The Sweet Joy of Doing

Never wait for perfect. Pretty good might be as good as it gets.

How many of us have written something as a first draft. After a later review, with a satisfied sigh we say, “That’s pretty good.” How many of us try something and wonder, “Why didn’t I do this years ago?” Which is better, the knowledge that a project is complete or the guilt of waiting to start the project? Closure is a very good feeling but even the start of something that will lead to implementation is a good feeling. We call it VSOP, Visible Signs of Progress.

Now is a time for Ireland to stop talking and begin implementing.

Many have noted that we lost generations of entrepreneurs and builders in the past. And the spirit and talent all went abroad or into property and professions. Now another generation can well be lost during this economic crises.

Ireland’s crisis is testing the very confidence in government and the mettle of the people. Everyone agrees that Ireland needs to create jobs and to rebuild the economy, but the only way to build companies is through a sustained effort to create them by investing in jobs and nurturing entrepreneurs.

No doubt, the US is not short on agencies or bureaucracies. But when there was a crisis at the time of the 9/11 attack, there were twenty-two agencies entrusted with American security – it had now been changed to one – The Department of Homeland Security. Although not without problems, it has the virtue of singularity, thus accountability.

We see things from Silicon Valley in terms of accountability and action.

In the last three years we have visited Ireland many times with the Irish Technology Leadership Group, composed of Irish-American CEOs and Irish-born success stories of great merit. Former Intel CEO, Craig Barrett, is our Chairman, John Hartnett from Limerick, our founder. We have met with ministers, spoken to Taoiseachs, held symposia, visited all the major universities, given speeches, held panel discussions, honored start-up companies, and talked until we feel our points were made. We probably added to global warming with our hot air. Then we acted.

We have opened an Innovation Center in San Jose, and have 30 Irish-bred companies that we are mentoring and assisting with our own venture capital fund. The young entrepreneurs that we have encountered from Belfast to Dublin to Kerry are uniformly smart and full of hope. Many of them have sprung from the Intels and Apples of the early Celtic Tiger years; more will come from the Facebook and Twitter of today. Yet we worry that the simplest acts to encourage and build a true innovation economy are not happening – events should make no one sanguine.

Radical thinking is needed and here’s a start:

  1. Begin counting companies created as well as jobs created. Google came from Stanford, but surely needed the job base of our valley to hire the best; companies from Trinity and the UC system will likewise need such a base of talent from new inward investment. “How many companies have been created?” must be a critical question.
  2. Create a venture capital eco-system. In the past, the banks lent their money for real estate schemes. Has nothing been learned? The Irish Innovation Fund must target monies and encourage venture firms that are both expert in the field and will create wealth in Ireland, not Silicon Valley or New York.
  3. Good work has been done by IDA, EI and others, but merge the bureaucracy and curtail the process. Consolidate the Government agencies that are charged with creating, funding, exporting or inspiring wealth creation and training – if America can trust the safety of our nation to one, can the Irish do less. Then measure the results.
  4. Stop talking about taxes: the corporate rate is 12.5% and must remain so to build jobs and expertise for the emerging Irish-bred companies of the future. Creating companies that will eventually pay taxes is the real metric to watch, only then will Ireland have them. Remember when Oscar Wilde chastised Queen Victoria that “if this is the way she treats her convicts, she doesn’t deserve to have any!”

The entire island of Ireland is six million people, about the size of the greater San Francisco-San Jose-Silicon Valley area. Push networks of funding, mentoring and creativity in all areas at home and throughout the Diaspora. Avoid the incestuous thinking that was synonymous with the events that lead to the collapse of the Irish economy and the premature death of the Celtic Tiger. Accountability, consolidation, and innovation must be the hallmark of the new economic epoch. If Ireland is to prosper once again, she must avoid holding seminars, walking in the New York St. Patrick’s Parade, and following the antediluvian policies that brought her low. Simply, she must think and act anew, and in that implementation lies her salvation.

Tom McEnery is an a businessman and former mayor of San Jose. Richard Moran is an author, Partner in Irish Technology Capital and the CEO of Accretive Solutions.

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