ACT Venture Partners
Founded in 1994 by Niall Carroll, after it became independent of Allied Irish Bank. The current ACT fund, which raised €171 million in 2003, is Ireland's largest venture capital fund. €100 million of the fund's capital has been invested. ACT invests 85-90 percent in technology, and 25- 30 percent in the UK. Investors include Partners Group, JP Morgan Fleming, Merrill Lynch, Access Capital Partners, VCM and the European Investment Fund. One of ACT's most profitable deals was Alphamosaic, a leading developer of semiconductor products, which it bought for €8.5 million, and sold to Broadcom in 2004 for more than €100 million.

Delta Partners
Founded in 1994 by Frank Kenny. 90 percent of Delta's deals are series A investments, 70 percent are in Ireland and 30 percent in the UK. Delta's current fund was raised in 2000, and is invested in 26 portfolio companies. Delta is in the process of raising another €120 million+ fund. Investors include Wellcome Trust, Banc Boston, Enterprise Ireland, Bank of Ireland, BIAM, and Friends First. One of Delta's most profitable deals was Similarity Systems. Delta invested in Similarity, which sells software products, in 2001. Informatica, a large US software company, bought the firm in 2006 for $55 million.

Trinity Venture Capital
Part of the Reihill Venture Capital Group, founded in 1997 by Shane Reihill, Trinity is Dublin-based. It has invested in 23 companies through two funds, one worth €24 million, which is fully invested, and one €139 million fund, which is 60 percent invested. Trinity expects to start raising a third fund towards the end of 2007. Investors include Access Capital Partners, Bank of Ireland, Irish Life and the European Investment Fund. One of Trinity's most lucrative exits was its flotation of Norkom in June 2006; the business was floated on AIM and IEX for €124 million.

Enterprise Equity
Dundalk-based, Enterprise Equity was founded in 1987 by the International Fund For Ireland. It invests through a fund that commits up to €15 million to established, growth-orientated companies, and up to €7 million to early-stage technology companies.

NCB Ventures
Founded in 1997, NCB has €27 million under management and has invested in more than 20 companies through two funds. One of its most lucrative exits was Newcourt, a security services provider, which delivered a 62 percent IRR.

IBM's decision to open a European Venture Capital Centre in Dublin is a sign of the increased interest in Irish entrepreneurial activity.

In October 2006, Ireland's enterprise minister Micheal Martin announced the establishment of an ambitious project for Dublin's start-up business community: the launch of IBM's European Venture Capital Centre in the city, along with an innovation centre, at the company's technology campus in Mulhuddart, County Dublin.

The projects, created in collaboration with the Irish Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland, seek to foster greater contacts and collaboration between Irish entrepreneurs and the computer giant, allowing Irish start-ups to benefit from IBM's technology and expertise.

The centre also aims to build closer ties between IBM and the venture capital community throughout Europe, gain insights into emerging technologies, exchange market trend info, and accelerate innovation.

IBM is now celebrating its 50th year in the country, and over that time the company has worked closely with Irish entrepreneurs. The company arrived in Ireland decades before the major multinationals started to pour in. Today the top 15 medical device companies as well as all the leading software companies have a presence in the country. Now a recent increase in research and development focus is attracting a great deal of VC attention.

“Over the last ten years there's been real government incentive for the multinationals here to set up R&D centres,” says Niall Carroll, head of ACT Venture Capital and chairman of the Irish Venture Capital Association. “They're moving from just manufacturing and service operations to R&D, and that locks those companies into the country.”

The establishment of the innovation centre follows IBM's investment of €46 million in the Mulhuddart technology campus, which it plans to use to boost the number of employees there and expand its activity. IBM already has 3,000 employees in Ireland.

Deborah Magid, director of strategy for IBM Venture Capital Group, says Dublin was a logical place for IBM to set up its new venture centre as Ireland expands its venture activity. “While Ireland certainly has not had the level of activity you've seen in the UK, it's very much on the map,” she says. “Studies that measure where private equity money goes in Europe always show Ireland in the top five or six, and that's because the country has recently had the perfect storm of government involvement, university activity and science foundation.”

Magid adds that although there has been scepticism about venture activity in Europe, what she is hearing on the ground, particularly in Ireland, is a far cry from some of the statistics. “There's a lot of discussion about where venture is strong,” she says. “Every VC I meet here tells me how great the dealflow is and how many good companies are being created now. There's a great mood in VC in Europe, we're seeing great funds being raised and we know the activity level will pick up.”