On the first day of the Global Irish Economic Forum John Hartnett of the Irish Technology Leadership Group was interviewed by RTE. Here are some excerpts from the conversation. Click on the image to see the original video.
Q: How have things changed in Silicon Valley when it comes to Irish companies trying to get their projects up and running over the past two years?
JH: Over the last two years, what I’ve seen is more Irish companies coming out [there].
Silicon Valley is a well-known brand but what it’s known for is technology. It is the centre of the world for the big companies: the Googles, the Intels, the Apples. The combined market capital of those companies is about 2 trillion dollars.
But it’s also where venture capital is raised. Over 40% of all venture capital across the United States is in Silicon Valley. From an Irish perspective we need to take some of that cash and invest it into Irish companies.
We’ve got 30 Irish companies in the Innovation Center [San Jose, California] that we set up last year. That’s 30 more companies that weren’t in Silicon Valley two years ago.
Q: How important are forums like these?
JH: I think they are critically important. They are important for a number of reasons. First and foremost the global Irish are not all in Ireland.
[It is also about] being able to have a public/private partnership where you can have a conversation with the government [and] with the agencies about what’s good, what’s bad, what do we need to do differently.
But now we need to move more into execution of these ideas. For me, what I would love to get out of this is, ‘What’s the game plan now?’
Q: How significant is Dublin as a place for technology companies?
JH: I have been in technology for 25 years both here and in the US and [Ireland] has a phenomenal track record.
You talk about the likes of the Twitters and the Facebooks and Googles who have had phenomenal success over the last few years but Microsoft have been here 25 years. Apple has been here 25 years. Intel has been here 20 years. This [represents] decades of experience that are not going to get minimized by the current challenges that are there.
So we have a very good reputation. For now, we need to look forward and project where we are going and how we are going to invest in innovation.
Our success in the 21st Century – the Innovation Century – is going to be [based] on our ability to be leaders in innovation.
Q: Are there companies that can lead to more jobs being created here in Ireland?
JH: I think this issue of early exit is core to the challenge we have.
We need to get that confidence where young Irish companies are starting with the end in mind – being a public company, being a multi-billion dollar company. That will create long-term jobs, long-term security [and] long-term value.
Q: Does Ireland have the infrastructure to support those companies in the later stages?
JH: The important things for companies is basically; access to capital, access to customers and access to talent. Customers are outside of Ireland. We are too small a nation to create huge businesses here.
From an Ireland perspective: we’re small, we’ve got minimal resources. So we’ve got to do a few things and [those] few things really, really well. We’ve got to be excellent and the place to be excellent is in education.