Leadership and evolving talent for scaling FDI Start-Ups

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Emma Jane Finnegan, Head of Client Services and FDI for Alternatives Elect writes about talent solutions for the FDI sector.

For over 50 years, Ireland has an impeccable track record for attracting Foreign Direct Investment. The IDA (Irish Development Authority) announced in January 2015 that over 1,195 multinational companies have already chosen Ireland as their European base and 2014 was a record year for inward investment with total employment within FDI companies standing at almost 180,000.

Ireland was also recently named one of the best countries in the world for business by Forbes.

  • 9 of the top 10 global software companies
  • 9 of the top 10 global pharmaceutical corporations
  • 10 of the top 10 “born on the internet” companies
  • More than 50% of the world’s leading financial services firms
  • 15 of the top 20 global medical technology

There are many reasons why companies locate in Ireland, i.e. talent, low corporation tax, ease of access to Europe, but it’s also important to note that the Irish government have strived and succeeded over several decades to develop an open economy.  This has allowed the IDA to continue to do a fantastic job branding Ireland as a great place to do business and consistently attract high performing industries.


Ireland is one of the leading countries globally in terms of its ability to develop, attract and retain talent.  The IBM 2014 Global Location Trends Report ranks Ireland first in the world for inward investment by quality and value, and fourth globally for the number of jobs per capita.  The 2014 IMD World Competitiveness yearbook 2014 ranks Ireland as first in class for availability of skilled labour, flexibility and adaptability of workforce.  Ireland also scores highly as a global investment hub, some of the key advantages are listed below:

  • 1st in the world for productivity and efficiency of companies and large corporations.
  • Dublin is ranked as the best city in the world for attracting Human capital.
  • 1st in Europe for completion of Third level education. 2015 Global Innovation Index shows Ireland excels at manufacturing and education.
  • 50% of the population is under 35 years of age. We have a highly educated and skilled workforce.
  • Third level qualification is higher in Ireland than in the US or UK and above the OECD Average.


Multi-cultural workforce

Ireland is home to over 1000 multinational companies. We have a highly developed multicultural workforce with access to highly skilled multilingual candidates. 17% of the population is international.

Corporate Tax Rate

Ireland remains to have one of the lowest corporation tax at 12.5% and tax credit of 25% research and development.


Ireland remains at the forefront of Innovation due to significant state investment in R&D. In 2013 the state invested €750 million.

Gateway to Europe

Direct access to 500 Million Customers in Europe.

Since Ireland began to emerge from the recession in 2013, there has been pressure in the market to identify and source really strong leaders to take up new opportunities provided by the increasing influx of high growth and emerging companies into Ireland. IDA announced in January 2015, that over 88 first time investors established a base on our shores, the number of companies choosing Ireland is increasing year on year. When I speak to founders and CEO’s that want to establish their strategic European base in Ireland, I always emphasise the importance of selecting appropriate leaders from the outset to build the foundation for growth, especially for start-ups. Hiring is a time consuming process and it’s vital to partner with an industry expert with access to talent and local knowledge. A delay in hiring the right team can significantly impact on scaling the business or releasing a product. I’ve sat on both sides of the fence, consulting on talent acquisition for high growth and emerging companies for many years and most recently at an on-line technology start up. I’ve witnessed a growing gap in the market to provide companies with a fully loaded team to hit the ground running.

Sic Val Docs 2

Dublin’s Digital Docklands


As part of my role as Head of Client Services for the Alternatives Group, I am building a unique service offering designed to support companies scale their “Start-Up” in Ireland by creating a bespoke “Go to Market Team”.  This could be a leadership team for an emerging company, with a relatively small workforce in the US, that are breaking into the European market or, a well-established business in the US putting their back office or European HQ in Ireland.  Either way, the requirements would most than likely be for a Country Manager/MD, Head of Growth, Sales – Inside and Field Sales, Account/Success Managers, Finance, Tech and Digital experts. It is absolutely critical for companies expanding or transitioning multi-business functions from overseas, to ensure they have an unrivalled leadership team to bring their product or service to market.  Many companies send a “landing team” to support the initial roll out and deal with issues like serviced offices, legal and tax with some input into recruitment with little or no local knowledge and this is often where they run into difficulties with the hiring process.  Whilst the semi government agency IDA offer extensive support to companies and have an excellent support system in place, driving a start-up from zero footprint in any country is daunting, especially as the recruitment process is very time consuming and not everyone is a “good fit” for a start-up. It takes a very agile and experienced leadership team to take a business to the next level. The characteristics vary of course, aside from the obvious like proven track record.  A few essential traits are; entrepreneurial spirit, flexible, personable, strategic, decisive, focused, and most importantly have a great sense of humour!

I am excited to join Alternatives Group, due to its’ well established specialism in providing talent solutions into evolving markets and leadership talent for growth. I’m delighted to bring my experience to the business and create an innovative and fresh approach to recruiting for start up’s. I support and advise companies on salary costs, regional comparisons, availability of talent, time to hire, ramp up planning and site selection.  I partner with companies to implement a smooth and cost effective recruitment plan, from executive search, leadership management, to fully-loaded staffing solutions.

Alternatives Group was founded in 2000 to provide industry talent solutions including permanent, interim and managed team services. An award winning Dublin based company, it has successfully supported businesses to drive performance and growth both in Ireland and globally for over 15 years. Alternatives Elect, the global executive search division of Alternatives was developed and launched in 2014 to deliver Global Executive and Leadership Talent for the following industries FMCG, Drinks, Commercial, Financial Services, Technology, Fin-Tech, Internet, Biotech & Medical, Retail, Not-for-profit, Aviation and Professional Services.

I am always delighted to support any requests for information or advice in relation to leadership and evolving talent for scaling FDI start-ups.

Emma Jane Finnegan

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