Irish Examiner: Cork has potential to deliver growing space for startups

Co-working has become an attractive alternative to traditional offices, but entrepreneurs say that there is a need for development of the practice in Cork City.

Daniel Ramamoorthy— founder of The Treehouse, an organisation that offers co-working space and advice to entrepreneurs in Dublin— helped set up the Revolution Workspace in the Penrose Wharf business centre.

“Cork is actually a hotbed of incredible innovation,” Mr Ramamoorthy said, and “is leading the charge in Ireland in areas like synthetic biology, in particular.”

Mr Ramamoorthy, who advised the former government on policymaking for entrepreneurs, said that “there is a need for more co-working in Cork” to capitalise on these innovations.

“I get emails from people all the time who are in Cork and want to move to Dublin because they believe their business will grow faster there,” he said.

“I think it’s because they don’t see a good landing space in Cork. I think that if there was a more visible landing space for startups, more Cork startups would stick around because there would be a resource for them to continue growing.”

Without a major co-working hub, a number of smaller spaces have opened across the city. Fergus Murphy, manager and founder of the Plus10 space, became a co-worker by accident.

“Myself and another crew were developing a travel software site,” Mr Murphy said.

“We needed space for a couple of programmers. When we went looking, all that was there was very expensive stuff for short-term [use].”

Mr Murphy had access to a building on South Main St and decided to make it his base. After a while, one of the developers on his team suggested opening up the space to other startups.

“It just kind of grew from there, to the point where we have 17 desks occupied most of the time,” he said.

‘Cork is behind the curve. The culture is different. The startup scene isn’t as vibrant.’

One of the benefits of operating out of a co-working space, Mr Murphy said, is discipline.

“The idea of working at home is very practical initially,” he said, “but it’s very hard to work in isolation.”

The social side of co-working helps entrepreneurs avoid being “captured by your comfort” and overlooking flaws in their business, he said. The open space allows them to bounce ideas off other workers and share problems or worries.

“There’s a pool of different talents and skills there,” he said.

Mr Murphy, who spoke at last year’s Co-working Europe Conference in Milan, believes Cork lags other European cities in development of co-working spaces.

“Ireland is a bit behind the curve,” he said. “Cork is significantly behind the curve. The culture is different. The startup scene isn’t as vibrant.”

Mr Ramamoorthy agrees, but believes Cork could become one of the top 10 startup cities in Europe.

“Ireland in general ranks very high as a startup hub,” he said. “Cork as a city is not yet. But I think it’s fast on the heels of becoming that, specifically because of the collaboration between investors, accelerators, the local enterprise office and the universities. I think that network is absolutely important in building a good startup ecosystem.”

But it is not just startups that are attracted to co-working. Established companies have learned that the practice is not just about physical space, but a culture that promotes entrepreneurship and creativity.

“We have mature practices that have been much bigger in the past and had to scale down,” said Patrick Creedon of Magee Creedon Kearns architects, which set up Gate Design House on North Abbey St.

“They’ve discovered now that they don’t have to have the big overheads of taking on a whole space by themselves and yet they have a sense of scale in terms of the shared space.”

Both Gate Design House and Plus10 have been approached by large organisations, some of which already have substantial offices in Cork, looking to rent their spaces.

“I’ve had cases where big companies have been working on a project but maybe they wanted some lateral thinking,” Mr Murphy said.

“They want to come out of the office environment and into a more creative environment.”

As work becomes more flexible, Mr Creedon predicts a rise in demand for co-working. “One or two individuals can do so much more now than five or six individuals could do in the past,” he said.

Companies “don’t want their hard-earned cash going into bricks and mortar. They do want to be in an environment that is pleasant and attractive and buzzy.”

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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Mediaflash 24: Storytelling & Unlocking Creativity

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On Episode 24 of Mediaflash, we are joined by Sara Bennett of Fighting Words.

Co-founded by Seán Love and Roddy Doyle, Fighting Words is a creative writing centre for children and young people. It also offers programmes to adults with special needs and people who have experienced homelessness or prison.

The aim of Fighting Words is to make creative writing accessible to as many people as possible.

Sara talks us through what makes a compelling story and tells us how to make time for creative writing in our hectic lives.

She explains how the skills taught by Fighting Words can be applied to brand storytelling.

Also on this week’s programme, the award-winning MediaHQ blogging team sits down to reveal some of their blogging secrets and they share the five key ingredients needed to concoct the perfect post.

Listen below and to hear more of our podcasts, click here.

Destination Kerry

I am wearing a wetsuit for only the second time in my life, but I feel ready to conquer the Atlantic Ocean on a stand-up paddleboard.

The reason for my confidence? My companion for the afternoon is former pro windsurfer Jamie Knox. He has been teaching awkward punters like me watersports in Castlegregory for 25 years.

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He is on-hand to feed me compliments throughout our two-hour session. He makes me feel like I’m James Bond, gliding out to sea. In reality, I am more like Inspector Gadget, clumsily splish-splashing in the water.

The point is, he keeps me moving, he keeps me motivated, and makes me feel like I am really doing something worthwhile.

It’s easy to see why he has a high return rate.

Stand-up paddleboarding is easy to get the hang of, so it’s perfect for children. And it’s safe, something Jamie clearly prides himself on seeing as he gets a lot of business from families.

“Everything is controlled and in a safe environment,” he says. It’s obvious that water safety is paramount for Jamie and his team, but the rules don’t spoil the experience. There are activities for all ages and abilities, so nobody gets left out and nobody is put in a situation that they can’t handle.

