Key questions to ask at your German Market Advisor meeting

Successfully selling into the German market earns you credibility internationally and can be a gateway to many other overseas markets.

If you are considering doing business in Germany, your first step should be a call with our team in Düsseldorf.

    The questions below were designed to help Irish businesses get the best out of their first Market Advisor call

    • What is the awareness of Ireland in Germany?
    • What are the core sectors and what sectors should I avoid?
    • Will I need a local partner company?
    • What kind of obstacles should I expect when entering the German market?
    • What local competitors are active in Germany?
    • What taxes, charges or hidden costs should I be aware of?
    • Are there any social/political instabilities in Germany that could affect my business here?
    • Are there any environmental instabilities in Germany that could affect my business here?
    • What social norms should I be cognizant of when engaging in meetings with local people?
    • Will I need to set up an office in Germany?
    • Will I need to hire local staff?
    • Can I relocate Irish staff in this region?

    Set up a call with our team in Germany today

    For more, download our Going Global Guide 

    Enterprise Ireland’s top tips for entering the German market can be viewed by clicking the graphic below.

    Market Watch Industry Bulletin – Automotive

    The spread of the coronavirus led to an unprecedented collapse of many important car markets in terms of producers, their suppliers and the distribution channels across the globe . Work came to a standstill in almost all countries. But as severe as the slump was initially, the return of production is currently giving the industry hope. A large number of vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers were able to resume operations, albeit only to a limited extent. In addition, stabilization strategies and aid packages have been developed in recent months.

    In this latest industry bulletin, Enterprise Ireland has primarily surveyed leading market experts and industry leaders, and collected their views, gathering specific recommendations for companies, to stabilize, reset and recover from the current situation.

    Read the full report here.

    2021 virtual trade mission – Reaching a global audience

    In the not-too-distant past, companies wishing to establish a successful business relationship with firms overseas, would have relied heavily on international travel and perhaps an office or ‘boots-on-the-ground’ in the country in question.

    But these days, there is also another option as there are many international companies located across Ireland who are more than willing to do business with local businesses – and Gerard, Fenner, Senior Executive of Global Sourcing for Enterprise Ireland, says his team can help to bring Irish SMEs and multinational firms together.

    “The combination of modern technology and accessible travel has made the world a much smaller place and opened up a myriad of global opportunities for Irish businesses,” he says.


    Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland collaboration

    “But travelling to or even selling out of this country isn’t the only means for companies at home to expand into the international market as there are hundreds of multinationals right here in Ireland, which are willing and able to engage with indigenous firms. Since its formation in 2012, the Enterprise Ireland Global Sourcing team has been working with colleagues in IDA Ireland to introduce Irish owned businesses to international firms to respond to their specific requirements.

    “Working with companies across every sector, including pharma, medtech, ICT, engineering, financial services and energy, our team helps to develop relationships between Irish companies who are seeking to sell their product or service and multinational firms who wish to purchase same – so our particular focus is on providing sales opportunities and partnerships between Enterprise Ireland client companies and Ireland-based multinationals, predominantly IDA firms.”

    According to Fenner, there are many benefits to both the seller and the buyer in these business relationships and apart from supporting industry at home, it can also lead to opportunities in export markets – and winning a contract with a multinational gives a scaling Irish company a valuable reference site for its move into export markets.

    “We have found that one of the most productive means of securing relationships between Irish firms and multinationals based here is by means of events where introductions can be made, and sellers can have pre-arranged face to face meetings with potential buyers,” he says.


    Developing international relationships

    “In 2014 we organised the first Trade Mission in Ireland. The event was minister led and took place in various regional locations across the country over the course of a couple of days – and since then, it has taken place every year, apart from 2020, due to lockdown restrictions. It has always garnered a lot of interest and helped to develop contracts and future relationships.”

    So it seems that trade missions have long been an effective means of introducing businesses to prospective clients, but since the onset of the pandemic, industry across every sector has had to pivot online and learn how to do business in a virtual world.


    Online introductions and meetings

    As current guidelines continue to prevent physical events of this nature taking place, this year, on May 12th, the first ever virtual Global Sourcing Trade Mission became the alternative.

    Launched by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, the event proved as popular as ever with 65 multinationals and 240 Irish companies registered with over 350 meetings. And according to Gerard Fenner, the online system was popular with both the variety of different international firms and indigenous companies looking to set up new business relationships.

    “When the Enterprise Ireland companies registered on the event platform, they provided some company information about what they do and what their offer is, and this allowed suppliers to search through this information and put in a request for a meeting,” says the international trade expert. “Similarly, the supplier was also able to request a meeting with a buyer in order to pitch a product or service.

    “Although these 15-minute meeting slots were different to how things normally work at a physical trade mission, it proved to be very successful with feedback from both sides indicating their positivity – and early signs show the possibility of new business relationships and further revenue to add to the €32 million in contracts which have been secured from these trade missions.”

    The Global Sourcing Team lead says there was also the added positive bonus of no travel, which meant that the multinational could bring in individuals from different areas of their business to meet potential suppliers – so rather than just one representative attending the event, firms could bring in someone from finance or with technical expertise to liaise directly with companies pitching a particular service.

