John Hartnett, the founder and president of the Irish Technology Leaders Group (ITLG), said that Irish companies can become the next giants of Silicon Valley, in an interview with the Silicon Republic.
Hartnett, was a senior vice president at Palm at the time, he founded the ITLG in 2007, along with a group of fellow Irishmen in top positions in some of America’s biggest technology companies – including Apple CIO Niall O’Connor, Intel senior vice president Rory McInerney and Cisco senior vice president Barry O’Sullivan, to name a few.
The organization has grown from a few hundred to over 2,000 senior executives around the world. Chaired by former Intel CEO Craig Barrett, ITLG has established the Irish Innovation Centre in San Jose and the Wilde Angels Fund, a venture capital fund.
“The Institute have done very well with 50 companies coming through this programme and 20 companies that are there today. The three most important things for any young technology company are access to capital, access to customers and access to talent," Hartnett said, speaking of his goals in creating a gateway to Silicon Valley for Irish tech companies.
“We have great talent in Ireland but the access to capital .... some 40pc of the entire US investment in venture capital is done in Silicon Valley, that’s US$8bn in 2010. Access to that kind of capital for young Irish companies is really a big deal
“The other thing is access to customers, for a technology company If I’m doing business with Intel, Facebook or one of the big companies in Silicon Valley that’s a really big deal. Silicon Valley is the epicentre of technology, there are thousands of technology companies, the biggest names in the world over the last four or five decades that have led the way. Today there are almost two trillion dollars in market cap of the technology companies in Silicon Valley. The largest companies, the largest place to create your venture and that’s why we’re creating a gateway.”
Asked if he believed it would be possible to one day create a multi-billion dollar Irish technology giant, he said:
“I absolutely believe it is. Now is the best time ever. I know everyone’s a little bit heads down in terms of the Celtic Tiger having been tamed by the unfortunate banking and property cycle, but at the same time I have personally seen a much hungrier entrepreneur coming to Silicon Valley. And when I look at what it would take to build a multi-billion technology giant from Ireland the ingredients are there from the talent, financial, technology and operations perspective. We may be weak in terms of sales and marketing skills but that is something we can get over.
“Really it is more of the soft skill that we need to concentrate on – culturally in Silicon Valley it’s in abundance and that’s the ‘positive attitude’. People go there with a positive attitude that something can be done, big visions, big dreams. Kids walk out of university thinking I’m going to create a big company.
“They read in the papers that Steve Jobs has done this and Larry Ellison has done that – it’s a focus on the biggest game in the world. That creates kids with dreams and big visions. We need to have that.
“In Ireland we tend to be negatively oriented and we have been tough on failure yet failure is a learning in Silicon Valley. The founder of HP is famous quote was: ‘If you’re not failing you’re not trying hard enough. And that’s what it takes. Failure is a learning process.’
“For me personally I have worked with US companies my entire working life. I have lived that culture and that creates a certain level of confidence and ambition and that’s what we need. I know we can do and we need to believe we can do it and aim high.”
He added: “The Valley hasn’t been a success over the last five years, the Valley has been a success over the last 70 years. So Ireland has had 35 year history with Silicon Valley where big companies have come to Ireland; now is the time for our big companies to be created in Ireland and work internationally.”
"I point out that Finland has Nokia, Sweden has Ericsson, Germany has Siemens and venture that isn’t it high time that the Republic of Ireland had a technology company of global renown?"
“The time we are living in right now is the start of all that and creating multi-billion dollar companies from an Ireland perspective may not happen this year or next but definitely over the next five years
“If Groupon can get offered US$6.5bn by Google and be in existence for under two years, why can’t some company from Dublin or Limerick do the same thing?
“Success is going to be based on successful Irish companies on the world stage when we have a Facebook, a Yahoo or a Google. That’s success."
He concluded: “It’s not good enough just to create a company just to sell it to someone else, it should be about creating a company that will employ thousands of people in Ireland and be public companies, that’s what I would like to see.”