How to Create Irish Entrepreneurs – Do the Irish Lack The Entrepreneur’s Most Important Asset?

Optimism is not a trait I hear coming out of Ireland right now. As I talk to people in Ireland, the words “negativity and depressed” comes up way more than the words optimism or fearless. It could be a problem and one that we need to address quickly.

Many of the Irish entrepreneurs I meet have lots of optimism but they are also nagged by a fear of failure which diminishes the optimism. There is a sense that a failure in a new venture will haunt them and continue to show up on the “permanent record”. If that is true, we need to change that mind set. Failure in a new venture could mean that the market wasn’t ready or that the technology wasn’t quite right or any number of variables dictated by the phases of the moon and international events.

The attitude of an entrepreneur and the culture that fosters them is more like, “what’s the worst that can happen to me if this idea/company doesn’t fly? I’ll just learn from it and do it again.”

Friends and family can be your worst enemy when it comes to maintaining entrepreneurial optimism. They will question all decisions and suggest you get a “real job”. Entrepreneurs must embrace the belief of success, ignore the negative, and never give up. Any feelings that failure is inevitable and my life is over are to be ignored.

They say that it is possible for an entrepreneur to be successful without capital – just use your credit card. They say you can find success without a plan – every day makes for a new plan. Who cares about marketing, HR, finance and all the other staff functions? An entrepreneur doesn’t pay attention to those things. But there is a secret sauce that is critical to success – optimism. An entrepreneur needs to believe, without equivocation, that the company will be successful. The optimism could be irrational, but without it, chances of success are diminished.

There are lots of optimistic companies with operations in Ireland. Maybe it will rub off. The Irish do not lack that most critical arrow in the entrepreneur’s quiver – optimism. We just need to exercise it more and kill the fear of failure.

Once, when I was having an entrepreneurial crisis of self doubt, my good friend (who is not Irish) once told me to “Get your Irish up”. He meant get mad, be optimistic, take a risk and get something done.

Come on Ireland, get your Irish up. Get optimistic.

This is the second in a series of articles by Rich Moran. The first article was entitled “Entrepreneurship Is About Action“.

16 thoughts on “How to Create Irish Entrepreneurs – Do the Irish Lack The Entrepreneur’s Most Important Asset?

  1. Rich,Four students from Sligo IT in the north west of Ireland just won Microsoft’s global competition for software innovation and entrepreneurship.  They beat global competition from thousands of entries.  Brilliant stuff.In the current circumstances people are experiencing self doubt but changing our own culture is no short lived intervention and the attitude that pervades today is markedly different from the one that was in place when I left school during the “hungry 80s”.  For starters, self employment and entrepreneurship are no longer the province of those odd people, the slightly dodgy characters that typically congregated at the back of the classroom!Our colonial past imposed a culture of subservience that is still evident today in our whatever-you-say attitude to the “troika”, however it also gave us an anti-authoritarian and rebellious spirit that demands we challenge all conventions and seek innovations.  This needs to be nurtured and encouraged at every level, especially in the schools and universities.  As someone engaged with the SME sector daily, I see evidence of what may be called a bloody minded determination to survive and then grow again when we surmount the current crisis. We hear talk of governments creating jobs.  Of course we all know they don’t – but they do form the conditions in which entrepreneurs operate, and whilst the current government is trying hard, it spent money on roads and other schemes designed to maintain employment instead of priming the pump for our entrepreneurs. Action IS needed, but you will not find the entrepreneurs here lacking…


  2. I couldn’t agree more. Optimism is the fuel that drives entrepreneurs to take a risk or take a chance with a new idea or a new venture. there are plenty of people out there who’ll tell you it can’t work or it won’t work but if you have a determined belief in yourself anything can happen. So be stubborn in your optimism – that in itself will help to set you apart.


  3. “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill


  4. Eliminate that word “Failure” and substitute the word ‘Feedback’ and you eliminate all the negative connotations that are linked with failure.  Feedback encourages constructive thinking and has a positive impact on creativity. Failure is a concept that creates negativity.  It breeds pessimistic thinking.  The feelings of inadequacy and discouragement that accompany the belief that you are not measuring up discourage and de-motivate further efforts. When you eliminate the concept of failure and replace it with the idea of getting feedback the whole focus shifts.  Feedback puts attention onto learning what works and doesn’t work.  This information allows the person with entrepreneurial spirit to take risks and seek different solutions. So think feedback and not failure and see what a difference that will make!