    “Overall it was a great success and we have run smaller online events similar to this over the past year and many multinational firms have come back to us to say they were impressed with the fact that they got to meet so many different businesses,” he says.

    “So, the trade mission, whether it takes place at a venue or online, is an important platform for raising awareness about the capabilities of innovative Irish SMEs and helping them to establish future business relationships. And given the interest in this year’s event, despite the difficulties surrounding the current global situation, the future looks bright.”

    Global Recovery. Irish Opportunity

    International Markets Week 2021: Green agenda and digitalisation key areas for growth  

    Global Recovery - Irish Opportunity

    It’s been said many times that exports are crucial to Ireland’s recovery in the post-pandemic world – and Enterprise Ireland is committed to ensuring that Irish companies take advantage of the many opportunities around the world to increase their business and bolster our economy as a result.

    A crucial event in the Enterprise Ireland year is International Markets Week, and this year, for the second year running, it was held as a virtual event over five busy days in October 2021.

    “When Covid hit, we decided that the event was too important to miss, particularly in the context of a global pandemic,” explains Anne Lanigan, Regional Director, Eurozone, at Enterprise Ireland. “This is a time when it’s even more important for our clients to keep their exports going, so we decided to go onto a virtual platform, with our market advisors available for a full week.

    “The market advisors are the boots on the floor, the people who can introduce client companies to potential buyers, so it’s a very practical week for people who want to do business.”

    This year, the theme of the event was Global Recovery. Irish Opportunity, recognising that the global economy is experiencing significant disruption – but while this disruption brings challenges, there are also significant opportunities.

    “Enterprise Ireland client companies enjoyed excellent overall export growth in 2019 of 8%,  with particularly strong growth in the Eurozone and North America of 15% and 16% respectively,” says Anne

     “In 2020, these figures stabilised, which was a very good result in the context of a global pandemic, but now we need to get back to 2019 levels of growth.”

    Opportunities for Irish companies lie in many areas, including the green agenda and digitisation. Throughout the world, companies are investing in green and digital strategies and governments are putting stimulus packages in place to drive a recovery based on a green and digital future. This investment represents huge opportunity for innovative Irish companies.

    “The current disruption in global supply chains also poses significant opportunity,” says Anne. “The drive by manufacturers in developed economies, in particular, to strengthen the reliability of their supply chains so that they are more easily accessed from a geographic and an administrative perspective, creates the opportunity for Ireland to embed themselves in these new supply chains. Ireland’s location on the edge of Europe puts us in a key position to capitalise on this move towards regionalisation of supply chains.”


    Finding opportunities

    It’s clear from this year’s International Markets Week that Enterprise Ireland client companies have recognised the importance of building a robust strategy to take advantage of these growth opportunities. A total of 710 Enterprise Ireland client companies registered for the event, booking a total of 1,663 meetings with market advisors from across the world.

    To get an indication of how companies were faring as the world’s economy recovers from the challenges of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, Enterprise Ireland conducted a survey of the participants ahead of the event. The results were positive: 56% of businesses indicated that they have seen an increase in exports in 2021 compared to 2020, with only 11% reporting a decrease. And, 91% of companies expect sales to increase again in 2022. In terms of trends, the survey revealed that 80% of businesses viewed digitalisation as vital over the next 12 months, while 63% said that advancing their sustainability agenda was a priority.

    These results proved accurate throughout the event, which was officially launched by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, and Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy. Lydia Rogers, country manager for Enterprise Ireland in Canada, reported a real hunger in Irish companies to take advantage of the many opportunities out there. “I met many client companies at various stages of their export journey, from those accelerating their international growth and diversifying into new global markets to ambitious start-ups keen to explore the export opportunities in Canada. The week proved that Canada is a very attractive market for Irish companies in many sectors, including cleantech, consumer retail, engineering, life sciences, fintech and BPO, and a large proportion of digital technologies companies.

    “In addition, Canada was also identified by many client companies as an entry point and as a lower-cost gateway into the wider North America market.”

    And, as predicted, the green agenda and digitalisation opportunities were noted by Lydia as strong trends for Irish companies looking to Canada for growth. “Our team met many companies with innovative digitalisation solutions across travel tech, retail tech, ed tech, digital health, fintech, HR & talent tech, and IoT. There were also many SMEs with innovative solutions in areas including cleantech, mobility, smart energy and environment. Consumer retail was also a significant area of interest – a sector that experienced growth in 2020 despite the challenges of Covid-19. All in all, it was clear from this year’s International Markets Week that Irish companies have recognised Ireland and Canada make great business partners and are ready to reap the rewards from this vibrant and welcoming country.”


    View the virtual launch event from Enterprise Ireland’s International Markets Week 2021 below:






    Key questions to ask at your Italian Market Advisor meeting

    Italy is the third-largest economy in the Eurozone and the fifth largest market in Europe for Irish exports.

    To help you prepare, take a look at our suggestions of questions to ask your Market Advisor.

