Many founders are embracing AI in Ireland

Scale Ireland’s State of Start-ups Survey 2024 shows the vast majority of founders are embracing AI

The vast majority of Irish tech start-up and scaling companies are deploying or preparing to deploy AI, while access to finance is still the biggest challenge facing indigenous founders, according to the findings of Scale Ireland’s 2024 State of Start-ups Survey.

Scale Ireland’s State of Start-ups Survey 2024 looking to greater AI usage

A record 340 tech start-up founders and CEOs contributed to the survey, which provides valuable insights on key issues including the potential of AI, the economy, employment, taxation, state supports and incentives, skills, diversity, and climate. This year’s findings highlight the high adoption of AI, funding challenges, optimism for new investment incentives, and mixed trends in recruitment and retention.

The survey’s findings are launched to coincide with Scale Ireland’s third annual Regional Start-up Summit in Limerick. The survey shows that half of the CEOs and Founders surveyed (50.3%) consider funding to be their biggest challenge which is a similar level to last year (51.6%), reflecting the challenging funding landscape. The second-biggest challenge identified is the cost of doing business (16.2%) which has risen from 2023 (12%), while the recruitment and retention of staff was also identified as an issue (13.2% in 2024, compared to 16.9% in 2023). Other issues included lack of expert advice and support.

Other key findings:

AI: 82% are deploying or preparing to deploy AI, while 83% believe AI will have a positive impact on their business. Almost half (49%) think it will increase productivity and 17% believe it will increase market growth.

Finance: Almost 80% of respondents feel it is difficult or very difficult to attract capital, which remains unchanged from last year, reflecting the funding situation.

Budget: Almost 80% believe that the 5% increase in the R&D tax credit will have a positive impact, while 58% believe the reduced CGT rate for angel investors will have a reasonably positive or big impact.

EIIS: 65% are unaware of new EU State Aid rules which reduce investor relief under the EIIS scheme (Employment investment incentive scheme).
State supports: uptake of state supports remains unattractive with 89% of respondents not using the KEEP share options scheme to retain/recruit staff (up on 83% last year), while 64% are not availing of the R&D tax credit (66% in 2023), and 54% find it complicated (up on last year 49%)

Sustainability: 66.5% of Founders/CEOs questioned did not have a sustainability plan, which remains virtually unchanged from last year (66.9%).
The publication of the third State of Start-ups Survey comes as Scale Ireland’s third Regional Start-up Summit takes place today, Thursday, (22nd Feb) and is officially launched by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney. It will feature some of the country’s leading start-ups and scaling companies. Minister of State, Dara Calleary is also addressing the summit in Limerick, at University of Limerick.

The event is supported by Google, Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, Enterprise Ireland, Atlantic Bridge, University of Limerick and RDI Hub, Killorglin.

Responding to the survey’s findings, the CEO of Scale Ireland, Martina Fitzgerald, said: ‘Our findings are very clear on the potential of AI – the founders and CEOs of Irish tech start-up and scaling companies are embracing AI in a big way. The vast majority of respondents are overwhelmingly positive about its potential and believe it will have a big impact on their businesses’.

The Chair of Scale Ireland, Brian Caulfield, added: ‘The survey demonstrates the challenging investment landscape facing start-up and scaling companies and the need to attract more private investment into the sector. It also highlights the complexity of many state supports so this year’s consultation by Revenue to simplify such schemes is very welcome’.

There are currently more than 2,200 indigenous tech start-up and scale-up companies, employing more than 52,000 people in Ireland. For each additional job created by a start-up, five additional jobs are created in the wider economy. There are 943 start-up and scaling companies based outside of Dublin.

About Scale Ireland: Scale Ireland is an independent not-for-profit organisation, which represents and advocates on behalf of Irish tech start-ups and scale-up companies. Scale Ireland’s purpose is to make Ireland a leading location for innovation and entrepreneurship.

For further information please contact Noel Rock, noel@scaleireland.org,

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