Kaspersky Lab, the global cyber-security firm, is leading an invasion of Dublin by Russian technology companies, start-ups, programmers and developers – many of whom are looking abroad as Russia remains stuck in recession and worries grow over the political and legal environment there.
The Moscow-based company, which is the fourth biggest seller of anti-virus software, is planning to open a “significant” R&D centre in Dublin and is already hiring specialists. The news was first reported on May 29 by Ireland’s Sunday Independent.
“We choose Dublin because we see it as a great opportunity to access a highly qualified European talent pool,” Alexander Moiseev, managing director at Kaspersky, told the newspaper. “At this early stage, we don’t have the exact number of employees confirmed, but we are very interested in speaking with as many appropriately skilled candidates as possible.”
The decision to set up in the Irish capital, known as the Silicon Docks due to the presence of many of the big US tech firms, was cemented after founder Eugene Kaspersky met and hung out with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and U2 rockstar Bono, according to two sources close to the deal.
Numerous emerging Russia tech companies have left Moscow for foreign shores in the US, Singapore, Dubai and Latvia over the past few years as the country struggles to emerge from its deepest recession since 2008. Repression of social media and fear for intellectual property has accelerated that trend.
Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland, the state agency responsible for attracting foreign investment, was in Russia in mid-May meeting a number of companies and explaining why Ireland was the right place for them to do business. “In recent years, we have seen increased investment from Russian companies and, as these firms grow, they have the potential to create several hundred jobs over the next few years,” Shanahan told bne IntelliNews. “Ireland is proving to be an attractive location for Russian companies looking to expand their operations abroad and tap into the tech talent pool here.”
The Irish agency is also understood to have held talks with the Russian search engine Yandex and leading internet company Mail.ru about setting up operations in Dublin.
The appeal of Dublin for Kaspersky and other firms is Ireland’s low corporate tax rate of 12.5%, highly educated workforce, an ease of doing business, and greater access to markets and networks in the EU and US.
Dublin serves as the European headquarters for a number of US tech firms including Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Amazon, but it’s also home to a burgeoning start-up scene which is beginning to drive in the wider tech ecosystem.
Russians rush in
Enterprise Ireland, a separate state agency responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world market, has spent over €1mn in bringing five Russian tech companies to Dublin in the past year, under the umbrella of its new Competitive Start-up Fund. The agency provides the Russians with support to secure visas and accommodation as well as mentoring.
The fund is open to start-ups from all around the world, but a third of its 100 applications last year come from Russia or Russian-speaking Belarus and Ukraine. A new programme is already underway this year with a similar level of interest from Russia. “Last year the biggest challenge was trying to set aside clichés and sterotypes about why Russians want to take their ideas outside of Russia, especially when there is money attached but thankfully the people we found are very good at doing that because they are very internationalized, easy to deal with and quite talented people,” Gerry McCarthy, head of Enterprise Ireland in Russia, tells bne IntelliNews in an interview.
The idea is to relocate Russian and Commonwealth of Independent States firms to Dublin and to eventually re-enter their home markets after being set up as Irish companies. “It’s not just the visas and accommodation, says McCarthy, “it’s more to do with a personal mentoring to make sure people are getting the right knowledge to push their idea forward and make it accessible to as many markets as possible.”
One of the companies, InnaLabs, is already firmly established and has 50 employees working in manufacturing gyroscopes and accelerometers based on intellectual property generated in Russia and redesigned in Ireland.
Retail analytics service CountBox received €250,000 and a similar amount was awarded to Eiratech to develop robotic warehousing. Two other Russian startups – iCard and Survival Russian App – also received €50,000 each from Enterprise Ireland to move to Dublin.
Constantin Gurdgiev, Professor of Finance at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and a former head of the Irish Russian Business Association, says it’s easier for Russians to assimilate in Ireland than say, the United Arab Emirates, where they are viewed as “second-rate residents or sub-tier European expats”.
“It’s also closer to home and the US and is non-aligned – unlike the America and the UK,” says Gurdgiev, a Muscovite who was educated in the US before embarking on a career in Ireland as an economist, academic, journalist, and pundit. “Enterprise Ireland helps a lot with assisting with visas and helping families to relocate. Russians have it very tough on this front from most EU countries, and outright hard with the US and UK.”
McCarthy also says there are “waves” of programmers and developers from Russian, Ukraine and Belarus who are relocating to work for Google, Facebook and Twitter in Dublin.
The one black cloud on the Dublin tech scene is the loss of the annual “Web Summit” – a three-day event which attracted the titans of Silicon Valley and about 42,000 geeks to the Irish capital to network and sell their ideas. After five years, the event is relocating this year to Lisbon after the founder Paddy Cosgrave had a row with the Irish government over problems to do with transport and hotel prices
“The loss of the Summit was a blow,” says McCarthy. “Enterprise Ireland had 15 people over from Russia and there was 60-70 registered Russians or companies as well. Having them acquaint themselves with Dublin and Ireland is half the battle.”