      • What is the awareness of Ireland in Italy and how is Ireland perceived?
      • What are the core sectors and what sectors should I avoid?
      • Will I need a local partner company?
      • Will I need one or more distributors/dealers if I want to cover the whole of Italy?
      • What kind of obstacles should I expect when entering this market?
      • What is the business culture in Italy? Is it different from Ireland and if so, in what ways?
      • How easy is it to communicate in English? Do I need to speak/understand Italian?  Do I need to have an Italian speaker in the company?
      • What local competitors are active in this market?
      • What social norms should I be cognizant of when engaging in meetings with local people?
      • Will I need to set up an office in the region? Will I need the help of a local expert to follow all the procedures?
      • Will I need to hire local staff? If so, how flexible is the labour market?
      • Can I relocate Irish staff in this region?

      Our Market Advisors are always available to support you and provide business expertise and on-the-ground knowledge.

      For more, download our Going Global Guide

      Enterprise Ireland’s top tips for entering the Italian market can be viewed by clicking the graphic below.

      Ready for a New World: How Modubuild grew during the Covid-19 crisis 

      Never has there been more need for advice, guidance, reassurance and fresh ideas for Irish companies facing the unprecedented challenges that 2020 has brought, which is why the theme for Enterprise Ireland’s International Markets Week (IMW) 2020 was“Ready for a New World”.

      One of the keynote speakers at this year’s IMW event was Kevin Brennan, the co-founder and managing director at Modubuild, a company that has enjoyed phenomenal growth thanks to large-scale projects throughout Northern Europe. Understandably, the company has faced project delays and postponements thanks to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic but is still expecting strong growth this year.

      “The way we look at it is that Covid has been a problem but it’s just one of the many problems that you encounter as an international business on a day-to-day or year-to-year basis,” says Kevin. “Our main message would be to remain positive, communicate with your people and continue to service your clients. We don’t see Covid as an excuse not to deliver. It may be more difficult but the world continues on.”

      From small beginnings to big contracts

      Modubuild was set up initially as a small company by Kevin and his business partner John Comerford to take advantage of an opportunity around modular construction, specifically in the area of specialist fire and explosion protection. Clients included Dublin Airport and Limerick Tunnel, as well as some pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly, Pfizer & Amgen. The company quickly became specialists in this area and were well poised to deliver solutions for the burgeoning data centre industry that experienced strong growth in the last decade.

      Our first data centre job in Ireland was around 2012, and in 2015, we won our first big international contract, an €8 million contract for a data centre in the Netherlands for the same client. At the time, it was one of the biggest data centre projects in Europe. From then on, the company has skyrocketed in growth, averaging 60% year on year since then. Current year revenue will be somewhere north of €34 million, so all going well, we’d be expecting to go past the €50 million mark next year.”

      Throughout their growth, Modubuild has been supported by Enterprise Ireland, both in terms of grants and advice as they expanded into new countries. “Enterprise Ireland helped us out a lot since we initially branched out into the Netherlands, leading us through issues like tax compliance and putting us in contact with local suppliers, opportunities etc. We also received two rounds of funding to help recruit people. We’ve found them really beneficial in terms of PR; our first office outside Ireland was in Amsterdam, and Enterprise Ireland arranged for Kevin Kelly, Ireland’s ambassador to the Netherlands, to open the office, which attracted a significant amount of PR. The fact that you have an entity like Enterprise Ireland promoting us as an international company alongside some other very successful companies can only be beneficial in raising our profile.”

      Today, the company is headquartered in Kilkenny City, with a manufacturing plant in Castlecomer and offices in Amsterdam, Brussels, Manchester, Stockholm and Helsinki. “Our business is mostly in North Europe, following our clients as they require our services. Lots of data centre activity is located in Northern Europe – our clients tend to roll out different projects across Europe and ask us to come on the journey with them. We’re in the process of setting up in Spain in the next year because data centre activity is increasing there and we are also looking at opportunities in other countries.”

      The plant in Castlecomer is another side to the business. “In Castlecomer, we design and manufacture high-tech modular buildings and can then ship them throughout the world. For example, we’ve just delivered a large turn-key design and build vaccine laboratory for a Global BioPharma customer. We designed, built and tested the entire facility in our factory, while the client was getting planning and preparing the site. We then shipped it to site in large modules and re-assembled the building on site in 10 days, this means our client can have a lifesaving vaccine ready for market around one year earlier than it would normally take.”

      Tackling 2020’s challenges

      Modubuild was in a strong position coming into 2020, which helped the company navigate the two major challenges of 2020 – Brexit and Covid. Brexit, explains Kevin, was something they had prepared for well in advance. “One of the things we did when Brexit first came on the scene was to set up a separate company that operated within the UK. We also took the foot off the pedal somewhat in the UK as it’s a very competitive market and instead focused our attentions elsewhere in Europe – and it’s been a very successful strategy for us.”

      Covid, on the other hand, was a different story. “Covid was something that nobody saw coming. For us, we had seen huge growth coming into the crisis, and we were extremely busy with almost full order books. The biggest impact probably was the temporary closure of some projects, particularly in Ireland because of lockdowns, and that hit our Q2 turnover probably to the tune of 25%. But overall, we’re still projecting strong growth this year, perhaps not at the same level as before Covid, but possibly somewhere north of 30%.

