What is your background?
I have a degree in Law and was also admitted to the New York Bar.
Is it a logical progression to what you do now?
No! I have made two “illogical” progressions. The first was joining IONA Technologies as in-house counsel straight out of college, in 1995. Back then, there were very few tech-savvy lawyers and almost no in-house legal roles in software startups; it was a position that didn’t really exist at the time, so there were few, if any, “experienced” people around to do it. Lord knows I certainly wasn’t experienced! It was a steep learning-curve to figure out my source code from my object code, but the opportunities were unprecedented in IONA. If you were keen, smart and willing to learn, you could make an area your own. I’m very grateful for that opportunity; it was an amazing experience and I think my professional life would have taken a very different turn had it not been for my start at IONA.
The second, somewhat less illogical, progression was moving from being a General Counsel to COO, an opportunity which was given to me by Hugh Reynolds and Steve Collins when I joined Swrve (I’d worked for them in a legal capacity in Havok a number of years prior). Although I had gained a fair amount of knowledge beyond the purely legal sphere, it was a giant leap to from there to be running the finance, operational (and legal, natch!) departments. I don’t know if there would have been many people open to taking that risk to give me that opportunity and it’s another one that I’m very grateful to Hugh and Steve for.
I just published “Assessing the Advisers — Navigating Advice for Startups” https://t.co/3ithPaqKU2
— Síofra Flood (@Siofra_Flood) September 24, 2016
1 min pitch for what you do now?
I’ve developed a COO offering aimed at companies, post-funding, where there can be a period of risk in which founders can find it difficult to get used to the “new world order” that VC oversight brings. I would come in on an interim basis to start things off on the right foot and to help with future scaling. I would establish board reporting processes and help “upgrade” existing systems, like financial forecasting, and material, like customer contracts, so that CEOs can focus on developing the business. It’s an offering to support scaling companies to help them get to the next level.
I also deliver a number of training courses and workshops on topics like pitching, funding and the VC process, share rights and cap tables, software licensing and more. I very much enjoy demystifying the more esoteric areas of the funding process and it’s very gratifying to see a group of people leave a room with far more confidence than they had entering it.
What are your plans for 2017?
Now that people are becoming more aware of what I’m doing now, I want to build on that in 2017. I want to broaden out my training offering and I am also talking to a number of companies about board and mentor roles. I enjoy dealing with diverse companies and learning about different technologies, business models and industry-specific challenges.
How was 2016, what worked well, what didn’t move as quickly as you would have liked?
I thoroughly enjoyed all the engagements I took on in 2016. The courses I’ve developed have been well received and I am continually honing and improving them. While I’ve established great relationships with a number of accelerators, like the Ryan Academy, and universities, like TCD and Maynooth University, I would have liked to have “landed” a few more. The difficulty lies in distinguishing between what I do and what e.g. a law firm may offer to do for free as part of their general marketing. There’s room, but not necessarily budget, for both!
I’ve done well so far with the COO offering, but it will always be a challenge to line up the next engagement. It’s suitable for a fairly specific situation and there won’t ever be too many of those opportunities floating around at any one time.
What will you be speaking about in Riga?
I will be chatting about what Ireland in general, and Dublin in particular, have done to support indigenous startups and attract international startups, and also what we’ve done to encourage, attract and grow national and international venture funding.
— Riga Venture Summit (@RigaVSummit) February 1, 2017
Who do you follow to keep up to date with the latest developments?
I follow people, companies and publications to both learn from and to keep up to date on industry news. People like Mark Suster (@msuster) and Brad Feld (@bfeld) are great to learn about venture capital and running a VC-backed startup. The Irish VCs I follow are firms like Frontline Ventures (@frontline), Draper Esprit (Brian Caulfield @briancvc) and Atlantic Bridge (@atlanticbridgev). Depending on what I’m working on at the time, I will also follow subject matter experts in those areas. For example, I follow Eric Seufert (@eric_seufert), which I’ve done since I joined Swrve, to learn about the business of apps and freemium business models, and I follow Avinash Kaushik (@avinash) because he’s fantastic on digital marketing and analytics. For general industry news, I follow Dublin Globe and you, obviously, Simon!