Happy to bring you this interesting interview with Colman Lydon @, entreprenuer and Everwise executive, who is having great success in leveraging technology to design and build successful mentoring programs.
I am from Dublin, living in NY for more than a decade. I moved here when I set up my first company, Fonepool, a mobile telecoms business, which was acquired by JT Global in 2012.
Everwise seems like a great idea, why / how did you come up with it?
After completing my post-acquisition obligation to JT Global, I had a checklist of personal professional goals I wanted to achieve in the next few years – be part of a great team, at a well-backed, early-stage tech startup, tackling a big problem, that would yield a meaningful impact to millions of people. Everwise checked all the boxes, so I teamed up with the founders in early 2014.
Everwise was born out of the idea that professional development, specifically mentoring, is broken. Leveraging data and people, we strive to resolve the problem of providing people with mentors, content and insights that can help them be more productive and successful at every stage of their career.
How is it going? How was 2014? Big wins?
2014 was a breakthrough year for the business. Each month brought a new, substantial milestone, including: invitations to the UN and the White House, seminal deals with countries and corporations that other companies at our stage in their evolution could only dream of. This is testament to a talented and experienced team, addressing a succinct need, building a great product.
Anything you’d do differently going forwards?
I am not typically rueful of past actions, which didn’t deliver the right outcomes, as they serve to inform future success.
What are your goals for 2016 & beyond?
As a business, we know we are doing something right. The key is to build a team and a partner base that believes in the mission and will make a meaningful contribution to our future scale and success. My job is to make sure that those team members and partners are more successful, as a direct result of their commitment to and partnership with Everwise.
Are you getting more uptake for the service in certain sectors more than others? And with smaller or bigger companies?
Our solution is widely applicable, however, growing out of San Francisco, our core customer base is comprised of Bay Area technology companies, such as Twitter, Salesforce, eBay, HP, etc. As we grow, we are acquiring customers across all sectors. The companies we work with would typically have a workforce of 500+, with a couple having a workforce of 500K+, which is mind-boggling to me.
Your blog has a lot of good, useful, frequent content, is this an intentional aspect of your business strategy?
We are driven to have a meaningful impact on the professional development of employees everywhere. Some invest in our services for mentoring and experiential learning, others can simply tune in to our blog for insight and guidance.
— Colman Lydon (@ColmanLydon) March 19, 2015
How do you find doing business over in US versus in Ireland / Europe?
The US is a dynamic business environment, with a customer base from consumer to enterprise, who are very accustomed to spending money, the market has an intrinsic understanding of the value of a spending economy.
An accomplished Irish entrepreneur, who relocated to San Francisco some years ago, made the simple remark, that if you launch a product in San Francisco today, they’ll be buying it in New York tomorrow. It’s not the case in Ireland, or Europe, with so many language, cultural and commercial nuances.
What’s your impression of the Irish start up / tech scene?
The Irish startup scene has its own personality. It is learning and evolving all the time. There are so many components to a successful startup ecosystem. Each aspect of the infrastructure has to be carefully engineered and has to attain a reasonable degree of maturity, in order to support a prolific output. It can take decades, I feel Ireland is a couple of decades behind Silicon Valley and Israel, but a couple of decades ahead of most others.
Is it necessary to have an overseas outlet to successfully scale for an Irish business?
A small number of highly successful Irish entrepreneurs have demonstrated that one can build and scale a global business exclusively from Ireland. This is a reflection of their exceptional talent and the specific industries where those entrepreneurs were active, rather than indicative of a standard.
What tips would you give to entrepreneurs starting out today?
For entrepreneurs starting out today, talk to a hundred people about your idea before you build anything. Work to your strengths, choose a customer profile you know well, in an industry where you have domain expertise and a network of professional contacts. Examine opportunities that cross seemingly disparate disciplines. Diversity of opinion and experience will be your winning combination. Look for precedents and correlations, perhaps in different industries, but human behavior doesn’t really change. It’s about the people, stupid.
Work / life balance, your strategy to manage it?
I am married with two young kids. They are the love and levity in what can sometimes be a dark and stressful place. Startups are hard. Always have something in your life more important than your work, something not measured in dollars, downloads, or data.
Your twitter profile picture looks like Kylemore Abbey, why did you chose it?
Well spotted, my Twitter background is Kylemore Abbey. I chose it because I have a strong personal attachment to Connemara. The abbey is an amazing feat of architecture, engineering and construction (imagine, it took 100 men four years to build). Also, I love the idea that Angelica Huston went to school there.
— Colman Lydon (@ColmanLydon) March 19, 2015
You mentioned you were in the White House. Was it for things you had done to date / Irish – American business?
It’s a great honor to visit the White House. I’ve been a few times, about 50/50 Irish/Business.
Anything else we should have asked you / you’d like to add?
As beneficiaries of the foundation laid by prior generations of Irish people globally, I feel we are duty-bound to build the connective tissue between Irish professionals at home and around the world. This is the drive behind my involvement in the Irish International Business Network (IIBN.com) and the Irish Executive Mentoring Program (IEMP.org). If you are driven to succeed in your business and career, start with these great initiatives.
How much interconnection and support is there between Irish people over in the States?
Support/interconnection, some, not enough. IEMP.org is designed to resolve that, complementing the great work of Irish business networks worldwide, not just US.
Read more about the Irish Executive Mentoring Program here.