  5. Great Post Rich, I TOTALLY agree here, and I think it is part to do with our culture over here of liking bad news a bit too much, we love to bitch and moan and the media know this well and give us stuff to bitch and moan about. This can eventually get to even the most optimistic among us.I even wrote a recent blog post on the matter, where I say that we really need to get over this and become more forward thinking –


  6. The prior article in this series concluded: “Some people have Jobs and some people want to make Money and Save the World. How about at least Saving Ireland?” Your article here exhorts us Irish to: “Come on Ireland, get your Irish up. Get optimistic.” Both articles provided much food for thought,as well as ‘some little’ provocation. Well do the Irish lack the Entrepreneurs’ most important asset? Maybe there is something missing, a word, overlooked, or which we fail to fully recognise ie. ‘Social’ Entrepreneurs.It is a trait that Thomas Cahill exposed in his best selling US book, inspired by the Book of Kells: “How the Irish Saved Civilisation (1996), that first drew real attention to it – with traditional tongue-in-cheek of course but also with great insight into the Irish character. One thing is for sure – the Irish Scholars of our illustrious Past were instrumental in spreading Learning, one that put an acknowledged stamp on Western Culture. His great story may have creative licence, but if a People’s past are any guide to their Future, then the Irish today have certainly some wriggle room as we now Re-discover who we really are and what we want to become, to learn again our new role in the world.We know that quarter of the Irish born population either died in two Famines or had to leave this little country in the latter centuries of what is our rich 1,600 year history Cultural inheritance, the highest ratio of Emigrants in the world. Since the Entrepreneurs are always the first to go…and to stay….well that catastrophe for Ireland was to America’s and others great benefit then. But what goes round does also come round, as we say – and we saw how America in last 20 years led the way in helping us to create, with Europe, an Information & Communication Technology industry in Ireland of which we can rightly be proud of today. So that recent decade of Celtic Tiger was not born of our past, it was not who we are; it was the wrong road.But today the world once again has a great need of Learning, this time of e-Learning, of ICT-facilitated Education – where 150 million in EU, or 290 million in greater Europe and billions worldwide have a great need for Digital Literacy/ Capability to open access to their Knowledge and Innovation Economy; and then require the eSkills in digital competencies and digital excellence to earn a livelihood they need. Ireland is a small open economy, with a vibrant export trade background already. It is widely recognised as an ideal location for America in past and with China added perhaps tomorrow to act as their gateway to Europe. Add to that its history in delivering Education to the world; include our new found ICT skills which combine to deliver that E-Education tomorrow; then revitalise some of our culture corridors to the world that were paved by our Emigrants in times past and, finally, appreciate the empathy we have as a people with the nations of the world, Its a great great story to tell, and the beginning of something new, a new journey – this time on the right road, its who we are.Yes, the Irish of today are busy Listening to that World, to its crying our for change, and will stand and be counted as it perseveres once more like it has done down through the Centuries, to once more deliver E-Education for the World….what the world has long been waiting for….giving the gift of (E-) Education so that they too might simply be part of it… access to the Knowledge and Innovation Economies.The Irish are not at heart a nation of natural Entrepreneurs, but that of Social Entrepreneurs, and we are just the people in the right place right now to deliver what the world needs. What we may in fact be seeing is the hesitation in Ireland before it summons up the courage to that one big hairy audacious step into what will be a bright new and far better balanced future.


  7. The answer to the question posed in the title of the article is “yes”.Optimism is definitely useful when combined with a high IQ, especially verbal linguistic. Look at the entrepreneurial success of Germans or Chinese.  Ethnic Germans have an average IQ of 107.  Hong Kongers are at 113 (because so many rich Chinese moved their in ’49 after the Reds took over China).  Ashkenazi Jews 115 (3% of the US population, 180 out of 400 US billionaires, 40% of all US Nobel prizes in Physics).  I believe the Irish are at 97 except for Northern Ireland protestants.  I read that a Queens university study measured the IQ of N.I. protestants at around 10 IQ points higher than catholics, although I haven’t been able to get my hands on the study.  Might explain why there was an industrial revolution in the North while we in the South were exporting all our cattle on the hoof because slicing up the beef was just too much hassle.I was thinking of writing my own articles.  My first one was going to be: “Entrepreneurship is about being Socially Dominant and Charismatic”.  Then I realised that it is easier to sell optimism.  I can tell Mr. Moran is optimistic and I highly suspect that he is very smart.  There is no doubt in my mind which trait will make him more money.


