Why Limerick is a great place to run a tech startup

Thomas Bibby

Limerick is Ireland’s third biggest city, and where we are based.  All the development of Reg was done in our offices in the city centre.  I wanted to list some of the reasons why I think Limerick is a fantastic place to run a tech startup.

Extend your runway

 Our offices in Limerick (we're on the second floor of this Georgian building)

Our offices in Limerick (we're on the second floor of this Georgian building)

Any early-stage entrepreneur is obsessed with their ‘runway', the amount of time that you can run your company without seeking extra investment. This is crucial because when you’re developing your product, time spent raising funds can be incredibly disruptive. The longer runway you have, the more you can focus on building a great product.

The costs in Limerick are ridiculously low. For example, our office, which comfortably fits five desks, costs us under €400 a month. That’s not just rent - that includes all costs: electricity, heat, water, local authority rates, internet, the works. Our office space isn’t even subsidised - this is just a standard commercial office rental. (PS there’s an office for rent in our building - we’d love new neighbours!) Cost of living is tiny compared to other cities (in particular rent and transport) which means salaries can be lower, and crucially you can survive yourself on almost nothing.

A market big enough to be significant, small enough to test

Limerick has 100,000 people which we found to be a perfect size to trial our product. We've had great feedback from local retailers when we were testing our app, especially when we were agonising over some user interface detail where we needed to do some usability testing. I'm consistently surprised at how generous people are with their time in helping us out with advice and feedback. Limerick has all of Ireland’s benefits to test a new tech product (huge smartphone usage, young population, increasing population diversity), with the added benefit of being that little bit more accessible - a perfect place to beta test! 

Don’t waste time on pointless things

 Length of commute in our office

Length of commute in our office

I did a survey last month with the members of the team who happened to be in the office that evening.  The following graph shows our commute times to our office:

Commuting is awful enough when you’re working for someone else, but when you’re putting in 12-14 hour days to get your product ready, it can have a significant impact on your productivity. Living in a city small enough to have lean commute times is a huge benefit to your productivity.

Connectivity

The main broadband provider, UPC, offers 50Mb/s as its slowest connection speed, and offers a guaranteed 250Mb/s with 8 phone lines for less than €100/mo, anywhere in the city.  The main rail and bus station is 4 minutes walk from our office with rail links to Dublin, Cork, Galway and Waterford.  We’re a bit obsessive about costs so I normally take the hourly private coach to Dublin where most of our customers are: air-con, wifi and €10 for a 2h45 journey is tough to beat!  For travelling further afield we’re 30 mins away from an international airport with daily flights to London, Boston, JFK, Chicago etc.

Independence 

 Our local independent café, Canteen

Our local independent café, Canteen

Programmers have been described as vehicles for converting caffeine into code and that’s certainly true in my case.  Fortunately we have the amazing Canteen just down the road from us, who serve coffee from a local roaster in Cork.  There are lots of independent businesses in Limerick like Canteen which add to the richness of city life. Not to mention a large range of pubs perfect for sitting down with a quiet pint. Often some of the more intractable bugs I've encountered have been effortlessly solved by a pint and a chat with one of the other iOS developers working in Limerick.

Access to talent

One of the problems with smaller cities is that you can have one dominant company that hoovers up the talent field in tech. This can make hiring harder, as you end up having a city of battle-hardened enterprise Java programmers, which is great if you want to write something in enterprise-style Java, but not so great if your tech stack is tilted towards more rapid development. Thankfully there is no one big company in Limerick dominating the field, and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve found the tech talent in this city to be superb.

It’s not just existing talent - being based in Limerick offers a huge opportunity to attract talent from elsewhere.  Consider the situation of a senior developer with kids - no longer willing to slum it in a tiny apartment. A 3 bedroom house in a quiet neighbourhood within 15 minutes’ walk of our city centre office would cost around €900/mo to rent or about €200k to buy. That’s a great lifestyle opportunity for a developer with buckets of experience looking for a place to raise her/his family.

Ireland’s creative hub

 Limerick's Fab Lab

Limerick's Fab Lab

Limerick has a university in the suburbs, as well as a more technically-focused Institute of Technology closer to town, but the third-level institution that has been most important to us has been the Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD). LSAD is the second biggest art college in the country and its influence has given rise to an incredibly rich art community in Limerick.  In contrast to other cities, the arts scene here is very much ‘bottom up’ with a plethora of exhibitions going on all the time.  Being in the middle of this creative hub is just fantastic for innovation and stimulating your brain to make a step into the unknown.  In addition there is a fantastic crop of designers and UX specialists based in Limerick. And we have a Fab Lab too - right in the city centre, with 3D printers galore and a great community of makers.

Come on over!

If you’re running a tech startup or thinking of getting one going, I’d love to chat to you and introduce you to the city.  Drop me a note at support@regpointofsale.com - I’d love to meet you and show you some more of the fantastic ways that I think Limerick is one of the best places in the world to bootstrap a successful tech business.