The Action Plan for Jobs 2015 outlined an action in respect of a national week of events promoting entrepreneurship and showcasing Ireland’s start-up sector to entrepreneurs from all over the globe, including the Irish diaspora, with the message "Start, Scale, Succeed from Ireland." The initiative that was put in place as a result was the Startup Gathering. It featured more than 400 business events, held over five days, making it one of the biggest start-up events in the world in 2015.
Five cities, Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway, acted as the hubs for the Startup Gathering, and there were also associated regional events in a total of 22 counties, including a programme of events in the north east. The aims of the Startup Gathering were to promote entrepreneurship and help identify entrepreneurial talent at an early stage across the country; to help develop world class regional start-up hubs around the existing strengths in each region to accelerate the growth of start-ups and scale-ups in Ireland; and to raise the international profile of the start-up sector in each region of Ireland to global entrepreneurs, investors and research and development teams. The Startup Gathering was led by the not-for-profit organisation Startup Ireland. It was sponsored by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and by Bank of Ireland.
Initial reaction to the Startup Gathering has been positive in terms of number of events and participants. However, given the scale and extent of the week, it is necessary to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of the initiative. The Startup Gathering was but one element of work on entrepreneurship detailed in the Action Plan for Jobs 2015. This work has seen Irish performance in the area of entrepreneurship improve substantially in the past year, as has been recognised in two international indicators released in the last couple of weeks. The 2015 Small Business Act Fact Sheet for Ireland, which was published last week by the European Commission, shows that Ireland has one of the friendliest environments for small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, in the EU; and in the Global Entrepreneurship Index, also released earlier this month, Ireland moved from 17th to 12th place among 132 countries and from 12th to seventh place among 40 European countries, which puts Ireland's global entrepreneurship ranking ahead of such notables as Israel, the Netherlands and Finland and just one place behind Singapore. The report states that Ireland’s biggest opportunities for improvement are in the areas of entrepreneurship opportunity recognition and reducing risk aversion.
A Startup Gathering exit review report is being prepared and is due to be sent to the Department in the coming weeks. The report will include an analysis of the core objectives and key performance indicators, a survey of start-ups, and an overview of the various events, including marketing, advertising, branding and so on. The Department, Bank of Ireland and Startup Ireland will be meeting in early December on the issue and the national steering group that I chair will then meet in advance of finalisation of the report. Work on the entrepreneurship area will continue in 2016, when we will continue to put in place actions to help improve our performance.