Rich Moran: Creating a Genius Cluster in Ireland

How is it that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins were all in Nashville in the same recording studio on the same day, December 4, 1956? That day is now being replayed every day in the play “Million Dollar Quartet”. But I have more questions…

What did Emerson, Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott talk about since they lived next to each other? Is it a coincidence that Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Franklin and Washington lived in the same place at the same time? What happened in Florence in the 1400’s that brought great writers and artists together to form “that” Renaissance? In Ireland at the dawn of the 20th Century, the Celtic Renaissance nurtured the likes of Yeats, Synge, O’Casey, and the new Abbey Theatre. They all spoke, thought, dreamed, wrote and created one of the literary epochs of all time. Where are those groups today? They still exist but are they in Ireland now?

They are called Genius Clusters and when they occur, big things happen. No, GREAT things happen that can change the course of history, change an economy or a movement. Ronald Reagan, Jimmie Stewart and Henry Fonda were roommates during a summer stock review when they were all young. We can all marvel at the genius clusters we have known.

Silicon Valley has been a Petri dish for genius clusters. Right now, the CEOs of Twitter, Zynga and can look out their office windows and see each other in San Francisco. The last time President Obama was in Silicon Valley he had dinner with the CEOs of Facebook, Cisco, Yahoo, Apple, Tesla, Google and Oracle. They all know each other and probably live not far from each other.

I want Ireland to create a genius cluster. In fact, let’s create a bunch of them. When the brilliant people come together to do something big, something big gets done. Genius clusters are not only smart, but they are action oriented and focus on goals, not process. I volunteer. I am far from being a genius but I know what a Genius Cluster looks like and when they come together in Ireland, I will get them focused on creating companies and serving the economy in a positive way. Genius clusters don’t cut costs as much as they come up with big ideas. It doesn’t take a genius to cut costs.

We have all been in companies or departments or groups or teams that were truly special. We have all been in groups that achieved extraordinary results and we smile when we think of that group. The formation of that special group is unpredictable and sometimes we only know how special the group was until after it breaks up. When we think of that special team and time we might have just a small sense of what a genius cluster can do.

Let’s create some in Ireland. Count me in.

15 thoughts on “Rich Moran: Creating a Genius Cluster in Ireland

  1. Nice post.I think a number of elements have to be in place for a genius cluster to exist.There needs to be a sense of urgency or some common goal that people rally behind, where great work gets done as a result of this sense of common purpose or urgency.Look at the space race – the engineers at NASA were incredibly determined to beat the Russians to the moon, so the best engineering minds in the country were clustered together and given a huge budget to achieve that goal. The images of Neil Armstrong on the moon inspired a generation of kids, who grew up wanting to be scientists and engineers achieve great things. The country also benefited from the advanced research carried out and the inventions that happened as a result of space age technology.Is there any sense of urgency in Ireland right now? Would there be the political will to fund a great human accomplishment? I think we lack the urgency and vision, to be frank. We became incredibly complacent during the last 15 years or so, selling houses to each other and relying on multinationals to drive exports.There was a proposal to build an enormous, world class data center in the West Cork/Kerry region (wish I could find a link) that could be powered by wind energy. Imagine if a project like that went ahead, the benefits and knock on effects it would have for the country. Sadly, it looks doubtful if such a visionary project would get the go-ahead (although we can somehow find the financing to bail out the banks, and take a huge gamble that we can pay off the enormous incurred debts.)A sense of purpose/urgency could be created out of the current economic mess we’re in. I see you have links to Craig Barrett and ITIL on your blog – he has talked in the past about Ireland creating it’s own domestic companies that are export-driven and this is the only way out, as we cannot continue to US companies to come in and employ people.If there was a drive to create world-class research and drive even a single Irish university to become noteworthy in a field like Computer Science, who knows, maybe a genius cluster would organically grow out from this as result. A problem I’ve found is that it’s very difficult to connect with smart people in this country and share ideas, even though there certainly are smart people here in this country. A genius cluster would definitely overcome this lack of concentration of smart people in one place.Further Reading:Paul Graham on “How to become Silicon Valley”:…….and on “Why Move to a Startup Hub”:


  2. There are many things that America do / have done that massively aid their technology development. In their book ‘Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies’ , James Collins and Jerry Porras coined the term ‘BHAG’ – ‘A Big Hairy Audacious Goal’. The Jumbo Jet was one for example – Boing bet the entire company on its success.America have massive investment in military / space related research, that ripples out to consumers over time.Ireland needs a BHAG, and it will need support at the highest levels.I would suggest setting a goal of complete energy self-reliance within 10 years. Massive investment is required in Wind / Wave / Bio fuel sources (and thus research / development) – and the payback is pretty easily quantified. Irish companies can then sell this technology to others…That is one idea – I’m sure there are plenty more…


  3. C’mon Rich – every pub in Ireland has a small Genius Cluster in it for the last 60 minutes before closing time.We solve world hunger, understand the mysteries of the universe, God, world peace and wonder why we don’t just pour the tea onto our cornflakes and take them together to save time and improve productivity worldwide.Unfortunately we have forgotten the most wonderous of our solutions by the next morning. The only thing which remains as evidence of our collective, good willed genius, is the puddle of Barrys tea at the bottom of the cornflake bowl from the night before :)On a slightly more serious note – @facebook-628187468:disqus has a valid point – the “feel” of Ireland at the moment is (in my opinion) too depressed – people are bemoaning the economc decline and only a few seem to have the energy and enthusiasm needed for a Genius Cluster to spark. I think that the ITLG in San Jose has more chance of sparking an Irish Genius Cluster than anything I’ve seen on the ground in Dublin…My company has just started an office in the ITLG – we’re profitable, in high growth mode and expanding rapidly. But when I meet other Irish business directors, even those in IT, the vast majority are doom and gloom – it really saps the energy out of you. In the US, the general attitude is more positive – people like hearing about your success and (I feel) are eager to help. We need more of that attitude and less self pity if ya’ ask me…JK


  4. Hey Rich – we have one! It’s called the Analytics Institute – we have a fantastic vision for Ireland that is gaining traction. If you’d like to know more then please email me at the Analytics Institute details on or call me (phone no on the website)


  5. Another good article,The ideas are flowing here in Ireland, I work in a team of highly skilled software developers and 40% of the guys are involved in creating their own stuff outside of work hours in their own time. If people are lucky enough to be in stable decent paying job they are not going to want to risk that to go chase some investors & maybe! get funded. They may not want to risk their decent paying job for something that might and may fail.But they have to take risks,Someone tries to create a startup it fails they need to re-evaluate/pivot look at another way of approcahing it. In that interlude some may have to go back into full time employment. If someone spent several years building up a career in a company and they leave and their startup fails, they may have to go back into employment again some may not attempt to start their own business again and the several years spent building up a career in the previous company may be lost.Its at this point there is stigma, some employers/hiring managers look at someone who has returned to the job market as having “failed” when there may have been plenty of factors that maybe lead to the startup not being a success. Then there is the thought, this guy is focused on his own work/projects and may take flight a few months down the line. So we will not hire him or her.Even if your unemployed it is no barrier to starting, creating & launching a business. Yes its going to be tight shoe-stringing it but one thing you have going for you when your unemployed is “Time” and plenty of it. You can get to and engage with senior people who will give you a shot to pitch your idea. They might even give you a little more help than you were expecting.Rapid & early feedback for entrepreneurs in Ireland is critical especailly feedback from senior industry leaders, Many who attempt to go into business may not have the funds to travel across the country or go network at events(which could be beneficial) some may not even have the money to travel outside their small town simply because they are on the dole and skint. I know the feeling all to well, there were plenty of events going on which would have been great to network and many times I couldn’t even get a bus into Belfast. Circumstances!The real light bulb moment for me was when I applied to Plug & Play tech business incubator in Silicon Valley , I submitted the 1 page executive summary and I was amazed that I was offered a shot to pitch at their November Expo in front of 500 SV influencers, VC’s, Angels etc. I had like 3 weeks or less to try and pull the travel costs together and get prepared to go out and do this(Product was still developing). The opportuinity was there , being unemployed and not being able to easily pull the funds together made me have to pass up the offer. Here I was faced with opportunity to pitch in front of the very people who may have liked the pitch, product and entrepreneur enough to invest and become a success, but it was not to be. Having missed this great opportunity I decided there and then I am not going to be in this situation again.If I can get to Plug & Play on my jack , I can do it again and so can any other Irish entrepreneur. If I can get to senior tech people as well as senior politicians then I can get to anyone who I put my mind to. As someone said to me “kick down the doors”. It does not matter where they are.The likes of Skype & Twitter for getting quick feedback from more experienced people is helpful for determining should they plough on for another little bit.I managed to network and get talking with senior people in the tech industry while unemployed, surfing twitter on the nintendo WII.


