I’m not going out on a limb by saying that the European crisis will impact growth for years, if not decades, to come. People are not spending, and banks are not lending. No surprise then that so much focus is being placed on innovation. Since the 2007 financial crisis smart government policy has shifted to replicating the Silicon Valley idea, creating hubs for young entrepreneurs and technology-focussed innovators to come, create and share with the world. Ireland is no different, and is doing it very well. I recently came across a top 30 of the most innovative countries in the world, and Ireland was at number 5!
Ireland has some great advantages that will allow it to follow through with its idea to become the island of innovation, particularly in the web space. Just look at the major companies with European headquarters in the Emerald Isle: Google, Facebook, Twitter….CurrencyFair! I think Ireland’s great strength is its education system that has always been world class and is now very focused on creating the right type of graduate to fuel what is an exceptionally fast growing industry. Obviously there are significant government incentives for the big boys to come and set up in Ireland, creating jobs and wealth, but it also filters down to smaller companies with great ideas and global potential. Government policy has played a big hand in this over the last few years, especially Enterprise Ireland, which has been a great help to us at CurrencyFair, and the IDA.
While banks may not be lending there seems to be no shortage of cash for new innovative companies that show potential to grow at exponential rates, thanks to the internet and mobile applications. They are receiving multi-million dollar investments valuing companies (that may not even be a year old) in the tens or even hundreds of millions. No wonder there is a push to be the incubator for companies with that sort of potential revenue generation and follow-on employment.
Financial technology innovation plays no small part and as I write this we are busy preparing for our demo slot at this year’s Finovate Europe conference. Finovate is a showcase for cutting-edge financial and banking technology innovations, allowing those selected to demonstrate their creations in front of hundreds of financial executives, media, venture capitalists and industry analysts. We are really looking forward to such a great opportunity and will no doubt cultivate some very important connections that will ensure CurrencyFair becomes bigger and better in 2012.
So, economies that have decided to play it smart and actively encourage innovation will see major investment from established companies, along with angel investors and venture capitalists looking for the next innovation to create employment and the opportunity for real growth into the next decade.