Jamie Knox teaches watersports in Castlegregory
Jamie Knox teaches watersports in Castlegregory

Back on land, I feel refreshed and I am badly in need of sustenance. Luckily, Kerry is home to some of Ireland’s best food experiences, two of which I can find back in my hotel, Ballygarry House in Tralee.

Last night, I ate a mighty four-course meal in the Brooks Restaurant. Tonight, I dine across the corridor in the Leebrook Lounge. Both menus, though distinct, complement Ballygarry House’s high-end, four star experience.

A family-run country hotel with a modern twist, Ballygarry House is all about attention to detail. The staff’s little touches and observations make the visitor experience seamless — it’s a trait that comes with having a fourth-generation proprietor for a manager.

Located just off the N21 and surrounded by the Slieve Mish Mountains, Ballygarry House is in a good spot for visitors on the Wild Atlantic Way, and their Nádúr spa offers a range of unique experiences. Last month, the hotel launched its Wild About Kerry brochure and packages, capturing little gems this end of the route.

Grainne Kavanagh of the Coach House interior design shop literally introduces me to Dingle’s little gems when she takes me on a whistle stop tour of the Kerry Craft Trail.

There is a diverse range of products and artwork on the route, from the leather-bound notebooks at Holden Leather Goods, to the scarves at Fiadh Handwoven Design, to Lisa McIntyre’s papier mache sculptures. Everything is distinctly Dingle and comes with a story.

Sandra Cremin’s eco-friendly, soy-based Dingle Candles and scented sachets are inspired by the mountains and changeable weather — fragrance number one, my favourite, is Dingle Rain.

Goldsmith Niamh Utsch also sources her inspiration from the landscape, which can change dramatically. It has an impact on Utsch’s creativity and mood, leading to a range of pieces that can be intricate and complicated or very simple.

Jewellery maker Abi Dillon, the latest addition to the craft trail, sources her raw materials from the sea. She collects shards of glass that wash up on the shore and turns them into necklaces, bracelets and earrings. The pieces are made up of complementary greens and blues, frosted by the sea. They are precious — they really are something else.

Abi Dillon makes jewellery from sea glass
Abi Dillon makes jewellery from sea glass

My next stop is Dingle Distillery for a tour with Eamon Dowd and Gillian Sheehy, and for quick a drop of Dingle Original Gin. The whiskey isn’t quite ready yet — the first batch will roll out next year.

Artisanal alcohol is definitely trending and the Porterhouse Brewing Company, the parent of Dingle Distillery, helped shape the independent brewing movement in Ireland.

The first thing you notice is the delicious aromas. It’s enough to get the group salivating. But patience is key in the art of distillery, so we have to control ourselves as we make our way along the production line, watching the magic slowly happen.

The distillery is a modest affair — the output is two casks a day — so you really do have to come here taste their products yourself. It’s worth the journey.

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“How much do you know about Fungie?” Bridget Flannery asks me as we pull away from Dingle pier, her husband Jimmy at the helm. “It’s a bit like the national anthem,” I say. “I know enough to get me by.”

Fungie the Bottlenose dolphin is synonymous with Dingle tourism. He gave the town a much-needed boost 30 years and has been a big contribution to the local trade ever since.

DSC_0358I was hoping to solve the mystery of Fungie’s attachment to the town’s harbour, but I had no luck. There are plenty of theories — he has little competition for fish, he loves the human interaction, the waters are more accommodating — but nobody really knows why he has stayed here for so long.

One thing I did learn was that he works overtime — even long after the last tour, he made an appearance for Travel Extra. And what an exciting moment that was.

Jimmy uses a number of techniques to tap into Fungie’s sonar and nine times out of ten, he pops up to say hello.

It’s rare that he doesn’t make an appearance. The Dingle Dolphin Tour payment model is no Fungie, no fee, and it has kept them in business for three decades.

They have a saying in Kerry: “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.” We live in each other’s shadows. It resonates throughout the Kingdom’s tourism trade. There is a sense of camaraderie, of commitment to their business. It is a motto for any budding tourism co-op.

This article first appeared in Travel Extra magazine.

Too young to vote: #MarRef in the eyes of an LGBT teenager

There are thousands of LGBT people who didn’t have a say in Ireland’s same sex marriage referendum last Friday because they were too young to vote.

So what does this historic moment mean to them? I spoke to my youngest brother Cathal moments after the final tally was announced. Here’s what he had to say.

Music by Podington Bear via Creative Commons.

‘One Million Dubliners’ Review

My review of ‘One Million Dubliners’ on thecity.ie. Interview with the director, Aoife Kelleher, to follow.


Aoife Kelleher’s One Million Dubliners is a beautiful homage to the people of Glasnevin Cemetery – living and dead.

Resident historian Shane MacThomáis, the obvious star of the show, is our guide throughout the documentary.

With great wit, he tells the stories of Parnell, de Valera, Collins, Markievicz, Behan and the many other 19th and 20th century heroes buried here. He recalls the stories of ordinary Dubliners too, with equal charisma and passion.

There are more people under the ground at Glasnevin than walking the streets of Dublin today. That neat little sum is plugged throughout the film as proof that the cemetery serves as Ireland’s national burial grounds; modern Irish history can be mapped out simply by the names and ailments listed on the death register.

As we quickly learn, Michael Collins’ grave draws the most interest from visitors. He gets flowers for Valentine’s Day (while de…

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