in the Mournes and Donegal. We are hoping to host a screening soon! Whet your appetite with a look at  her work.

We hosted Minister Arlene Foster on a Newry visit arranged by Councillor Connaire McGreevey. She toured the Canal Street co-working space, chatted with our resident start-ups and SME’s but seemed most taken with our young volunteers. …on Canal Street:

Our Summer Showcase introduced you to three new businesses we were proud to have “incubated” on Canal Street. Phlok.me – sponsored the Belfast DANI (Digital Advertising in NI) and I was delighted to join them. The application offers loyalty points and a social network to keep you up to date with friends & participating retailers between Dublin and Belfast.  Sign on and get points for following Grounded, Jack Murphy Jewelers, Maypole Interiors and more from Newry.

Then add merchants from Belfast to Dublin. You are on your way to a points award of £25.

Resident company,  SocialClix biz won recognition for their work on Tyrone Timber Frame. If your digital marketing is “do it yourself”, follow them on Phlok, Facebook or Twitter for a stream of updates to maximize your digital marketing impact. If DIY is exhausting visit SocialClix.biz – they’d be happy to review your strategy and propose a plan to streamline it.

We were delighted to read what Kallsafe.com had to say about their experience at Empowering Change:

The offices provide everything a start-up needs; space to grow when you need to, meeting rooms, good infrastructure and an environment of collaboration where entrepreneurs come together, meet, exchange ideas, challenge each other and celebrate successes.

Mobipaypoint – another pioneering resident has rebranded as Mozobi – after worldwide market research indicated this had the broadest appeal.  The rest is hush-hush until the official announcements – we can’t wait! Tech startups are not our only residents.

Traditional businesses and consultancies form the core of our residents. Prestige Design & Print (PDP), NetCare & Relive Productions – all resident for a year now, offer support – sharing their combined 1/2 century of experience – with folks just starting out.

New startups, residents & members include: Anabu, BMM People Development, Terra Nova and The Gaelic Foundation.

Startups don’t just happen.  Eve Earley and Empowering Change associates create the environment to energise success.

…at Empowering Change

We support your change in a disciplined, collaborative & supportive environment with individual coaching & counseling, group work and courses or by inviting you to participate in events with like-minded people at “Cafe Conversations” or “Friday Meet-ups”.

We also support Neo Ireland, a social enterprise whose board comprises our pioneering residents. Its mission is to grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem by supporting businesses and projects that will help change the culture to embrace the idea of self employment. This will make the way easier for us all.

A few of those projects include: BizCampNI,  Learn 2 Learn 4 Life and Newry’s POP – Newry’s Pride of Place.

Interested? Call in for a chat or join us on a Friday evening to catch the buzz on the Quay!

*Wondering about the “for Rent” sign on Canal Street? Help us out! It’s only the ground & 2nd floors that are available. We want great neighbours!

Our “pivot” moved half our residents to the more comfortable 1st floor (nearer the coffee!). We still offer memberships, desks and conference room rental.  We’re also supporting “The Hub” and “Mind Your Business NI”. There are now 3 co-working spaces in Newry. There is no excuse for spending the day at work in a hotel lobby or coffee shop. Take your small business seriously with a professional or virtual home with one of us!


The Prosperity Process, A Conversation in Three Parts

Embracing a Prosperity Process

 “It’s the economy, stupid”

Join us for all or part of an exploration of what it will take to move beyond the peace process to prosperity.

How can we choose to overcome our collective obstacles to change?

What are the obstacles?


June 21st , 5:30-7:30pm

Attitudinal Changes

 What are the obstacles to our “parking” the National question? Critical if we are to accept that 6 million people are a stronger market if cohesive, than 4 + 2 million.  

How do we adapt our language to allow for it?


July 26,  5:30-7:30 pm


How do we focus our efforts island-wide and regionally toward growing complementary centres of excellence. Is this potentially an antidote to approaching FDI and economic development competitively?

How do we  showcase the advantages of the border? We undervalue its attraction to businesses with the advantages of  choosing a jurisdiction while still providing workforce and resource availability from Dublin and Belfast.


August 9th 5.30 – 7.30pm

New Structures & Systems

 A serious discussion about specific quick and long term fixes to realistically approach economic development and sustainability. 

What Public/Private partnerships might emerge to tackle infrastructure projects?

What efficiencies might be achieved in delivering quality health care in the border region?


You may have so much more to suggest, we welcome it. Consider joining the conversation, if not for yourself, then to inspire someone else.

Chatham House Rules* will apply. There can be no movement forward without a full, fair and frank discussion. This is not the place for posturing or politics. We ask only for respectful participation. The intention here is not to create an organization or a movement. It is to empower, catalyse and intrigue.

Please RSVP; Coffee & Tea will be served between 5 & 5:30; a participation fee of £20/€24 is requested; it is waived for supporting members of Empowering Change in Emerald Valley. Enquire about membership or contact Eve


*“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed”.