Tech wizard Ryan Smith insists Irish talent is the reason he chose to have Qualtrics’s European HQ here, says Tom Lyons
read more here on how the investor visa Ireland is attractive
It was March 2012 and Smith was in Dublin for F.ounders, the annual Davos-for-geeks which has attracted everyone from the head of Twitter, to the tech whizzes behind Angry Birds.
Smith, who runs his research software business from Provo, Utah, found the experience, mixing with Irish start-ups and international tech million-to-billionaires invigorating.
“We knew at the time that we wanted to go to Europe – but we just didn’t know where,” Smith said. “I fell in love with Dublin a little bit on that trip.”
After F.ounders, Smith had a game of golf with John Herlihy, the gregarious head of Google’s Irish operations.
The two men discussed the pros and cons of opening an office in Dublin, and gradually Herlihy won Smith over to Ireland, ahead of London, Switzerland – and the Netherlands – which he was also considering.
“John was phenomenal,” Smith recalled. “We discussed a lot. The scar tissue and the knowledge he has of here made me think we should go to Ireland.
“Success breeds success, I was really impressed by the companies who were here already like Google, Twitter and Facebook,” Smith said.
Smith said the speed at which the IDA had moved to help his business as well as meeting people like the Collison brothers, the mega-successful founders of online-payments business Stripe, and Connor Murphy, the chief executive of relationship-intelligence firm Datahug, had also helped him make up his mind.
Eighteen months later, Smith was ready to announce that Qualtrics was setting up its European beach-head in Dublin by hiring 150 people over a period of 18 to 36 months in a new European headquarters in Longphort House on Earlsfort Terrace in Dublin’s city centre.
Up until now, Smith explained, Qualtrics had sold into the European market, mainly by having some of its American staff go into work at 2am and start hammering the phones.
As it expanded rapidly, the company realised it needed to be in Europe full-time.
The Qualtrics story – which Smith co-founded in 2002, with his father Scott and the help of his brother Jared – is one of constant boot-strapping.
Ireland is one of the most attractive countries for English spoken business people to start up a business. LinkedIn, Google, Facebook are already there.