By @SimonCocking

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Mentor at large, Alan Clayton, @thealanclayton   part of the West Cork tech mafia, aka SOSventures. They are having a massive impact on a large number of tech startups across a range of sectors, both in Cork, China, the US and the rest of the world.

What is your background?

Born and did Business Studies in London – Marketing @ ASDA/ WalMart – grew into people/personal development in late 80’s, then set course for entrepreneurship’ founded a children’s book publishing co, award winning green hotel in Lake District (catered for U2), executive coaching consultancy (grew to 35 staff worldwide), moved online and to Ireland ’95 – online fairtrade chocolate shop CHOCaid, online consumer shopping advice site ShoppingBill, and food brand Wish4Fairtrade.

Met SOS! Got acquired !

What is a roaming mentor?

I spend early time with all the SOSv accelerator teams, on all the programs, wherever they may be!? So that’s been 50 teams a year, and is growing. Food-X in New York has just finished this week, and the 1st ever program dedicated to ridesharing teams kicks off Jan 15 here in Cork, then HAXLR8R reboots end of Jan, and so on !!

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Your top tip to startups?

Do your research.

What is your range? , West Cork, Co Cork, beyond?

Worldwide nowadays we have programs in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Cork, New York, San Francisco.

You are based in Kinsale, will we see a West Cork tech mafia a la Paypal emerge?

I’d love that. A small team of us have looked at creating co-working space in Kinsale, and there are certainly enough talented people, both mentors and entrepreneurs, to make it happen. A Silicon Harbour provides a perfect balance between solid tech infrastructure, and real quality of life.

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SOSventures, 5 accelerators, a great range of sectors covered, it seems really interesting and dynamic, how is it going?

For the last 5 years SOSv has been on an expansive trajectory, from founding the 1st ‘tech stars’ style accelerator in Dalian China just for software, to this year when we’ll run 7 programs, across 3 continents in 5 verticals. What was a modest team of 6-8 is now more like 36-38 ! I’ve never worked with such a committed, smart, energetic team. I’ve read nearly all the management and leadership books ever written, and coached from C-level to sea level in over 50 multi national companies, but this is really on the cutting edge. In summary – it’s going fast & furious !

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Cork seems to be buzzing with startup ventures, how are they finding it when it comes to scaling up from there?

Cork is like a lot of great small cities – big enough to justify good infrastructure and small enough so you can get to the people that matter. Events like ‘startup weekend’ & the Bank Of Ireland accelerator, the “innovation Cork” office, [email protected], Cork BIC, Rubicon Centre, the Enterprise Boards, UCC Ignite, New Frontiers, ?etc. There’s something for everyone. And we run the Office Hours system, so anyone, literally anyone, can book a half hour with mentors just to get the ball rolling.

Scaling up is possible !

Building the team is the tricky bit, but no more so than any other european country, or indeed further afield.

We have improved visa arrangements for tech entrepreneurs, we have early stage funding, and we have a very attractive location between US and China. Look at PCH. Look at how our own Carma Accelerator will bring teams from India, Australia, Paraguay, USA, and France all together in Cork in the new year.

How do you try to reduce the usual high attrition rates associated with startups?

One of my own specialties is ‘team profiling’, & ‘people development’, so we can identify aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset from the outset. The attrition rate for their projects might seem high, but most startup founders simply move on to their next project. So I’m not sure we need to reduce the attrition rate of the projects, but rather focus on giving more founders the chance of early experience of what a startup truly is.

What do you look for in startups applying for funding and mentoring?

Startups need to have insatiable imagination, some biz dev skills, some tech skills, and some life skills. Startups are not to be undertaken for commercial gain, and only if the world will be a better place because you tried (and probably failed).