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A greenhouse for innovation - Ireland's startup ecosystem


Patricia Borlovan

· 4 min read
A greenhouse for innovation - Ireland's startup ecosystem
Explore the Irish startup ecosystem, where innovative ideas are nurtured and fostered by constant support and a dynamic entrepreneurial spirit.

With its rolling green hills and storied past, Ireland isn’t just a haven for history and nature enthusiasts; it has quietly evolved into a bubbling startup ecosystem.

From Dublin's bustling tech hub to Cork's innovative spirit, Ireland's cities serve as ideal springboards for emerging businesses. Let's delve into the remarkable evolution of startups in Ireland from modest roots to international contenders.

Ireland’s strong pillars

This beautiful country has a robust economic foundation and a reputation for being one of the most business-friendly countries in the world.

Ireland provides a fertile ground where startups can grow and thrive, and people’s opinions reflect Ireland’s growth in the eyes of the public. According to Tech Ireland’s survey, 64% of people believe that Ireland is a better place to start a business than it was five years ago.

Strategic geographical positioning

Ireland is a bridge gateway between Europe and North America, thus facilitating international business operations. The country also thrives on its rich talent pool, especially in technical aspects, marketing areas, and international relations. Its talent pool comes thanks to its strong education system and the presence of global tech giants that have fostered a skilled workforce in the region.

Coupled with this is the sectoral strength in Agtech, Fintech, and Healthtech, where pre-existing industries and supportive regulatory frameworks have given rise to innovative startups ready to become global contenders.

Flexible financial infrastructure

Ireland has advantageous corporate tax structures and Research & Development tax incentives, serving as springboards for entrepreneurial ventures and overseas investments.

Ireland's regulatory bodies have demonstrated a progressive and adaptable approach towards emerging businesses and technologies, particularly in Fintech sectors, which demand a delicate balance between innovation facilitation and risk mitigation.

Great educational infrastructure

The educational background of the country is another pillar that attracts attention. Irish universities and institutions are breeding grounds for young, tech-savvy talent and research and innovation hubs, spawning ideas that often translate into startups. Adding to a collaborative culture that encourages knowledge transfer between academia and industry leads to more innovative solutions.

Furthermore, with international technology giants in the local community and various industries establishing substantial operations in Ireland, there is a reciprocal relationship where corporations and startups can leverage each other's presence, assets, and expertise to mutual benefit.

The startup funding landscape in Ireland

Over the years, government funding and assistance predominantly drove the Irish startup ecosystem. However, in the recent 4-5 years, significant exits and international achievements have paved the way for a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Consequently, while the government laid the foundation, the ecosystem is now transitioning to one that is still supported by governmental initiatives but steered by these seasoned entrepreneurs.

As captured in the Tech Ireland 2024 Funding Review, the Irish startup ecosystem displayed remarkable resilience in 2023. While total funding dipped from €1.3B in 2022 to €847M in 2023, the number of companies securing investment doubled, exceeding 400 companies closing deals last year.

Source: Tech Ireland — 2024 Funding Review

The report also highlighted sectors poised for growth and innovation in 2023, particularly the technology and innovation sectors, driven by an unyielding demand for digital transformation and innovative technologies. Companies like Everseen, involved in AI adoption, and Weev, in the EV charging infrastructure space, with investments of €50M, respectively, exemplify the strategic focus on technology and ESG-driven investments that align with current market demands.

Source: Tech Ireland — 2024 Funding Review

The momentum continued into early 2024 with notable acquisitions such as SoftCo by Keensight Capital (over €100M) and the sale of Chanelle Pharmaceuticals to private equity group Exponent (approximately €300M).

This trend highlights Ireland's attractive investment environment and a strong startup scene that continues to demonstrate adaptability. While some caution lingers due to global uncertainties, there are signs of continued investment, particularly in these sectors positioned for long-term growth and sustainability.

“We are confident that there is significant scope to grow the Northern Ireland startup and tech ecosystem further. This could become a Cambrian moment for more quality start-ups to be founded and accelerated, new businesses in which local and off-island investors will be keen to invest.

There is an ever-developing and interconnected startup ecosystem of stakeholders across the island that is enabling this transformation, and InterTradeIreland is a key connection point in that ecosystem.”

Says Drew O’Sullivan, Lead Equity Advisor for Tech Ireland 2024 Funding Review

Ireland’s major startup communities

Dublin, the capital, often known as "The Silicon Docks," and many other major cities that are major attractions for tech giants, has witnessed a surge of homegrown startups rubbing shoulders with many international players.

The city's diverse talent pool, supported by organizations such as Trinity College, provides a fertile ground for creativity and technological advancement.

Source: Tech Ireland — 2024 Funding Review

The result? Many successful startups across sectors like FinTech, SaaS, and Biotech have emerged from here, drawing global attention.

Dublin: The heartbeat of Irish startups

Dublin's startup ecosystem enjoys a standing for its inclusivity, diversity, and accessibility. The city is considered the heart of the Irish startup ecosystem and is ranked Ireland's best startup ecosystem and 10th in Western Europe.

The local startup ecosystem is diverse, welcoming, and accessible. Both the city and the country recurrently secure favorable positions in numerous annual startup ecosystem rankings, underscoring their commendable reputation in the entrepreneurial arena. Dublin offers entrepreneurs all sorts of opportunities, including startup grants, support, and networking events organized by The Digital Hub and the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

Beyond the capital: expanding innovation across Ireland

However, the entrepreneurial spirit isn't confined to Dublin alone. Cities like Cork, Galway, and Limerick have been nurturing their startup communities, buoyed by local universities, tech parks, and incubators.

