Mary Rodgers is the Innovation Community Manager at The PorterShed, a co-working space for the technology sector based in the heart of Galway city.
Tell us about the Portershed.
The PorterShed in Galway city is the first building in the Galway City Innovation District. The district’s mission is to create a Cluster of Galway City’s entrepreneurs, startups, accelerators and incubators. Close to public transportation, wired for high-speed internet, supporting mixed-use development, and nurturing collaboration and knowledge sharing.
The PorterShed is the first building in this evolving story; it allows entrepreneurs to use a collaborative space, mingle with other entrepreneurs and have efficient access to everything from insights into the latest technology to legal and financial advice. We are only open 7 weeks but already there is a real sense of community and collaboration and great place to work!
Already, we are home to 13 companies and 37 individuals. For us it’s all about collaboration. Companies, big and small, bounce ideas and form solutions; it’s an amazing space with energy and belief.
Why are you located in the West of Ireland?
The idea was born out of a need to create a space in the city centre that was attractive for the Startup community; research has shown that tech startups want to be somewhere in the centre of a city, and where better than Eyre Square.
We are located at the back of the train station in what used to be the Old Guinness Administration offices.It is right in the centre of Galway just off Eyre Square members of the Portershed can often walk or bus to work making it very attractive place to work. Once this building had 15 rooms and an event space. It is now an open plan co-working hub. The building is a mix of old and new. We are thrilled to have been able to maintain some of the old fixtures and to incorporate a new modern feel.
When did The PorterShed start and what inspired you to do this?
The PorterShed is the brain child of several ambitious and innovative business people from Galway who worked closely with academia, public, and private sector to create this amazing space. The ethos is driven by the need to combine our economic assets in the West of Ireland (companies, education institutions and organisations), our physical assets (public and privately-owned spaces designed and organised to stimulate new and higher levels of connectivity, collaboration, and innovation) and our networking assets (the relationships between individuals, companies, organisations and institutions that have the potential to generate, sharpen, and/or accelerate the advancement of ideas).
What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
The PorterShed is part of the Galway City Innovation District (GCID), a non-profit entity formed to promote innovation in Galway city centre. The PorterShed is backed by AIB and has also recently received funding from Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office in Galway.
Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?
Our aim is to attract individuals and companies in the ICT sector to the PorterShed who have a desire to scale globally. We will use our existing network and cultivate new networks to promote PorterShed members worldwide. We have already began fostering international relationships and will have three international tech startups joining us in the coming weeks.
How long did it take you to get the business off the ground?
The PorterShed location was identified in 2014; building conversion started in Oct 2015 and 6 months laters the doors opened! We now have 37 people and 13 companies based in the PorterShed, we expect to be at full capacity shortly and roll out an accelerator program in the Autumn.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful?
The best thing about the PorterShed is the range of skills the board and sponsors have brought to the table; from international contacts to finance there is myriad of skills amongst the team all eager to support and help PorterShed members grow anyway we can.
How do you continue to grow and learn?
I have no doubt the PorterShed is only the start of this emerging story – watch this space and keep an eye out for new developments in the Galway City Innovation District!
How do you promote The PorterShed?
For now, we are promoting both members and the community through social media and the website, we have also been fortunate to get lots of support from local and national press. That’s the great thing about the West of Ireland everyone is behind the initiative!
If you had to do it all over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Ask again in a year!
What do you love most about working with The Portershed?
For me this was a move from being my own boss to being part of a bigger team with vision and ambition not just for the PorterShed but for Galway city. What’s great about the PorterShed is that even for members who are working on their own they are not alone. As I write this there is a frenzy of activity as we prepare for a PorterShed BBQ which provides a sense of being part of something bigger than your own company.
What should happen in the West of Ireland to encourage further entrepreneurship?
We are getting there we now have a vibrant start up community in the city centre, road infrastructure and linkages globally are also key to success and sustainability.
What advice would you give to anybody thinking about a life in the West?
We are very lucky in the West as we have the culture and the talent. I moved home from the US in 2007 and have never looked back – there is no place I would rather be rain or shine! Galway is the place to be!