By @SimonCocking

Delighted to bring you our interview with Frank Hannigan @frankhannigan. He has had a long and varied career, including time as a founder, and investor in many successful Irish businesses, (if you see his LinkedIn profile you’ll see just what we mean. Now a globe trotting mentor, as well as recently becoming a member of the board of RTE, Frank has some great insights into the Irish startup scene and life in Cork.

Question, how open do you find your peers to innovation and change?

People close to me are invested in innovation and change.

From what I can see innovation is not universally welcome in Irish organisations.

Change is great but the sacrifice needed to transform is a price many are not prepared to pay.

That lack of investment became obvious as the Celtic Tiger stopped roaring.

Many had a sense of entitlement in Ireland in 2007.

Then tough questions were asked of their businesses and they simply did not create enough value to survive.

How was 2014 for you?

I turned 50, which is very strange. I don’t feel 50 and I am pretty sure I don’t act it.

What big wins did you have?

Joining the board of RTÉ in November was a big deal.

My first love has always been media.

RTÉ is the most important Irish media company and serving on its board means a lot to me.

In general it was a packed year. I met interesting people and did interesting work.

A friend told me she measures the quality of her life by how long it has been since she did something for the first time.

From that perspective 2014 was a great year.

What would you have done differently?

No regrets.

Plans for 2015?

Get healthy or die trying.

Lots of travel. Hungary, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Donegal and West Cork already planned.

Interesting business launches in Serbia. I hope one or two grow into profitable businesses.

You are an active mentor. Why? (I’m guessing you enjoy it, and helps to keep learning). What projects are you most excited about?

I love being a mentor.

Working with smart young entrepreneurs keeps me young, hungry and ambitious.

I get to work in fantastically exotic places like Mongolia, Minsk and Mallow.

I learn all the time both from my clients and from researching how to solve their issues.

What trends are you seeing coming through your mentoring?

Irish people are building businesses that really matter

In the 1990’s there were a lot of cartoon characters talking about exits and burn rates.

Now most entrepreneurs I meet are the real deal.

They are people who build businesses that matter, create value for customers who understand that value and pay for it.

The second trend is appropriate scale.

Ireland is unlikely to produce too many billion dollar businesses exceptions like Stripe and PCH proving the rule.

For most entrepreneurs scale is not the key indicator for their success.

They want to be world class, working on projects that they love.

That attitude owes a lot more to Mittlestand than to Silicon Valley.

It is a more sustainable vision for Ireland.

We don’t have the ingredients for a second Silicon Valley

We do have the ingredients for a second Mittlestand

What problems would you like to see startups looking to solve?

Hangovers !

Flann O’Brien did some good work on this area of research(One of our favourite Irish writers, read by a barely keeping it together Tommy Tiernan!)


We have a great reputation globally  – we must add more value to our food exports.


Traditional media models are broken, lots of problems waiting for smart entrepreneurs to solve.

What are your favourite tech gadgets?

iPhone 6s (once it is available), Macbook Pro Retina 13” running Yosomite 10.10.3,  Sennheiser reference headphones.

Favourite software; Spotify, Linkedin, Tunein Radio, ParkMagic, ParkingTag, Chrome

Favourite car I will never buy Nissan GTR Nismo

Favourite car I might buy Tesla Model S P85D

What do you wish was already invented to make your life easier?

An electric Mercedes S Class that drives from Cork to Dublin and back without a charge.

Do Irish startups need to move to San Francisco / California to successfully scale?

“Successfully scale” are the key words.

I think a lot of great companies can scale to their appropriate size wherever they are on the planet, “geography is history” to quote Liam Casey.

McGonigle Watches in Athlone make amazing watches.

They make a dozen or so watches a year.

They sell for €120,000 each.

That’s enough to pay the two brothers and their crew and invest in product innovation and sales. They have a global fan base.

They can live wherever they want.

If you want to live in Northern California, go for it.

You don’t have to move there to create a great company, ask Colm Lyon at Realex.

Love what you do and do it where you want to live.

You’re on the board of RTE,  who are hosting the Mojo (mobile journalism event this weekend), a recognition of the changing way that news is gathered. Where do you see the future going for RTE news in relation to online news organisations?

I have spent a lot of my life surrounded by journalists but I am not an expert on journalism.

New tools and new media are multiplying the ability of Journalists to make an impact.

I have no worries about these changes.

What worries me is the business model that funds news organisations.

RTÉ is brimful of great talent.

We break stories consistently that change Ireland.

The capacity of journalists to expose wrongs and foster a better society has never been stronger or more clearly needed.

The question is, how do we pay for it?

Advertising as a model is fragile.

Newspapers and broadcasters have reduced the quantity and quality of their output in the face of reducing advertising figures.

RTÉ earns TV license revenue as does the BBC.

It protects their ability to deliver a consistently high quality news and current affairs service.

I think we need to ensure an independent set of voices that reflect Ireland.

Life / work balance, your take on it?

I am in favour of it!

My family is at the centre of everything I do.

I don’t do stress if at all possible.

I kick negative people out of my life ASAP.

That keeps stress to a minimum.

I aim to do work that inspires me.

I aim to create more value this year than last year, more value in this decade than the last one.

So far that simple recipe has worked for me.

Philanthropy, what’s your view on how it should be included in the development of businesses?

Giving should be part of every organisation, from family to multi-national.

It is enlightened self-interest.

Organisations are not a reflection of a set of financials.

Organisations do not operate in a vacuum.

Organisations are as successful as their people and the society they work in.

For that reason screwing the tax authorities out of corporation tax is short-sighted.

That money creates the health, education and legal platforms that allow businesses to matter in the long run.

What else should I have asked you / or would you like to add?

Why Cork?

Dublin was a great place to be young.

Cork is a great place to have a family.

I can’t imagine a better place to live on the planet.


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