By @SimonCocking

Interview with Andrew Parish @AJParish, Connect Ireland  @ConnectIrelandEntrepreneur, CEO, director, mentor, connector. Amelia’s Husband, Ellie & Luke’s Dad. Bad surfer, wannabe rally driver.

What is your role with ConnectIreland?

I am an Inward Investment Consultant with ConnectIreland. ConnectIreland’s role is to encourage expanding international companies to establish a presence in Ireland. It does this by leveraging the power of personal networks, and rewards individuals who introduce companies to ConnectIreland. As an entrepreneur who understands the challenges of international expansion, my role with CI is to engage with the overseas companies and assist them with their efforts to establish in Ireland.

How long have you been in it, and what brought you to doing it?

I’m relatively new to the role in ConnectIreland as I’ve only been with CI a couple of months. However previous to this I was involved from the connector side of things. I was really happy to get involved with the programme in a more hands-on capacity as I had seen how effectively they work having introduced a company which is now established in Ireland. I was impressed by the work they do, their professional approach and the incredible power of their network – which now includes a database of over 50,000 active connectors!  

How was the last 12 months?

ConnectIreland has had a fantastic year. In the past 12 months alone the number of connectors registering and actively engaging with the model has risen from 29,000 to over 50,000. We have also seen 30 new companies locate here through the Succeed in Ireland initiative which is a fantastic testament to Ireland’s business reputation. The momentum for the project has really picked up. For me personally, the last 12 months has been both frustrating and rewarding.

I have enjoyed seeing the tremendous opportunity that exists in Ireland for companies to scale and have been excited about the international recognition of Ireland as an attractive and relevant location for technology companies. However I feel there is still more to be done in terms of availability of capital for scaling companies and also access to world class accelerator facilities. A lack of funding has the potential to stifle local growth and drive promising startups elsewhere to raise capital and scale their business. We must continue the promising work that was started in this space to ensure companies will not just start in Ireland but also scale and succeed here as well.

Anything you’d do differently?

Not really, I’ve spent the year focussing on getting involved in a small number of really interesting projects such as ConnectIreland that are really interesting, enjoyable and relevant.

Your plans / goals for next 12 months / near future?

Between my work in ConnectIreland and my position on the board of Startup Ireland @startupireland I am really keen to continue to support the local environment for startups in Ireland – whether they are locally grown or attracted here. With IP Activation Group, I am excited to see how we can help address the gaps in the ecosystem in terms of exploring a new accelerator programme with appropriate scale funding to support the firms thereafter.

Dublin and Cork, (without causing diplomatic issues,) compare and contrast?

I’m based in Dublin but have become more active in Cork over the last couple of years through my involvement with a couple of companies located in the IMERC cluster in Ringaskiddy. I see lots of exciting startup activity happening in both locations. Whilst there may (rightly) be a lot of buzz around the startup scene in Dublin with Silicon Docks, etc., I think that Cork has just been quietly churning out some really successful companies over the last couple of years. This leads to a growing confidence in Cork which will be interesting to watch as they try to out-compete the Dubs! 

When you mentor, what are your key pearls of wisdom?

I remember my first sales manager telling me that I had “two ears and one mouth – make sure to use them in that bloody ratio”. This advice has always stuck with me and it’s valuable in all aspects of business – from sales, tech development or leadership. If someone is not in tune with what’s happening with their customers, their staff, the product developers, the external environment; then they will not be successful. Confidence is good, arrogance is not. I think it is incredibly powerful to be open and honest. It sounds trite but people respond to integrity. As a leader you don’t have to have all the answers and it is so much better to be open than to waffle or BS.  

And what mistakes do you find those you mentor make most frequently?

I think that a number of startup CEO’s believe that being a startup is the end goal. There are so many startup events and activities that some entrepreneurs think their job is to attend every event and engage with other startups. This is important and helpful but unless CEO’s are constantly seeking market validation, sales and customer traction, the rest is just fluff. Being a startup is bloody hard work for little money – the goal is to get through that phase as quickly as possible, scale and start making money – not wallow in Startupland. Similarly for technology firms, there is still the age-old temptation to focus on the technology features rather than the customer benefits.

How would you describe the current Irish scene, for startups and for companies looking to move to Ireland?

Ireland is a really vibrant place for startups with some fantastic stories and successes. Working with ConnectIreland I am encouraged to see companies from all around the world recognising that Ireland is rapidly becoming the tech hub of Europe. Our progress in working through the economic horrors of the last few years and now being the fastest growing economy in Europe has really added to our already positive international reputation with interest from abroad being very high. There are some short term challenges however, such as access to capital, but I believe that this is short lived. The more exciting the startups are, the more capital will flow to Ireland.

What tech trends are you excited by?

I like hardware – and the growing integration of data in hardware – the whole ‘Internet of Things’ sector. I’m not particularly interested in the wearables hype around IoT, but the potential for connected devices in industrial automation, agriculture and energy is of real interest. Ireland has a unique advantage in the IoT space given the local concentration of hardware companies such as Intel and Analog with software and analytics firms like Google, IBM, etc. Add to this mix a vibrant startup sector and there is a compelling local proposition for developing Ireland as a globally relevant IoT hub.

What tech do you wish was already invented and available to you?

The non-drip teapot!

Life / work, online / offline, balance? What’s your strategy for managing it all?

I’m a juggler with a short attention span – I love having multiple projects on the go. This also allows a degree of flexibility which enables me to work from a number of locations, including home. My golden rule is to keep weekends for family. I really try to stick to not working at weekends but travel can be the thing that impacts on that.

Why are you a bad surfer (cold water, lack of practice?)

I don’t mind the cold water given a generous layer of insulation – which, is probably also the reason that I’m not as good a surfer as I used to be! That, and not being in the water as often as I’d like!

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