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Media Cube’s Ann Marie Phelan: A Creative Balance Between Start-up Culture and Quality of Life | Why Dun Laoghaire is Great for Business

20. 02. 2021

AnnMarie Phelan, Enterprise & Innovation Manager at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology

AnnMarie is a member of our @DigitalDunLaoghaire steering group –

Dun Laoghaire is, of course, a great place to do business. But what you might not know is just how developed the business network is in the town. The sharpening of Dun Laoghaire’s technology and business network comes to us with the enormous efforts of IADT and its business incubation centre, the Media Cube.

Ann Marie Phelan is the Enterprise and Innovation Manager at IADT’s Media Cube, one of Dun Laoghaire’s most important high tech start-up assets.

Founded in 2007, the Media Cube is a start-up incubator located on the campus of  IADT. Media Cube taps into the institutes’ expertise and its specialised areas of UX/UI design, animation, film, augmented reality/virtual reality, creative technologies, and digital media content creation. The space also has a growing area of expertise in cyberpsychology, the study of the human mind and behaviour in the context of human-technology interaction.

“We’re very specialised and niche by virtue of where we’ve come from. There’s no other institute in Ireland that specialises in the creative, cultural and technological sectors and the communication tools needed to support that”, Phelan said.

Dun Laoghaire Brings Technology to Life

Many of the entrepreneurs and startups who make their way to IADT Media Cube come via Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers Programme, which it manages in partnership with TUD Hothouse.

The most compelling thing about the programme, Phelan says, is the package of mentoring supports wrapped around each company. Participants also receive an income stipend of €15,000 over the six months of the programme as well as all the benefits of mentorship and knowledge transfer without giving away any equity.

“It’s competitive to get into [The New Frontiers Programme], but if you get in, it’s the best first step for any company that’s looking to grow and scale internationally”, Phelan says.

Another compelling support available through the Media Cube is Enterprise Ireland’s InnovationVoucher program. The initiative builds links between small businesses and Ireland’s public knowledge providers, like IADT. The voucher grants eligible applications €5,000 to explore an opportunity and solve a problem. As businesses have increasingly developed their online presence, the demand for IADT’s niche expertise in UX/UI design, digital media, and animation has grown. Irish businesses are very aware that the way they communicate across all their digital platforms will directly impact their ability to reach their target clients.

While entrepreneurs can use these vouchers at multiple centres in Ireland, Media Cube offers a unique value proposition to companies seeking to enhance their digital design and visual communications, particularly in an international context.

Only In Dun Laoghaire

IADT and Media Cube didn’t just happen. Both the establishment and success of these vital resources are a reflection of the local area. Many of its entrepreneurs and creative thinkers are drawn to the beauty of  Dun Laoghaire’s local environs. It is a place that is physically located between the sea and mountains, and this unique local landscape inspires creatives from all backgrounds, from writers to artists to technological innovators.

“Dun Laoghaire always attracts those types of creative thinkers. The place itself is a magnet for [our] type of creative thinking. You’re surrounded by creativity in the environment that you’re in.

The sea and Dublin Mountains aside, IADT’s location in Ireland’s creative and technology networks play a substantial role in the town’s success in attracting local business. The network within the South Dublin area offers access to startups that can’t be understated.

“There’s a lot of complementary elements very close to you”, Phelan said. “Just up the road is UCD with a focus on heavy tech and deep tech. You’re looking at the most developed ecosystem for entrepreneurship just within that space.”

The Power of the Network

So while Dun Laoghaire offers an idyllic work-life balance complemented by the fresh sea air, the town provides new and local business with so much more.

“The biggest power that any community can have is the people it has access to”, Phelan insists. “We have all of these very, very competent people living close to each other. It doesn’t matter if you sell coffee or run a bakery; there’s a bigger network there with a network of experience that you can draw on. That closely networked environment is one of many reasons Dun Laoghaire is such an attractive place.”

While new business is always encouraged, you don’t need to be local to benefit from Media Cube’s resources. Phelan encourages businesses to keep in touch, even if they aren’t successful in obtaining a place on our New Frontiers programme, because there are so many supports available to help businesses at all stages. The most valuable support Media Cube can offer is helping company founders meet other like-minded entrepreneurs.

Phelan notes, “We run other programs including a VC in residence forum (in association with Enterprise Equity). Those forums are very informative, getting the inside track on how to be investor-ready, how to access funding from VCs or other sources, and understanding the landscape. Even if you’re not going to be a client, by being in touch with us, we can introduce you to people who can potentially open a door for your business. The power of the network cannot be overstated.”