  8. Hi Guys,Sitting here in County Louth trying to put the finishing touches to a new digital memorial site –  Yes I have to remain optimistic, I managed this through working with The Regional Development Centre at Dundalk Institute of Technology in County Louth who kindly offered me a place on a 9 month Enterprise Programme – NEPP.  Their tutors, consultants and previous attendees came in and helped us with our ideas and gave us fantastic mentoring.  It’s people like them that will see us all through and entrenepures like me who have to forge ahead and launch new businesses.  One key element in remaining optimistic is to “drop the negative people around you and surround yourself with positive likeminded individuals”. Regards,Eileen MunnellyIrish Lives Remembered


  9. “Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in safe places?”These words by Robert N. Noyce, the late cofounder of Intel, embody the philosophy by which he lived. He was a technologist, an entrepreneur, and an industry statesman.


  10. I disagree with the basic premise here Rich. Optimism is not the most important characteristic of the Entrepreneur. I’d say it is belief.Belief in an idea, belief that this idea is market worthy, will make a difference – this lends passion, passion in critical for an Entrepreneur, if you really believe in your product, it shows. Passion helps you design an excellent product, make initial sales, get funded, etc.Belief in yourself, that you can do this, make it happen. Self-belief will overcome the fears you mentioned. Self-belief leads to ambition – I can do this, I can make it happen, I will succeed.Belief in your team. Most important as you grow, you need a team of skilled people who can help you grow beyond your own capabilities and market reach. You need to believe in them, and trust them. Belief in yourself doesn’t mean blindness to your weaknesses – find the best possible people to round out your team and make them believe in the product, in you and in success.I would argue that optimism is actually somewhat negative as an attribute. I certainly don’t lack it, but that’s not necessarily my best trait 🙂 Optimism is probably the reason why 9 out of 10 start-ups fail. People making the wrong decisions without considering the down sides – optimism is, in my mind, too close to “hope”. If you believe in yourself, your product and your team, you should be able to make the right decisions most of the time – don’t hope you’ll win a deal, consider everything you know (or believe) and make decisions. Don’t be afraid of making a big commitment if you believe in it, but don’t do it out of hope or optimism.9 years ago I was the sole founder of iQuate, an Irish software company based in Citywest. Last year we became the first company in the world Oracle accepted as providing data suitable for use in a license review. This month we were acknowledged by Microsoft as Finalist for Global Partner of the Year in our field (Software Asset Management). We are now a profitable, multi-million dollar company with almost 30 staff.If you’re starting out – and you believe in your product, and you believe in yourself, and you can get a team of smart people to also believe in those things – be tenacious, stick with your belief and “Get your Irish up” :)JK


  11. What you say may have been true up to 10 years ago but my experience suggests the world is changing, in these challenging days everyone knows someone who has got into difficulty with their job or business and there is more admiration and support for someone who is entrepreneurial and takes the initiative. There is a large amount of entrepreneurialism in the Irish tech sector , what I observe regularly is over optimism, for example a business start up that has no chance for whatever reason, business plans that show too rapid timelines to high revenue or customer acquisition, fundraising at early stages that significantly over value the company. The thing is how do we calibrate that optimism without throwing a bucket of cold water on it. perhaps communities such as business angels, incubation programs etc need to put less emphasis on the need to show an exit in 5 years for a high valuation and more emphasis on the fundamentals of the business model.


  12. Optimism is essential but not enough on its own.  I agree with Jason, belief is an essential quality for an entrepeneur.  Belief that we can achieve what we set out to do combined with a sense that what we are doing is meaningful and beneficial in a wider context.  Both these qualities also need to be embedded in integrity, openness and the understanding that success in business requires multi-disciplinary skills. 


  13. Hey Jason,I read the first 2 paragraphs of your response and found myself disagreeing slightly and then I read the rest of it and though maybe I should shut up! My immediate response though, to both your comments and  Rich’s is that while optimism is a typical characteristic of successful entrepreneurs ability to execute, i.e resourcefulness is by far the most important. Those of who are entrepreneurially inclined have hundreds or thousands of ideas on a consistent basis but an idea without execution is just a daydream.John @archipelago_ie:twitter 


  14. Just found your site Richard. You could have written this directly to/for me. I have a wee site which everyone agrees is a very good idea and, even though the site is basic enough, my trouble is trying to “price” the product especially in the United States of America. Any chance you’d have a wee look at it and give me your suggestions ? Feel free to be harshly critical if needs be. Many Thanks and keep up the great work. We need more proud Irishmen like you around the world helping us at this time even if it is only a few words of encouragement.    


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