Report from Ireland: Listening, learning and networking in Dublin’s Fair City

By Ruud de Jonge

While we can do a lot through online networking, it is even better when we get to meet start-ups face to face.  That’s why I make time for events like last week’s visit to the Microsoft data centre in Dublin, where a group of over 25 BizSpark entrepreneurs, start-up incubators and investors from all over Europe came together to debate, learn and share.

While it would have been easy to be tempted by the famous Irish hospitality, a packed agenda kept us busy and my colleagues at Microsoft Ireland created a great line-up.  First, we heard why the Irish start-up scene ‘is on fire’ (that’s a good thing, by the way) from Eoghan Jennings of Parklane Capital.  Ireland has long been one of the stars of the European start-up community and has one of the largest BizSpark memberships in the region.

We also had sessions and panels talking about the contribution that start-ups make to the European community and ways in which we can help them further – not least of which is, of course, making access to the cloud as easy as possible. 

So, it was also a good chance to talk about BizSpark Plus, our new offering available via selected partners to start-ups, giving them up to $60,000 of Windows Azure time over two years.  The audience also got a look under the hood at some of the latest innovations from Microsoft, including what we’re doing with mobile.

But, if I had to pick one highlight of the trip, for me it was the guided tour around the renowned Microsoft Dublin data centre  - something that very few people – even within Microsoft – get to do, and this was a truly spectacular opportunity. 

Opened several years ago, the data centre is core to our pan-European cloud service and we recently announced an additional112,000 square feet Generation 4 facility, which will create some 400 construction jobs over  the next year.

And of course, when start-ups, incubators and investors come together, it is hard to resist a pitch competition, so we rounded off the day by asking some of the BizSpark entrepreneurs to spend five minutes talking about their Azure apps.  And, as usual, it was tricky picking just winner, so we decided that first prize went jointly to Atomblock and Crumbtech, both Dutch-based BizSpark startups. 

Atomblock has a game-changing online video publishing platform, while Crumbtag has created an innovative online advertising platform that brings a whole load of sophisticated features within reach of any user. They’re both great examples of

But this wasn’t an event about winners or losers and I’d like to say thanks to everyone who joined us – especially those who had a long way to travel – you all helped to make it a great event. 

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