Venture capitalists are descending on the U.K. and Ireland this week to meet the cream of technology upstarts. They’ll be introduced to companies such as Belfast’s Lagan Technologies, a supplier of software for improving delivery of public services that has become a world leader in its market niche, beating rivals like Oracle for contracts with American cities from San Francisco to Boston.
Lagan is one of 30 companies pitching themselves to a group of more than 60 venture capitalists during the U.K. & Ireland Tech Tour on April 27-28. Many of the presenters are, like Lagan, later-stage companies that have already carved out successful global businesses. A surprising one-third of them are located on the Emerald Isle.
This week’s tour of the U.K. and Ireland is the 42nd such outing put on by the Geneva-based European Tech Tour Association, an independent non-profit organization that has been discovering and promoting early- and later-stage tech startups for more than a decade. It last held tours of England in 2004 and 2007, Scotland in 2001 and 2006, and the Republic of Ireland in 1999 and 2004.
What sets this tour apart from earlier trips is how many of the companies have already established themselves as world leaders in their fields, says Victor Basta, a veteran investment banker and president of the European Tech Tour Association. Basta is a former partner with London-based boutique investment firm Arma Partners, and now serves as an advisor to Magister Artis Capital, a London-based firm that provides merchant banking services for later stage companies and investors in growth industries.
The other major difference this time around is the number of Irish companies. Lagan is based in Northern Ireland, and another 10 of the startups that made the tour selection committee’s final cut are from the Republic of Ireland. That’s a disproportionately large number, considering that Ireland has a population of just 4.5 million, compared with 62 million in the U.K, says Basta. “What this shows is that multiple years of government focus on technology in Ireland, tie-ins with universities, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a local ecosystem of advisers and investors has created an ecosystem to rival [that of] Cambridge,” says Basta.