Fiach Mac Conghail has been CEO of The Digital Hub since November 2016. He’s responsible for leading and delivering on the organisation’s strategy to develop the technology enterprise cluster and help to shape Ireland’s digital future.

Based in the historic Liberties area of Dublin city centre, The Digital Hub houses almost 75 established businesses, employing more than 750 people. It is the largest cluster of digital media, technology and internet businesses in Ireland.

The Digital Hub will be the home for Girls in Tech’s hackathon ‘Hacking for Humanity’ in 2019, and Fiach will be one of our incredible speakers! Click here to secure your tickets!

Interview by: Talita Holzer
Reviewed by Vithoria Escobar

 

Talita: The Digital Hub is the largest cluster of digital media, technology and internet businesses in Ireland. What type of support does it offer to these companies? 

Fiach: The main support we offer is flexible, affordable office space in a great Dublin city location. We have offices to cater for a one-person start-up or an expanding company, and we provide upfront, clear pricing, to help companies effectively manage costs.

But we are much more than just office space providers.  The Digital Hub campus is an open, collaborative environment.   We hold regular seminars, workshops and business clinics to give our resident companies the opportunity to learn from industry leaders, successful digital companies and each other.

We hold monthly Friday Morning Meetups, The Digital Hub Developer Lunch-and-Learn, PR advice clinics and seminars with industry experts on a range of topics from work visas to digital trends.

The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) held a seminar here at the end of April to inform our companies about the supports available from the LEOs from mentoring to funding and grants.

We also have some fun events during the year that allow companies to meetup informally and share knowledge, experience and support.  We just held our first ever table tennis tournament and we’re currently planning our Summer Social which is a great chance for companies across our campus of nine buildings to catch-up.

Our events and the introductions we make also offer our companies exposure to potential investors. The PR value of The Digital Hub is also an advantage to business: If one of our companies has a story then The Digital Hub can help with exposure and publicity.

I think we have a really close-knit and supportive community here at The Digital Hub.  We encourage our companies to get involved and contribute to the enterprise cluster and to the wider Liberties community of Dublin 8, in which our campus is located. Our companies are great at attending the many free artistic and cultural events we hold on campus such as Culture Night and events arising out of our Artist-in-Residence programme, such as photography exhibitions.

 

Talita: Can you give some examples of companies housed by The Digital Hub?

Fiach: We have almost seventy-five companies, employing over 750 people currently based in office space at The Digital Hub. At the moment it’s about a 40:60 split of FDI to indigenous enterprises. Some well-known and successful Irish companies include Bizimply, Good Travel Software, Sonru, and Xwerx.

We also have major global companies like Eventbrite and Lonely Planet based here with industry organisations such as NDRC, Silicon Republic and Tyndall National Institute. The Dublin International Film Festival are based at The Digital Hub, and some relatively recent arrivals include games company, Black Shamrock, who moved in late last year. Since January Mobility Mojo have joined us. They are passionate about inclusivity and accessibility and have developed bespoke technology for accessibility in the hotel sector to give hotels an accurate snapshot of the accessible features in their premises.

We have achieved a great mix of companies here, from gaming to healthtech and everything in between. We keep tabs on that all the time, so when a company applies to locate their business at our campus, we examine how our community is made up at that point in time. We check-in on the mix of Irish and global companies, what size businesses are here; who might be set to expand, export to new markets and are using different technologies.

10% of our cluster is now comprised of healthtech companies and our ambition is to continue to grow this sub-cluster.  We are also really keen to have more female-led companies here. We don’t just want companies of different origins, sizes, technologies, services and markets; We also want teams with gender and cultural diversity.

 

Talita: How is the gender diversity for founders of the companies housed by The Digital Hub? Are there initiatives in place to improve this?

Fiach: This is a major challenge for us at The Digital Hub. The first thing I did, when I arrived at The Digital Hub, was to acknowledge this. I am conscious, as are other state agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, that we need support structures to help female entrepreneurs and co-founders. We are intent on increasing this and finding sustainable ways to deliver these support mechanisms is one of our goals. In the meantime, if there are any female founders leading a digital company who have a scaling company, we would be delighted to support them.

We would like to have more female founders and we have just submitted a proposal on Female Entrepreneurship to the Erasmus+ programme that would link third Level institutions and Digital Hubs in four European Countries on a project to improve the number of Female Entrepreneurs.

We held an interesting panel discussion to mark International Women’s Day in March.  We had three inspirational women who are working in the area of Connected Health join us for a chat on gender parity.

 

Talita: The Digital Hub will host the Girls in Tech very first hackathon in Ireland. What made you decide to support this initiative?

Fiach: We think there is still a misconception that Hackathons and Tech are a male-only domain, so the Girls in Tech Hackathon immediately struck us as an event with diversity and inclusivity at its core.  We aim to foster an inclusive workplace at The Digital Hub and this Hackathon is a great way to promote diversity and inclusion through engagement.

We like that the Girls in Tech Hackathon is open to both women and men and people from different identities and backgrounds and it will bring these people into contact, and hopefully collaboration with each other. We will offer a two-desk space at The Digital Hub to the winners for three months.

The tech for good element also really appealed to us. We are excited to see participants challenged for social good and what technologies they might create to address local and global issues.

 

Talita: You’ve supported other initiatives that address issues with gender parity – can you comment on them?

Fiach: Since 2003 we have been running digital learning programmes for the local community. In recent years we have made a conscious effort that all our programmes for young people in the community, such as The Liber8 Music Project, Screen8, the Future Creators and the Future Creators Cadets are all split 50:50 male to female participants. We endeavour to provide female tutors, guest speakers and mentors on all these programmes.

Mia on the left holding a clapperboard, Fiach in the middle and Mandy holding a camera.

Fiach with Mia Mullarkey (filmmaker), and Mandy O’Neill (photographer), from the Artist-in-Residence Programme. Source: Irish Tech News.

Last July we launched our first ever Artist-in-Residence Programme and were delighted that our first artists, a filmmaker and a photographer, were both female.

We teamed up with Teen-Turn on the Technovation challenge which is the is the world’s largest global tech entrepreneurship competition for girls. The programme offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders. Teen-Turn do great work in this area; Their mission is to influence course decision-making processes, inform participants on education and career options, and combat stereotypes by strategically changing how girls from underrepresented communities identify with STEM career environments through summer work placements and after school activities.

We are also partnering with the Dublin Dance Festival to bring the Missy Elliot Project to Dublin this Summer. If you identify as a woman or girl of colour, and are aged between 14 and 17, you can join in on this live performance and digital exchange project, where young women of colour will work with an expert team of choreographers, performance artists, musicians and designers to make a VR experience which imagines a radical new future.

 

Talita: What changes can we expect from The Digital Hub in the next 5 years?

Fiach: We hope to firmly establish The Digital Hub as a diverse and creative digital technology quarter in situated in Dublin 8, with an emphasis on emerging healthtech and creative digital media sub-clusters.

Last year alone, nine companies on the campus expanded and took up additional office space. We expect this trend of enterprise scaling continue as tech companies enjoy a period of growth.

We also hope to see the development of a masterplan related to a 2.6-acre site on the lands of The Digital Hub known as the ‘Windmill Site’. It’s a key part of The Digital Hub campus that we want to see it regenerated. It is an opportunity for us to tease out how we can create a sustainable technology quarter in the Liberties.

We have also been working on the development of a new five-year strategy for The Digital Hub. It is our blueprint for the next five years, so stay tuned.

You can connect with us on social media by searching for ‘@TheDigitalHub’ or drop us a line via our website at www.thedigitalhub.com