Silicon Slopes Tech Firms Finding Success in European Operations
This article was published in the Tech Summit 2020 issue
by David Brody, VP of Technology, Consumer & Business Services, IDA Ireland
In recent years, a number of Utah-based technology companies have taken their first steps into the European market including Qualtrics, Ancestry.com, Zagg, Overstock.com, StorageCraft Technology, and Merit Medical. While international expansion is a clear route to increasing revenue, it is not without its challenges. In addition to the significant cost, scaling companies contend with unfamiliar regulation, increased exposure to competition with foreign brands, and pressure to achieve forecasted growth.
As one of the most productive countries in the world, Ireland was the natural choice for some of the Beehive State’s leading companies to establish an EMEA HQ. From its stable political climate and pro-business culture, to its reliably competitive tax regime and word-class workforce, Ireland makes sense on every level. The fact that it will soon be the only English-speaking EU jurisdiction is another significant advantage from a US perspective.
The following case studies of Silicon Slopes companies with flourishing operations in Ireland are instructive for any business seeking to learn from others who have expanded operations overseas:
- Overstock, the e-commerce leader from Midvale, plans to hire its hundredth employee at its new European headquarters in Sligo, on the west coast of Ireland, by year-end. The company set up its first Irish office in 2013 and recently invested €1 million in its new state-of-the-art facility in order to continue attracting top talent. Its location in Sligo affords employees a reasonable cost of living, minimal commuting times, and easy access to some of the world’s most impressive outdoor activities.
- Provo-based Qualtrics also established its first European headquarters in 2013 in Dublin. Such is the rate of Qualtrics’ growth that it has quickly outgrown its 27,000-square-foot premises and is expanding into the adjacent building. Its growth shows no sign of slowing, as the company has hired 80 new employees since January and plans to scale from its current headcount of 300 to more than 700 over the next few years.
- With its global headquarters in South Jordan, Merit Medical is a leader in single-use inflation and hemostasis devices. In 1993, Merit opened an Irish manufacturing plant, initially employing 22 people. This number has increased to around 1,000 workers, located at the heart of Ireland’s thriving medtech cluster in Galway. Merit was named Ireland's Medtech Company of the Year in 2018, with the Irish plant having contributed 33% of revenue in 2017.
- Encouraged by the success of these Utah giants, unicorns like Farmington-based Pluralsight, a developer of online training courses for software and creative professionals, opened its EMEA headquarters in Dublin early in 2018.
Employment in Utah’s tech sector has risen by 4.9% annually for a decade. However, this phenomenal trajectory has reportedly generated concern that Utah's tech center could fall victim to the skilled workforce shortages and infrastructural difficulties that have plagued Silicon Valley. Open tech positions in Utah vastly outnumber suitably qualified graduates entering the market.
Utah companies have found that locating in Ireland offers an attractive solution to these challenges. Over a period of decades, Ireland has earned a reputation as a global tech hub. Its industry-focused education produces highly skilled local workers, and top international talent is attracted by Ireland’s high standard of living and opportunities for professional development.
Across a range of critical sectors, Ireland has provided top-of-the-market employees to meet the needs of Utah companies. For example:
- Qualtrics and Ancestry’s Irish operations are staffed by flexible, skilled teams of multilingual professionals who drive continuous improvement and innovation of services by providing outstanding customer and business function support.
- Merit Medical has successfully sourced a sizeable local workforce that meets the demanding high skill requirements for operating in the zero defect, highly regulated environment of manufacturing lifesaving medical devices.
- As a hub of software development, machine learning, blockchain, and data analytics, Ireland produces the volume of specialized, industry-focused engineering talent required to sustain and build the extensive R&D work that Overstock undertakes at its research center in Sligo.
Whether to support international growth or resource expanding tech teams with the highest quality labor, many Utah tech companies are experiencing success with their European operations in Ireland.
Read the rest of the articles in the Tech Summit 2020 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine