Startup City, a participant’s point of view

By Cillian McDonald, City Architects

As a participant in Startup City I was faced the following questions:

How can Dublin effectively encourage, support and create opportunities for the city’s Start-ups and entrepreneurs?

How can the city systems and resources be used to develop new business ideas?

By sharing our experiences and skills, can we quickly design initiatives that will make a real difference?

To answer these daunting perplexities The Studio at DCC, DCEB and The Digital Hub gathered enthusiastic stakeholders ranging from sound technicians, architects, up and coming entrepreneurs to city planners and charged it all with a healthy measure of North American enthusiasm care of the Institute without Boundaries.

After the Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn and City Manager Philip Maguire gave their speeches we heard young entrepreneurs speak on their experiences setting up businesses.   I felt that this grounded the charrette as it made dealing with these issues more of a reality. The people who can instigate change and the people who this change affected were put at the forefront from the very beginning, which set the tone that the work being done was not theoretical and could instigate real change. So this made me quite nervous as to what part I could play. We were split up into 8 groups and set about our task with the aid of a visualiser, a facilitator and a topic expert who focused each group’s effort.

Throughout the process there were a series of insightful and directed talks by guest speakers. One of the ideas which proved potent throughout the process was Toby Scott’s phrase “knowledge liability”,  the idea that retained knowledge about the solutions to problems can actually pigeon hole your thinking. Knowing his audience, he gave the example of an altered version of the Muller-Lyer effect at which point every designer in the room eagerly embarrassed themselves with the wrong answer . . . but of course that was due to the fact that we were all so very clever to retain that information in the first place. Given the range and depth of knowledge in my group I felt this aided everyone in stepping back from assumptions as ideas developed.


The Muller-Lyer effect

The Muller-Lyer effect

My particular group dealt with ‘enhancing Dublin’s startup ecosystem’. This topic is very broad and led to quite circular conversation at the beginning.  I felt that we were striving for a groundbreaking idea to solve the plethora of issues in the abstract.  Armed with the newfound depth of knowledge provided by the speakers and teammates, our team came up with ‘Start Dublin’, a platform that would address a need for a one stop service designed around user needs.

At the concluding presentations of each groups concept although unique, held common threads. Reinforcing the idea that information needs to be disseminated for entrepreneurs so that they can understand the range of services and opportunities that lay on front of them. The last group to present gave a hugely creative presentation involving a mock up interview but they also posed the question forcefully to the panel of judges, which included City Manager Philip Maguire, as to what will be done with regard to these conclusions and when will action be taken.  So that is where we stand at this moment and it should prove exciting.

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