  6. I like your post..  I dont think anyone sums it up better than Walter from the Big Labowski “say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism Dude, at least it was an ethos”The only common sentiments in our culture today are getting pissed drunk and laid at the weekend which is all fun and games but truth been told is that someone has to assume the responsible role.  Government are not leaders they are merely managers with a dream of leading. Only a madman would want POWER as Hitler and the Nazi boys proved in the past.As a way of nationhood I believe all households should uphold a common believe, a goal as you put it. It takes a bit of doing however as media mongers depict what we shall believe is true. Throw the Mtv freakshows and perverts off the air and we might have a chance. Above all it requires honesty…  so much lies are been told in our world right now that a simple honast remark would bring it all to a standstill.I think we are on the cusp of new global spiritual enlightment as they call them where common peoples are awakened to a more sensible truth. Science and technology will of course be incorporated in the holitisic understanding and therefore give people better understanding as to where their priotities should lay. But at the end of the day, it is happiness that people long for.Philiospical no doubt..  but Ireland in my opionion should it play its bingo cards right could become the Mecca of such a new age.”Sure wasnt Jesus Himself just a dancer in the Ceili along with the rest of us.. We talk about ‘Brand Ireland’ well it really is just that simple Irish humour needs to become the global voice. Incorporate the smallness and down to earth banter we all know into the brands and global marketing we wish to establish and believe me not we might have a horse for the fair.


  7. It may seem a bit funny but I was actualy talking about this to an uncle a while back but yes I would agree heavily that pubs in Ireland are house to perhaps decades of knowledge and wisdom.. armchair activists and pub republicans we used to call them. But the concept is indeed amazing to think about. Generations of Irish people built community from such gatherings.. its a place where your local football coach meets up with everyone from the local bricklayer to the postman or school principal.. Everything gets discussed, people recruited for the team or even hired for a day on the mixer. These casual community forums are in truth the backbone of Irish culture and nationhood. It is even how our disposea held together and organised itself into a force in far off lands.The biggest problem in Ireland today in my opinion is that we have become class orientated and segregated.. ie, we now have our web developers drinking separately from street sweepers or politicians for the most part. There is far too much empahsis on community idendifcation & egotism rather than purpose and creation. If wish to acquire understanding which is exactly what genius is all about we could start by reuniting community, whether over a pint of guniess or tea soaked cornflakes. We need people to engage with one another.. everyone no matter what position has something to bring to the table. This is grass roots and big things grow from ideas.


  8. At present in Ireland there is a lot of reporting about the level and standard of graduates available. In fact, it is claimed that thousands of jobs are going unfilled particularly in the IT sector. Sradome reports claim 2,500 jobs unfilled, others venture as much as 4,000 – 5,000 etc. For a small country in the midst of a deep recession, these claims are of great concern if true. The culprits of this graduate shortfall, its argued, are lowering standards of maths and IT graduates not fitting the requirements of the IT employer, failures in fluency in a second European language etc.However not many of these claims hold up to much inspection – in fact, the probability of finding a graduate fluent in Hungarian or Slovenian in such a small nation as Ireland is remote from the outset. 15,000+ students currently enrolled in 3rd level IT courses should more than sustain the 75,000 IT workforce.So, what is the real story with the Irish economy and all those unfilled jobs. We’ve started a series of blogs on this issue if anyone would like to check it out


  9. you are hiding a secret about clusters, what are you trying to say?, please tell me if you do something with the clusters, maybe we have something in common, i want to contact you by e mail, if you are using these clusters please tell me what you did, i use them frecuently as a micro…


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