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Ireland's entrepreneurial culture shifts
Monday, September 30 2002
by Matthew Clark

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Most Irish entrepreneurs do not start businesses solely for the purpose of becoming wealthy, a new report backed by the Irish Software Association claims.

As hard as it may be to believe, the ISA-sponsored report said that money was not the prime motivator for the people behind many of Ireland's start-ups. Instead, the men and women behind many of Ireland's newest high-tech firms are driven to "be their own boss" and have "greater independence," the ISA said.

The survey, entitled "What Motivates Irish Entrepreneurs to Set up their First Business," was conducted by Shane Davey of the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business under the supervision of Dr Frank Roche. Around 180 entrepreneurs responded to the study, making it the largest published survey of Irish entrepreneurs and motivation to date, the ISA said.

According to the report, the top reason entrepreneurs gave for setting up their business was "I wanted to be my own boss and have more independence." The number two reason, according to Davey's research, was "I want to do something that I enjoy." The third most popular answer was "I saw a niche in the market that was exploitable," suggesting that on some level, money motivated a few start-up founders.

Commenting on the results in the survey, chairman of the Irish Software Association Paul O'Dea said the report was evidence that the entrepreneurial culture in the Republic was beginning to change; a change that could boost indigenous industry. "This report is further evidence of the emergence of a new generation of Irish entrepreneurs," he said.

"If you go back a number of years to the dot-com bubble, there was much more of a get rich quick mentally among high-tech entrepreneurs," O'Dea told ElectricNews.Net. "But I think they are much more real today than they were in the past." He went on to say the change in mentality was driven in part from some business leaders that may have been "burned" in the dot-com hype, while other are emerging as first time business owners who had seen the carnage when the bubble burst.

It's worth noting, however, that the survey did not cover high-tech start-ups exclusively.

Davey himself said that he was most surprised that "getting rich" was not the prime motivator for Irish entrepreneurs. "It seems that Irish entrepreneurs at least are more interested in having more control and independence and enjoying their work more than starting up a business to earn their fortune."

"That is not to say that some Irish entrepreneurs are not solely motivated by money, just not as many as may be from other countries," Davey added.

Other statistics from the report said that women are more likely to start their companies later than men. According to the ISA-backed work, the average age of all entrepreneurs when starting their first business was 32 years old, although for women the average age was 35 and for men it was 31. Around 15 percent of business founders in the survey were over 40 when starting their first company. Around 40 percent were in their 30s and a further 40 percent were in their 20s, Davey's work indicated. Just 5 percent were under 20 years old.

Although 76 percent of the respondents to Davey's questionnaire were men, he reported that women's primary motivations in starting a business are similar to those of men. However, "there is some evidence that instead of struggling to break through a glass ceiling, women feel they can better develop professionally and personally by starting a business," added Davey.

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