Startup Mecca Rises From Abandoned Guinness Storehouse


PorterShed co-founder John Breslin

From my Forbes blog:

John Breslin strides through a warren of offices and hallways in an abandoned building that was once a Guinness storehouse and more recently offices for the bus transit firm CIE. Frankly, it’s a dump, smelling of mildew, the floors strewn with pallets, chipped-off masonry, drink coasters, and broken office furniture.

Standing in the dilapidated building in Ireland’s city of Galway last summer, I found it hard to envision this as the startup mecca that it’s intended to become by March. But after its current renovation is complete, PorterShed will house up to 75 people working for startups and growth companies, serving as a co-working space where entrepreneurs can collaborate, get help from law firms and venture capitalists, and participate in coding competitions. “It’s not the best building,” Breslin, one of the founders of the project, told me apologetically when he gave me a pre-construction tour. “But it has a lot of potential.”

Breslin, an electronic engineering professor at the National University of Ireland Galway and an entrepreneur who started Ireland’s biggest social media website, might as well be talking about Galway. The city of 75,000 in the west of Ireland, sixth largest on the island and its fastest-growing, is home to a variety of tech companies, notably the medical device maker Medtronic. But after Galway lost Airbnb and other companies looking for city-center lodgings in recent years, a group of local entrepreneurs and business people decided to do something about it.

Galway’s experience in trying to attract fast-growing startups is a window into the challenges of jumpstarting technology development in areas outside Silicon Valley. In an era when startups can become multibillion-dollar giants in the space of a few years, creating their own ecosystems of support companies and jobs, it’s more critical than ever that cities and regions figure out how to attract their own. …

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The Top 10 Tech Trends Through 2020, From Five Top Venture Capitalists


From my Forbes blog:

Get ready for the Skynet economy, the death of the car, and the re-emergence of women in tech.

Those are three of the top 10 trends coming in technology in the next few years, according to several top venture capitalists. They made their predictions Thursday night at a local Silicon Valley institution, the 17th annual top 10 tech trends dinner held in San Jose by the Churchill Club, which hosts forums with tech’s top executives, financiers, entrepreneurs, and thinkers. The criteria for the trends are that they must not be obvious (a rule frequently broken) and will be big in five years (also often broken).

Offering their prognostications at the event were Bill Gurley of Benchmark Partners (recently described by rival VC Marc Andreessen as “my Newman” after Jerry Seinfeld’s enemy), fast-talking science geek Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, China-focused Jenny Lee of GGV Capital, early-stage investor Rebecca Lynn of Canvas Venture Fund, and former serial entrepreneur Shervin Pishevar of Sherpa Ventures. A few samples of what the VCs expect to see:

The virtual me: Lee thinks advances in hardware and sensors will create an explosion of data that will be aggregated into personal profiles that will know more about you than you do. Gurley says humans don’t want to be tracked that much, especially if the devices keep telling you what to do. Likewise, Jurvetson thinks these data-driven systems will be assistants more than taskmasters. And Pishevar suggests this data will work best if it’s made entertaining or gamified. Lee politely implies they’re all old.

The Skynet economy: Jurvetson sees universal broadband, via very low satellites, bringing untold amounts of talent into the global economy. Every part of the Earth would be equally covered with 16 GB a second Internet access by these now affordable satellites. This will profoundly change the lives of these people. Gurley is the main doubter, partly because he thinks it’s too big to invest in. Lynn waffles too, mostly because these people have bigger fish to fry, like, oh, keeping their babies alive. But Lee says wishing it comes true is part of making it come true.

Rise of the robocars: By 2020 we will no longer debate the inevitability of autonomous cars, Jurvetson predicts. They’re already safer than my parents and I trust them for my kids, he adds. There could be a 10 times reduction of vehicles, parking, etc. as well as a 10X reduction in traffic deaths.

The reemergence of women in tech: Half of computer science students will be women in five years, up from 10% now and a peak of 36% in 1984, argues Lynn. She blames the personal computer, which was targeted at males. Lots of pressure to change the situation. And more positive stories are being told, says Gurley. No one’s stupid enough to vote against this hot-button issue.

Overall winner with the highest percentage of audience votes: Rise of the robocars! So Jurvetson gets to wear the ceremonial wizard’s cape. Really, there’s a ceremonial red and blue wizard’s cape. “Do I have to wear it?” he asked. Yes, he did.

And then everyone drove off alone in their Teslas to buy stuff on their smartphone and pore over their binders full of women.

Read the rest of the 10 predictions.