The collaborative spirit embedded in these cities and unique regional strengths have birthed innovations ranging from agri-tech solutions in rural areas to cutting-edge health tech in urban centers.

Ireland’s most funded sectors

Nowadays, you’ll find a strong focus on various sectors in this startup ecosystem, such as Energy/CleanTech, HealthTech, FinTech, Life Sciences, and many others.

Source: Tech Ireland — 2024 Funding Review

Energy and ClimateTech is the most funded sector in 2024.

The industry's major trends are thanks to Europe’s higher focus on Energy and thanks to the Irish government announcing the implementation of two new state funds by the Minister for Finance and publishing its first energy security strategy paper to enhance Ireland's energy security position.

Source: Europe Tech Update – Q1 2024

The Marine Institute has also contributed significantly, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, as they funded several renewable energy projects, awarding up to €200,000 each to seven different companies and research initiatives.

You can explore future industry trends in this great video explainer from Mason Hayes & Curran Lawyers.

The next sector that is gathering investors' attention is health tech, where startups in Ireland have recently received significant funding, with many companies securing multi-million dollar investments. For example, Altach raised €1.2M to enhance articular cartilage injury treatments, and the Irish venture capital firm Seroba closed its Fund IV at the beginning of this year to target new investments in life sciences and HealthTech.

The Fintech space in Ireland has also been gaining traction, largely due to its proximity to London, a global financial center. Many major financial institutions have established their presence in Ireland, leveraging the benefits of remaining an active trading member of the EU.

Spotlight on unicorns & future unicorns

Stripe, established by the Irish brothers Patrick and John Collison, dominates the global payment processing sphere, reaching a valuation of approximately $68B while maintaining its roots through an office in Dublin despite being headquartered in San Francisco.

Intercom is the next well-known company in Ireland's unicorn herd. It emerged in Dublin in 2011, transforming customer communication with its sophisticated messaging and engagement tools and achieving the unicorn milestone in 2018.

Other noteworthy enterprises like Fenergo and TransferMate have demonstrated Ireland’s prowess in Fintech, reaching unicorn status in 2018 and 2023, respectively.

With an enchanting blend of homegrown and internationally-relocated unicorns like Udemy, AMCS, Trustpilot, and Workhuman, Ireland unfailingly provides a conducive environment for startups to flourish and transcend borders.

Together, these unicorns illuminate the formidable strength and future potential of Ireland’s startup ecosystem, validating its standing as a hotbed for innovation and enterprise in various industrial landscapes, from finance to health, on a global stage.

Irish Venture Capital Funds.

  • Enterprise Ireland — The team partners with venture capital funds to finance small and medium-sized enterprises. Over €700m of Enterprise Ireland funding is under management in Seed and Venture Capital funds.
  • Act Venture Capital — A Dublin-based fund that targets Irish seed-stage startups. The firm's investment team usually puts between €500k and €5m into each company.
  • Delta Partners Ireland — A venture capital firm that invests in technology startups. The firm typically invests between €100k and €3m in seed and Series A rounds.
  • Elkstone Partners — A venture capital firm that invests in technology startups. The firm typically invests between €500k and €5m in seed and Series A rounds.
  • — A venture capital firm that invests in early-stage technology startups. The firm typically invests between €500k and €3m in seed and Series A rounds.
  • Atlantic Bridge Capital — A venture capital firm that invests in technology startups. The firm typically invests between €2m and €20m in each company.
  • Mediahuis Ventures — a corporate venture capital arm of Mediahuis that backs startups developing innovative solutions for students and the modern workforce.
  • Kernel Capital — Kernel Capital is a VC of the country’s oldest bank. The firm aims to be the first institutional investor and oftentimes tends to lead or co-invest with other prominent institutional players and high-net-worth individuals.
  • Sure Valley Ventures — Sure Valley Ventures is an entrepreneur-led fund interested in software-focused startups across the British-Irish Isles.
  • Furthr VC — Founded in 1990, Furthr VC is the venture capital arm of Furthr based in Dublin, Ireland. The firm seeks to invest in early-stage companies operating in Ireland's B2B software products and medical devices sectors.
  • Nomad Capital — Nomad Capital is a seed-stage fund that invests in emerging companies building marketplaces and B2B software.
  • Venture Wave Capital — The VentureWave Capital team focuses on investing in businesses with high potential for impact. They support companies with a positive social impact that meets at least one of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Tapestry Venture Capital — Tapestry VC is a fund from the organizers of one of Europe’s largest startup conferences - Web Summit, first organized in 2009.

These are just a few of the most local active venture capital funds.

Additionally, Dublin has an excellent ecosystem of accelerators and incubators that provide pre-seed funding, mentorship, and support for pre-seed and seed-stage startups.

  • NDRC LaunchPad — is Ireland's national startup accelerator program for globally ambitious entrepreneurs. It provides startups mentorship, investment, and support to help them scale up their businesses.
  • Dublin BIC — This firm runs different programs, some of which are accelerator programs, for entrepreneurs at the idea stage to scale-ups. The most famous programs are Dublin BIC Smart Start and Dublin BIC Innovate. Each program has terms, investment funding (if any), benefits, duration, and selection criteria.
  • New Frontiers — One of Ireland’s top accelerators for startups. Since its inception in 2012, it has helped over 500 founders build and scale their businesses.


Looking ahead, Ireland's ability to adapt to evolving market conditions and its commitment to fostering innovation, particularly in the technology and sustainability sectors, stands out right now. This, coupled with a growing pool of successful exits like Cubic Telecom and Immedis, creates a compelling narrative for future investors.

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Want to check out another interesting European market?

Read our article on the Netherlands region, which features the essential things you need to know to build and grow a tech startup.

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