      “We’re lucky that the sectors we work in are all seen as essential – for instance, many of our clients are looking to develop vaccines for Covid and need rapid delivery of vaccine laboratories, which we can build in Castlecomer. Then the data centre industry is continuing its growth at pace, if anything, Covid has meant there is an even greater need for data centres due to video conferencing, remote working etc.”

      Like most other companies, remote working and staying in contact with employees during lockdowns have been challenging. “A lot of our people are mobile and working in different locations so we were well used to communicating through video chat etc, but probably our biggest challenge was missing the interaction of working and collaborating in an office environment. We’ve tried to keep people connected by having regular Town Hall meetings online and doing various other activities online to keep people involved, virtual coffee meetings etc. There was huge uncertainty back in March/April, we noticed many people and businesses around us were panicking, so one of the first things we did as a company was to send a clear out a clear message to our people that we were in a strong position, peoples jobs were secure and we weren’t going to put people on reduced hours, furlough, forced holidays etc. In fact, we stated that we were going to keep recruiting – and that’s what we’ve done, we have continued to grow team significantly to ensure we were ready to take on new and larger projects.”

      In addition, having boots on the ground in Europe has proved beneficial. “We had a couple of hundred people located on projects throughout Europe, and most of them made the decision to stay in those countries during the pandemic rather than travelling back to Ireland every week or two weeks as they would have done pre-Covid. This meant that all our projects stayed operational throughout the crisis, in fact, we actually started a couple of new projects in Europe right in the middle of the pandemic.”


      Click here to watch the opening of Enterprise Ireland’s International Markets Week 2020, featuring Kevin Brennan.

      Middle East Aviation: Ready to soar once again in the post-pandemic future

      The Covid-19 pandemic has hit few sectors harder than the aviation industry, with severe restrictions on travel and closed borders resulting in a dramatic decline in passenger volumes globally. Airports around the world have had their resilience tested to the limit as they faced the initial paralysis of the skies, followed by the ongoing waves of the pandemic. However, there is a glimmer of light on the horizon driven by the rollout of the global vaccination programme in the majority of countries, albeit at different levels of implementation.


      Predicted growth

      Despite the significantly curtailed demand globally and regionally due to Covid-19, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the Middle East will see a 4.4 percent growth in passenger journeys over the period through to 2039. “With the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) home to some of the most advanced airports in the world and often exceling in passenger service, they are on the front foot to ensure restored confidence in flying once again,” said Alan O’ Mahony, Market Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at Enterprise Ireland.

      “Airport operators and airlines are monitoring the situation closely and continue to adapt to the evolving situation. They are now faced with the challenge of balancing additional health and safety requirements with providing a good passenger experience as they seek to restore confidence in air travel. Innovation and technology across the Middle East will play a key role in unlocking improvements for passenger experience and safety whilst also igniting the recovery for the sector. Ireland has forged a strong reputation for delivering world-leading innovative solutions that are used every day by the largest airlines in the world and across the wider aviation sector. We need this innovation now more than ever to power the industry’s recovery and Irish companies will continue to shape this new age for air travel.”

      Pandemic-era air travel

      Technology has advanced swiftly over the course of the pandemic in reaction to the ever-changing environment, and a new focus on health considerations in technology and process transformation has emerged.

      “One trend that will become more widespread is the adoption of contactless technology in order to minimise the spread of viruses and reduce interaction between staff and passengers throughout the entire journey,” explained Alan. “A good case in point is Irish company IO Systems which operates the automated baggage return tray systems in Dubai International Airport. The company has adapted its latest models to include blue light cleansing technology to ensure their trays are actively cleaned as they automatically return through the baggage system. Airports can ensure additional safety measures are applied whilst still ensuring a good passenger experience is delivered through the introduction of these type of innovative solutions.”


      Taking flight

      “The hot topic in the industry right now is the digital health certification to capture the completed vaccination process or Covid-19 status of people intending to fly,” said Alan. “Irish biometric identity assurance specialist Daon is leading the way by creating the world’s first widely adopted mobile health passport to help those eligible to travel to navigate the changing entry requirements associated with Covid-19. The company’s new VeriFLY app, which has already been adopted by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia Airlines and Aer Lingus, is designed to offer peace of mind before travel by ensuring passengers meet the entry requirements of their destination.”

      VeriFLY provides digital health document verification, confirms eligibility, and allows people to combine necessary travel documents, such as Covid-19 test results, in one place, allowing travellers to ensure they are fully compliant with all the departure and arrival requirements before leaving home. Certified customers will be fast-tracked through the airport where specially designated desks are available for check in.

      “The ingenuity, ambition, and adaptability that Daon and their partners have demonstrated throughout the pandemic are making a significant contribution to restoring traveller confidence and ensuring a positive passenger experience. It’s just one example of how innovation from Ireland, one of the major travel tech hubs in the world, is playing a leading role in the recovery for the sector.”


      Advanced technologies

      Responses to Covid-19 have accelerated the adoption of digital technologies across almost all sectors, and it’s thought that many of these changes will have a lasting impact. “With the global smart airports market to top $22.6 billion (USD) by 2025, the requirement for advanced technologies – especially as part of the immediate recovery – will continue to be an important market for the vast array of Irish companies operating in the sector. We are likely to see new entrants into the airport space across technologies such as biometrics, robotics, cloud technologies and IoT.”

