Why Squarespace chose Dublin

logo-telecityOriginally posted on TelecityGroup.ie Since starting out in New York ten years ago, Squarespace has built a business by helping others to publicise theirs – giving them tools to build slick, well-designed websites without having to know how to write code. With millions of sites now built on its platform and a growing international business, the company set up its first overseas operation in Dublin in May 2013. Raphael Fontes, director of EMEA operations, explains …

What does Squarespace’s Irish office do?

The main focus is what we call customer operations, to support Squarespace customers and whoever is interested in the product. That’s the bulk of our team here. We also have some IT, we have some facilities people and we just hired a HR person. We’ve been hiring primarily for time zone coverage. Prior to the Dublin office opening, we only had our New York headquarters. We’re at 70 people right now, and we’re heading in the right direction and expanding fast for the next year. Currently, the product is English-only so everyone is providing support in English, even if our customers are in different countries.

How easy was it to set up in Dublin?

It took a few months. Squarespace hired the first employee who worked from home for the first two weeks, and then moved to [tech start-up incubator] Dogpatch Labs. Very quickly, Dogpatch Labs became too small so we moved into the turnkey business centre, where they offer IT to the desk and so on. The third stage, which we’re getting close to, is to have a permanent office. That’s what we’re looking forward to. So far, there have been good options to grow and no big blockers to expanding. It has gone well. The support we got from IDA Ireland was really welcome and it accelerated a lot of things that we would have had to do on our own, such as finding partners for payroll and HR, and connecting us to leaders of different tech companies here.

Most tech firms that come to Ireland do so for some combination of the tax incentives, availability of labour and Ireland being an English-speaking country. Were there other considerations for you?

More specific to Squarespace was the time zone difference to New York. It helped that there was a relatively short distance for us, and with Ireland being business friendly. A lot of our hires are about personality and how that person will represent the company to our customers. Part of that was talking to people, understanding the general vibe of the city and its people– that was something that was considered. It was not just a decision about the facts you’ve mentioned; it was how to facilitate the culture. Dublin was the first office outside New York so we wanted to find people who would fit in with our culture and align with what is in New York. Those other things are nice to have, but the main one was getting a fit with the company culture.

Is there a concern that it could become hard to recruit the people you need here because of competition from all the other technology companies Ireland has attracted?

I don’t think there is a risk of it becoming a problem. There are so many different opportunities here. For example, I worked for eight years at Google and three and a half of those years were in Dublin, so there’s a natural cycle. In a way, having that competition forces all companies to differentiate themselves to attract the stronger talent. I think it’s a good thing for the country and for the folks who are looking for a job. The other thing I want to point out is that we hire primarily for personality. For customer operations, we don’t just look for people who want a foot in the door and are looking to move their career. We want people who want to work with our customers and make a difference and understand the customer’s problem. We’re not necessarily looking for the same profile of people that other tech companies are. We hire people from very different backgrounds, so that opens us up to different skills. We have a very healthy pipeline.

A lot of tech companies are known for interesting or unusual ways of working. Does Squarespace do anything like that?

Some of it is similar; we offer food and snacks and video games. We’re still in a temporary office in Dublin, but if you look at our office in New York, there’s a lot of attention to detail; it’s architecturally nice – things you wouldn’t think about, such as the colour of our desks or how we integrate art in the workplace are important. Design is obviously important to us – after all, our buisness is about making beuatiful websites. We have a lot of people from an artistic background in the company, such as designers and photographers, so the look and feel of the office matters.

Squarespace sales are growing at more than 100% per year, you advertised at the Super Bowl and there’s talk of an IPO … what’s it like to work for a company like that?

It’s great, it’s very exciting. There are so many opportunities and things to think about. Growth brings a lot of interesting opportunities in how you make that happen. You can sense a good vibe of things going well, the product is developing … it’s a really exciting place to be. This company has been around for ten years. There’s a very established culture, so it’s about how you keep those elements, and make the right hiring decisions; how do you go from everyone being in the one room to having multiple offices? It’s about focus and it forces us to be vigilant and try to prioritise. We’re working on the internationalisation piece. At the same time, there’s a very healthy pipeline of new products, so it becomes about how do we make the right choices and not lose what has made the company successful so far. It’s about not losing that balance and not losing the opportunity. It’s interesting to try and work those challenges out.