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Boston investor sees big promise in Irish startups

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Stephen McKinley

A Boston-based investor, Paul Kelley, has created a $50 million fund that will be used to invest in Irish technology companies. Money for the fund will be raised from wealthy Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Ireland, Richard Egan.

Kelley, whose company, Zero Stage Capital, champions the philosophy of proactive investment, said that he set up the fund because there was a history of Irish companies with good ideas failing because they did not know how to approach U.S. investors for funding.

“They came over here and would wind up getting screwed,” Kelley said, noting that with this fund, American companies wanting to invest in Ireland would ideally find an Irish person to head up their operations there and an Irish company wanting to open a U.S. office would seek out an American with appropriate experience for that arm of business.

Next-generation Irish technology companies, including Internet firms, communications and medical technology companies, are the targets of the new fund. Kelley said that the Isr’li model was an example of how a country could be good at developing technologies but less adept at developing markets and investment.

Ireland, Kelley said, has faced similar difficulties and will continue to do so unless investing and business development is done with greater skill and experience.

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Speaking about Ambassador Egan’s role, Kelley said: “Richard Egan knows the business of building business. He is a very savvy and experienced guy who has an idea of what works and what works less well.”

Half of the money will be spread around the 32 counties, and the other half will be invested in Irish and Irish American companies in the northeast of the U.S. Kelley said he hopes that offices will be opened in both Dublin and Belfast and in Cambridge, Mass., Providence, R.I., and New Haven, Conn.

The fund’s point man in Ireland will be Francis Costello, founder of the Belfast company Costello Associates, who is also a member of Boston Ireland Ventures and sits on the Boston Irish Famine Memorial committee.

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