      “There is no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on the air travel industry and the recovery for the industry is still some distance away. With that said, recent trends offer reasons for cautious optimism. While it’s certain that air travel will never look the same again, these innovative solutions will help to ensure international airline travel is, once more, cleared for take-off.”


      Key questions to ask at your Swiss Market Advisor meeting

      The Swiss market is attractive to Irish exporters for numerous reasons, including its high purchasing power and good payment habits.

      If you are considering doing business in Switzerland, your first step should be a call with our dedicated team. 

      • What is the awareness of Ireland in Switzerland?
      • What are the core sectors and what sectors should I avoid?
      • Will I need a local partner company?
      • What kind of obstacles should I expect when entering the Swiss market?
      • What local competitors are active in Switzerland?
      • What taxes, charges or hidden costs should I be aware of?
      • Are there any social/political instabilities in Switzerland that could affect my business here?
      • Are there any environmental instabilities in Switzerland that could affect my business here?
      • What social norms should I be cognizant of when engaging in meetings with local people?
      • Will I need to set up an office in Switzerland?
      • Will I need to hire local staff?
      • Can I relocate Irish staff to Switzerland?

      Enterprise Ireland is committed to helping Irish firms succeed in global markets and have industry experts on hand, ready to help you access the Swiss market.

      Our Market Advisors are always available to support you and provide business expertise and on-the-ground knowledge.

      For more, download our Going Global Guide

      Enterprise Ireland’s top tips for entering the Swiss market can be viewed by clicking the graphic below.

      Conor Fahy, Enterprise Ireland

      Market Watch – A view from the Middle East, India and Africa

      The Middle East is expected to return to business sooner than Africa and India with the tech industry being the first to recover.

      Key Takeaways

      • Companies need to closely monitor the changing business environment and be prepared to quickly pivot their offer or business model if the market demands.
      • Business is severely affected in the region even though the spread of the virus in Africa and India is weeks behind Europe.
      • Borders have been closed, international events cancelled, and most companies are looking to cut costs.
      • The Middle East is expected to return to business sooner than Africa and India with the tech industry being the first to recover.
      • Communication is vital for to maintain long term relationships.

      The global pandemic has indeed affected every corner of the world and according to Conor Fahy, Regional Director, Enterprise Ireland, India, the Middle East, and Africa is no different.

      “The area encompasses over 40% of the world population so lockdown and self-isolation presents many challenges,” says the regional director. “The situation in the Middle East is similar to Europe in timing and response and most companies are expecting a decrease in revenue and are looking to cut costs and consider cost containment and defer or pause investments.

      “The double whammy of an oil price war and Covid-19 will affect budgets and Dubai has introduced highly restrictive measures, including closing its airport, so there is a risk of a sharp increase in business defaults and liquidations in the travel and tourism industry. Also borders have closed across the region and major international events have been cancelled or delayed.

      “India and Africa are currently around three weeks behind in terms of cases and government response. But business is severely affected, while economic activity is suffering from the initial phases of lockdown. The medium-term impacts will be severe and combined with oil-price shock and reduced demand for commodities, the region is likely to tip into an economic contraction in 2020/21, in the absence of major fiscal stimulus.”

      There are eight Enterprise Ireland offices across the region which are helping Irish companies stay informed, connected and exporting. And Fahy says it’s crucial for people to avail of this support and keep communications lines open in order to survive the challenges.

      “We are providing in-depth customer engagement, virtual itineraries, bespoke buyer webinars and one-to-one advice and guidance,” he says. “Personal connection is vital to winning and retaining business so it’s essential to stay connected with existing customers. Be the trusted source of information: and proactively communicate with accurate market information and insights from your industry contacts, and from Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre.”

      “When things get tough, the temptation is to become acutely focused on immediate problems but while these should be addressed, developing a strategy for recovery is just as vital. So extend your timeline assumptions and planning-against scenarios, even if it appears difficult. Now is the time to invest in strategic planning and to start thinking through decision criteria and conditions for return to business.”

      Many organisations are still dealing with immediate concerns around the availability of cash.

      While all sectors are being affected across the region, Tourism, Aviation, Construction, Industrial Manufacturing and Mining and Oil industries have been hardest hit but technology related businesses will be the first to make a recovery.

      “CFOs in the Middle East are expecting to get back to normal sooner rather than later; pausing or delaying investments instead of cancelling them altogether,” he says. “In fact, the majority expect to return to business as usual within three months if COVID-19 were to end today.

      “Investments in digital transformation, customer experience and cyber security are most likely to be protected as a result of Covid-19 and all indicators point to a technology-led recovery as AI is becoming pivotal in managing the huge amounts of data needed to deliver services and product.”

      While there are certainly challenges facing Irish exporters, Fahy says there are also some emerging opportunities, particularly for digital payments and cloud services.

      “The near collapse of many online grocery retail platforms is driving demand for process automation and intelligent self-service and Irish companies quickly recognize the changing market dynamics,” he says. “But while positivity may be in short supply, there is optimism in around returning to business and continuing to invest where it matters.

