By @SimonCocking

David Smith One man from Ireland in Silicon Valley – making a difference in less than 140 characters.

What’s your background?

Hi Simon,

I am from Sandymount originally and until moving here my professional life was all in Dublin.  I did a B.Comm. and Masters in University College Dublin and have worked in international marketing, business development and relationship management in all my roles.  I have worked with private companies, Government agencies and also did a startup that we pulled just before launch.  In 2006 I came over to Silicon Valley with Enterprise Ireland and spent 6 years supporting Irish technology companies expanding into the USA.  In 2012 I set up a consultancy to continue this work for a wider European audience.

How was 2014?

It was interesting!  In the first part of the year I was consulting with 3 Irish companies on funding and business development as well as working with US Market Access (USMAC), a San Francisco based accelerator, on their corporate development programs.

In the later half I started consulting with TMF Group. This company provides back office services (payroll, accounting, company setup, legal essentials, etc.) for companies moving into new countries.  They’re quite the leader in this field, with offices in 80 countries. They provide a terrific service to companies at all stages of growth, from startups to Fortune 500 / FTSE 250 companies.  I am still consulting with TMF so feel free to talk to me if you are establishing a presence in a new country. Our comprehensive service not only leaves you free to focus on your core business imperatives, it’s a big money and time-saver.

Also last year, I met FirstCapital, a London based Investment Bank. I provided consulting services to them for 6 months before joining in January of 2015 as Managing Director, Head of US.

Anything you’d do differently?

Work less, play more – just not sure my bank manager would like this! Silicon Valley is an expensive place to raise a family!

I have started to take a little more exercise – I am running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in October (it is open to men also!)

Plans for the future

Work wise I hope to work with an Irish company on completing an M&A or funding deal. We’re currently talking to some really exciting growth stage companies, and I know we have a compelling offer for them but it is all in the timing!

You have a few things on the go, how do you manage to balance them all?

This is really hard.  I work long hours and given that a lot of networking events are in the evening, this can be hard on my family. On the plus side, I have a lot of flexibility, so I can use this to spend time with my son on a school trip, for example, even if it means working a few extra-long days to get the work done.                                                          

How’s life as Ireland’s most connected guy in Silicon Valley!

HaHa – I picked up that moniker early on as people began to refer to me as a “go-to” Irish guy in the Valley! So I began using it myself as you need something to stand out from the crowd and I suppose it stuck!  At least it’s memorable and gets me some extra credit (or publicity!).

I knew soon after I arrived here that having a rich local network would be essential if I was to do my job well, so I went out of my way to meet as many people as possible.  In my  9 years in Silicon Valley  I have seen many people I connected to early on rise up the ranks. That dynamic, coupled with my own ability to get closer to the seats of power means I have a fantastic “C Suite” network here in Silicon Valley, more broadly in the USA and worldwide.  I have 20K connections on LinkedIn and as people update their profile when they get a new job my contact book is always up-to-date.  LinkedIn is such an amazing tool!

You have a good following on twitter, who do you find engaging with you? In what ways have you found it useful?

I have 3,000 followers now – hard to believe!  I tend to treat twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as one platform in terms of general broadcast using the Hootsuite app. Feedback quality is better on Facebook, while LinkedIn generates more business-related support.  Twitter yields a more immediate response.  Using all 3 optimizes meaningful action. But I am still old-school and find targeted and well-written emails still generate the best result. And of course, there’s always the phone!

What tech do you use to make your life easier?

Without a doubt it is www.x1.com. I could not function without it.  I rely on Outlook to store my 30,000 contacts, all of which I segment using the categories field.  I also keep my meeting notes there, as well as emails and calendar entries so it is the nerve centre for my network.  X1 indexes everything on my hard drive, all my outlook entries and every file and document, with amazing granularity – as fine as individual words in a pdf.  I can search everything in a second so I will never lose an email or a file.  I can find people by industry sector, location, or job profile – again instantaneously.  If you use Outlook on a laptop or PC, this will be the best $50 you will ever spend – it is transformative.

On my phone I love Waze  for driving directions.  It is crowdsourced real-time information so you know where the latest accidents are, where the police are and what the fastest route is from A to B. On crowded Silicon Valley freeways, it’s a must. I use it every time I drive.

I got a new laptop a few months back – a Dell XPS 13 and I really love it.  It is powerful, light and has a decent battery. It is a pity is does not have a finger print sensor for better security. I use CrashPlan to back it up to the cloud and Memeo to back it up to an external hard drive.

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

Really good voice and gesture controls for capturing what I am thinking and recording it onto the electronic page – I have tried a number of apps and packages but can’t get one that can handle background noise.

I also want to combine these controls with some cheap but amazing Virtual Reality googles and that will convert my work space into a massive bunch of giant screens for me to multi-task effectively, with the aid of a brilliant AI based virtual assistant!

What’s your impression of the Irish tech scene from where you are?

I am very upbeat about it and I want to be able to support some of these companies on their journey to become the first Irish Unicorn (aonadharcach I suppose).

I see the Irish tech scene as growing both in terms of raw numbers of companies but also in quality of vision and breadth of ambition.  You don’t have to look far to find examples of Silicon Valley size fundraising with Intercom’s $35m round and AMC’s $50m deal.  You see bold M&A moves with Paddy Power in an $8bn merger and also some great sales deals such as CleverBug’s global partnership with Vodafone.

I am seeing more and more companies coming to the USA for sales, partnerships, exits and funding. They are coming better prepared, with a much stronger product-market fit and with a real growth mindset. That’s a very positive upward trend in the 9 years I have been here.

Any last comments

Can I do a shameless plug??

TMF – talk to me if you are setting up a company overseas – we can really smooth this process.

FirstCapital – if you are a software or tech enabled services company at the “growth” stage (double digit revenues and beyond), then talk to me about your strategic options on a sale, partial exit or raising growth funding.

See you all at the WebSummit in Dublin in November!

How can people contact you?

I can be reached via twitter or LinkedIn

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