      “Business leaders need to invest time away from crisis management to show leadership and strategically look to future opportunities which will emerge when these economies rebound.”

      Conor Fahy is Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Director of the Middle East, India and Africa. To learn more about the steps companies can take to address the impact of Covid-19 visit our business supports page.

      happy employee

      Irish talent tech firms boost global engagement and productivity

      In this era of widespread remote working, employee engagement and wellbeing matter more than ever. Isolated workers need to feel a sense of community and get support from their employers in line with their company’s values.

      Companies around the world are looking to Irish talent tech companies for cutting-edge digital solutions to enable streamlined, effective work by HR departments, managers and employees. From wellbeing apps to performance management tools, Irish companies are exporting best-in-class products to businesses in dozens of countries.

      Most are also focused on integrating with the existing technologies used by companies, meaning those in charge of IT budgets can maximise their legacy investments. Discover how five of the best in Irish talent tech are meeting the needs of a global client base.


      1. Workvivo: Engaging employees with a highly social experience

      Cork-based Workvivo is an enterprise social network, designed to enable organisations to engage as well as communicate with their employee communities.

      “We took activities such as posting, liking and sharing content to an activity feed, which people are used to on social media apps outside the workplace, but developed them in a business context, enabling people to more easily engage with one another and with their company.” says Pete Rawlinson, Chief Marketing Officer at Workvivo.


      Describe your business

      “Disengagement was an issue for as many as 70% of businesses before the pandemic,” he adds. “One-to-one communication tools such as email or messaging facilitate communication but don’t do anything to provide that sense of community and culture.”

      “People  need to feel part of something, especially when they are working remotely.” Pete Rawlinson, CMO at Workvivo

      Since the pandemic spread, Workvivo has seen a significant increase in enquiries. “Companies are seeing that many remote workers can feel isolated. Our platform helps bring employees together through a highly social experience. We see customers using the platform to host activities such as quizzes and competitions that really help create that important sense of community….and fun!”

      Woodies found that its Workvivo activity went up when its workers were furloughed due to Covid-19. “These were mainly employees with no work email account or company device, but they wanted to stay engaged,” says Rawlinson.

      Workvivo has sought to ensure it can integrate with existing communication tools such as Slack, Zoom and Workday, and also includes built-in engagement analysis through pulse surveys, he says, adding that many customers report higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement than before they implemented the platform. “Higher engagement typically leads to increases in talent retention and acquisition,” he said.

      Established three years ago, Workvivo now has customers in 35 countries with over 150,000 users on the platform. The company is headquartered in Cork, Ireland and has recently opened an office in Sacramento, California. Having recently secured $16m (€14.2m) in Series A funding, it is now focused on expanding its US client base and accelerating its product development plans.


      2. Frankli: automating continuous performance management

      While performance review cycles can strike dread into both managers and employees, Frankli aims to make performance management easier and more intuitive with its end-to-end platform.

      “Our product allows managers to have much more meaningful conversations with people and support their development,” says Noel Dykes, founder and CEO of Frankli. “This approach is transformative and agile — we don’t set out to be a once-a-year annual cycle of goal-setting and meetings.”

      A software engineer by background, Dykes worked as a consultancy practice manager in New Zealand and saw first-hand that younger employees were particularly keen on continuous feedback and recognition. “People want to be truly connected to the work,” he says. “They want to understand their purpose. Why are they there? What is the company they are working for trying to achieve?”

      He adds that purpose-driven organisations will thrive, especially as remote working opens up a global marketplace.

      “Managers are going to become coaches, rather than engaging in direct management in the office where they can see employees and know what they are working on. From now on, they will have to trust people and give them much more autonomy.”

      Within Frankli, managers can set up regular recurring one-to-one meetings with their team members, setting priorities, agreeing action items and supporting accountability on both sides. The software suggests recommended talking points, based on insights from organisational psychology. Employees can also contribute comments and suggestions.

      The product also enables businesses to offer more tailored learning and development opportunities, including a two-sided mentor marketplace tool.

      Frankli has customers of all sizes in Ireland, the UK, Poland and New Zealand. While its core focus is midsize companies looking to scale, it already supports workforces of as many as 70,000 employees.


      3. Empeal: personalised employee wellbeing at scale

      While many employee wellbeing platforms work on a one-to-many scale, says Sohini De, founder of data-driven start-up Empeal, her business aims to deliver 1:1 wellbeing support at scale.

      “If someone is having trouble with sleep, perhaps not doing too much exercise, eating unhealthy food or generally falling into bad habits, they can go through the programme on our system,” she explains.

      “They start by completing interactive questionnaires and we can also integrate data from their wearable devices. They could be given a personalised programme to improve their sleep hygiene, for example. If they continue to have problems, their case is escalated to a sleep expert.”

      With users in Ireland and India, Empeal is now focused on expanding those markets and pushing into both the UAE and the UK, So far, it has seen engagement rates of 60% on average, which De says is high for a wellbeing app. “We have also seen very encouraging results in terms of people achieving their health goals,” she says.

      In addition to helping employees improve their wellbeing, Empeal also provides anonymised aggregate data to employers to enable them make better decisions, improve staff retention rates and attract more talent.

      To help companies navigate the coronavirus crisis, Empeal produced a free toolkit of resources and also made its community-level module free. “We were finding a lot of employers were asking, ‘How can we take care of our people at this time?’ — they were very concerned about how everyone in remote locations was coping not in touch with their workplace or workmates,” says De.


      “The community engagement part of the platform, which includes fun challenges and community boards, helps employees feel connected and it’s very simple to roll out for HR teams.” Sohini De, Empeal founder


      4. Peptalk: building community through connection and wellbeing

      The three founders of workplace wellbeing platform Peptalk — all former sports stars — know more than most the value of wellbeing when it comes to performance.

      “We had all been involved in high performance sports,” says CEO James Brogan, an all-Ireland winner himself and a cousin of Dublin GAA legend Bernard Brogan, another of the co-founders along with Michelle Fogarty, who represented Ireland at taekwondo. “We had seen that to get the best out of people, their lives need to be in balance. What you do off the pitch is as important as what you do on it.”

      Peptalk aims to help companies build sustainable high performance cultures through its community-driven employee experience platform. The product includes an insights tool, management toolkits, an employee app and a real-time measurement dashboard.

      “We’re helping organisations with those off-the-pitch activities. We’re helping humans to be better at what they do, to have more energy, and to be more focused and resilient,” says Brogan.

      He adds that the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the issue of work-life balance: “Senior leaders have seen a different side to their staff. They’re now acutely aware that, unless people have proper support, they won’t be able to work to the best of their ability.”

      During the crisis, Peptalk has seen increased engagement from existing clients, while also doubling its usual number of demos to potential customers.

      Set up in late 2016, Peptalk has users in 10 countries, including Mondelez, McDonald’s and Paypal. “This is a global challenge faced by multinationals. We offer one solution that works across an organisation, so there is no sense of disconnection with different offices doing different things,” says Brogan.

      With serious plans to scale further, Peptalk expects to close out its current funding round later in 2020. “This is the time for us to get out and support as many organisations as we can,” says Brogan. “It’s a challenging time and the need has never been greater for the type of services we offer.”


      5. Wrkit: easy to implement and clinically-backed 

      Founded two decades ago, Wrkit was originally a group benefits scheme, which evolved into an employee discount scheme. While users can still access thousands of discounts on holidays, food, clothes and other products, Wrkit has expanded to offer other services, including a learning portal with 4,500 personal and professional courses, a recognition portal and a wellbeing portal called Powr.

      “POWR stands for Positive Occupational Wellness Resources, offering tools such as meditation, breathing exercises and reflective journaling” explains Jason Brennan, Wrkit’s Director of Wellbeing and Leadership.

      “The big differentiator between Powr and similar apps is that it offers 430 clinically based behavioural plans put together by psychologists,” says Brennan. “These are based on six paths — mind, sleep, work, life, food and active. When users answer the questionnaires for these paths, they are given a personalised plan.”

      “POWR users begin by finding out how they score clinically in the 6 areas of wellbeing and are instantly provided with personalised clinically based plans to improve engagement and growth in each area. During covid for example we saw a huge up take in the activity, work and life plans, helping not only users but employers by feeding back what is happening in real time with their anonymised and aggregated dashboard.”

      Wrkit is based in Dublin, but also has offices in London and Massachusetts. Its clients include multinationals such as KPMG, FedEx and Boston Scientific. Its internet-based application can be launched quickly as it requires no specific IT infrastructure, says Brennan.

      “All we need to launch is the list of employee ID numbers, and we provide lots of webinars and video tutorials to help staff engage with the tool, which is of course completely confidential.”

      When Covid-19 struck, Wrkit quickly found demand rose. “We launched to 60 companies in eight weeks,” says Brennan. “We also quickly created a Coping with Covid portal to help users.”

      Market Entry title and businesswoman image

      Export Journey: Step 5 – Market Entry

      Market Entry title and businesswoman image

      Your next priority is for the execution of your company’s vision within new export markets. Key to this will be preparing the company for this change and subsequent increased demand from and servicing of new export markets.

      Consideration for a successful market entry should include;

      1.Identify and allocate adequate resources such as:

        • Financial resources i.e. cash required to sufficiently support overseas exports
        • Additional equipment or fixed assets needed to increase volume or backup global sales
        • People, including staff, suppliers or other valuable relationships in Ireland or overseas

      2. Defining where your first sales will come from

      Will your customers be a distributor which imports in larger quantities, or an overseas agenct or representative acting on your behalf or will it be a separate trading company of your own business?

      3. Developing your lead generation strategy

      Supports will need to be assigned to generate business leads. Will they be predominantly offline, online or a hybrid?

      Offline: fairs, events, conferences, network meetings or

      Online: website, social media, blogs etc.

      You will need to qualify and validate the leads, managing them through a Customer Relationship Management (CMS) system such as Salesforce.

      4. Marketing and communications

      Implementing a successful marketing and communication plan is vital for sustained sales in export markets.

      When developing a plan, it is important not to do a ‘copy and paste’ of the same marketing strategy from your domestic market as these are likely completely disparate territories. While it is logical that you should retain your company values and purpose, you will need to adapt your marketing and communications strategy to your new export market

      5. Implementing a sales process

      By implementing a sales process, you are creating a set of logical, repeatable steps that your sales team goes through to bring a potential buyer from an early stage of awareness to closing the sale. There are various stages that need to be considered in developing an effective sales process, such as;

      a) How will your company cultivate your sales leads?

      b) What preparation will you commit to in order to be ready to capture an overseas sale?

      c) What will be your sales teams approach to a prospective buyer?

      d) How will you adequately present or pitch your sales in an overseas market?

      e) Is your team setup to deal with buyer objections or queries?

      f) Have you experience in closing a sale in an overseas market?

      g) What follow-up work will be done post buyer presentation?

      6. Relationship building

      Relationship building is a key factor in developing sustained sales in export markets. Any company considering to expand globally is undoubtedly looking for a return on their initial investment, and companies looking for better business returns are strongly encouraged to place an emphasis on relationship building.

      Companies can quite often focus on the transactional, revenue generation portion before they consider relationship building. However, as is the case in much of the world, relationships based on mutual respect and trust outplay singular transactions. Relationships need to be worked on and require different approaches for different markets.

      Take the next step in the Export Journey

      Enterprise Ireland’s top tips for entering the French market

      France will be Ireland’s closest geographical neighbour in the European Union after Brexit. As both countries are members of the EU, trade between France and Ireland is greatly facilitated by a common currency, free movement of goods and services, and regulatory alignment.

      France is the world’s 7th largest economy and home to many internationally renowned businesses, from telecommunications giant Orange, to international pioneer in aerospace Airbus, and leaders in luxury consumer goods like the LVMH group.   For Irish businesses with the ambition to go global, the French market boasts many opportunities- if you follow our top tips!  


      • Build trust

      It is important to remember that when approaching a French partner or buyer, you are completely unknown. Reassuring your targets that you are serious and that you have valuable ways to fill gaps and solve their problems should be your number one priority. Approaching your targets in the correct way i.e. through being introduced through other contacts or EI Market Advisors and having a strong value proposition and case studies prepared in advance is key to appearing credible to a potential customer.

      Gaining the trust of your customers means you will also receive it. It is often said that the French are reluctant to break their supply chains for new products and services and disrupt existing relationships, which presents a hurdle to Irish businesses entering the market. However, once you do secure a French customer and gain their trust, you will find them to be very loyal. Going forward, they will tend to work with you to resolve issues rather than go straight to your rival.


      • A strong value proposition is vital.

      This reluctance to change suppliers means that ‘me too’ products are unlikely to succeed in the market. Before approaching decision-makers, it is vital to have done extensive research and competitor analysis and have a strong value proposition for your product. Remember that in France, improvements on products or processes are not enough to be considered innovative. The French tend to look for new ways of doing things, or entirely new approaches, to consider something an ‘innovation’.


      • Know your customer

      Carrying out extensive market research through Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre and by talking to the Market Advisors is vital before approaching any potential prospects.  As well as validating the market opportunity for your value proposition, this will help you identify the best targets (for example, French businesses in France rather than multinational firms in France that do not have power over buying decisions), and the correct people to target within organisations.

      French business culture is very hierarchical and understanding the organizational structure of the types of companies you wish to target is also very important. There may be several people to go through before reaching the Purchasing Manager or Director of Procurement. Don’t eliminate anyone as not being influential in the purchasing process, however, the final decisions will be made at the top level.


      • Pay attention to detail.

      France loves detail. French buyers will expect to see great attention to detail both in your product and service offering and in the way you do business. Small mistakes are a big deal and could cost you a sale.

      Getting your product or service to market in France will require lots of work in terms of compliance, respecting regulation and red tape. While these might sound like barriers to entry, they are there to establish and protect quality. In fact, they ensure a level playing field amongst all competitors.


      • Don’t (always) take no for an answer.

      When doing business in France, one of the most common words heard in meetings will be “Non”. This is not a negative but the first step on the road to “Oui”. “Non” forms the basis of a discussion with your intended partner or client that will deal heavily with specifics and navigating French regulatory compliance. In France, an argument is usually the precursor to a discussion.

      Therefore, it is so important to have a strong value proposition and understanding of why your product is the best one for the buyer, before entering discussions.  


      • French language skills.

      While many French businesspeople have excellent English, communicating in French is preferred and having a native French speaker sends a very strong signal of your intent. Hire an interpreter for your initial meetings in the French market. Make the effort to have marketing and web material accurately translated, preferably by a native French speaker. It is also very important to be cognizant and respectful of your use of language with potential customers- always use formal language and never address anyone using their first name unless invited.

      The only exception to this rule is in the Digital Technologies sector, where most business is conducted through English.


      • Be patient.

      If you intend to do business in France, you must be patient. Deals take time, partnerships need to be nurtured, and even the most routine meetings need to be set up well in advance. Rushing things will be perceived poorly in France. 

      French business culture takes time because of its approach to detail, and the value it places on evidence-based decision making. This patience pays off, as once a decision is made, it is usually not revisited.

      If you are considering doing business in France be sure to reach out to our teams in Paris and Lyon and read our Going Global Guide for more information.


      If you would like to know what to prepare ahead of your first MA call, click the graphic below