One of the key areas of development within the Irish startup landscape is making Ireland, and Dublin in particular, not a good but a great place to do a new venture. We are competing not just with the US here but other locations in Europe. So what makes Ireland such a great place to be an entrepreneur? Well there are the usual suspects, low corporate tax rate, number of incentives for doing a startup, Enterprise Ireland support (despite the somewhat one-sided view given on the Irish television earlier this week) and a highly educated, English-speaking workforce. Not to mention a large non-national population that bring a huge amount of language skills to the city, useful if one is internationalising in Europe.
But one key group that we perhaps haven’t leveraged as much is the presence of so many multinational corporations. Thanks to IDA Ireland, major companies that are based in the City include Intel, Facebook, Yahoo, Merck, Siemens, Microsoft, Pfizer, Apple, Google, Amazon.com, Yahoo, Sage, Adobe and the list goes on. For companies that are in the enterprise space or that need partnerships with corporates, this is a treasure trove. And now we have a generation of corporate leaders who tend to be Irish, a group that has been very ‘entrepreneurial’ in pitching ideas back to their corporate headquarters to bring additional resources, in particular research and development work, to Ireland. Citi, Intel, IBM and Disney all have research projects going on in Ireland at the moment.
One of the key areas of development for the Ryan Academy Seed Accelerator fund will be to harness our corporate connections for the startups that will be on the programme. We see this as a key to developing the next generation of technology companies in Ireland, whether the founders are from Ireland or not. We are not looking for the ‘Irish Google’, instead our war cry is ‘One Hundred Havoks.’ Leveraging this connection in particular and the relative small size of Dublin, makes Ireland a great place in particular to do an enterprise related venture.
Great news and an interesting collaboration was announced today in Ireland. Intel, who have a large presence in Ireland and the Irish energy provider the ESB have announced plans to roll out electric or ‘ecars’ in Ireland. The announcement occurred at the launch of electric charge points at the Intel Ireland campus in Leixlip.
Siliconrepublic commented that ESB ecars and Intel’s sustainability and enterprise services lab, which is part of Intel Labs Europe, have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on the challenges of integrating electric vehicles into the electricity grid.
The ESB plans to build a nationwide charging infrastructure to meet the Irish Government’s 2020 targets of 10% of all vehicles to be electric. The collaboration will support the planning and implementation of the nationwide charging infrastructure using the all-electric, Mitsubishi i-MiEV throughout Ireland
Interesting turn of events as word on the street is that Intel is buying security giant McAfee for a whooping $7.6 billion ($48 per share in cash). McAfee will continue to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary. This may be part of Intel’s cloud strategy and/or security strategy particularly on new devices. In the past they have bought companies like Ireland’s Havok because they will drive a need for better, more powerful, fast chips.
One of the key areas that venture capitalists look for in a start-up is the team. It is not unusual for the real intellectual property to reside in the people rather than the ‘protected’ patent. History is littered with examples of the future IP or product pipeline leaving the company when these creative people leave. One of the most famous is the move by Bob Noyce and associates from Shockley Semi-Conductor to Fairchild and eventually to found their own company, Intel.
Such points seem to be lost on the leadership of Activision, one of the leading games producers, as a rift between them and the senior leadership of Infinity Ward, has led to a mass exodus of the developers and software folks following in the footsteps of the leaders of Infinity Ward, Vince Zampella and Jason West. These two have now launched a new company called Respawn, linked strongly with one of Activision’s competitors, Electronic Arts.
Why is this problematic for the owners of Infinity Ward? Because from this team of developers, Activision found itself in control of one of the biggest franchises in the game’s world (Call of Duty). The Modern Warfare installments have made serious amounts of money (hundreds of millions of dollars) more akin to a Hollywood blockbuster. Activision bought Infinity Ward in 2003 but fired the Zampella and West earlier in the year. I confess I own several of the installments myself for the Playstation3.
Indeed the story itself is starting to sound like a film script. It seems likely creative control was the key issue for the pair and Activision. With a new installment of Modern Warfare due out in October this year (this one set in Vietnam), Activision will continue to make money from the franchise, but one wonders what the potential long run effect of this will be on their subsidiary.
Rumours have it that a large part of the creative side of Infinity Ward have now left, many joining Respawn. I suspect Electronic Arts are going to laugh all the way to the bank, and in this new arrangement Zampella and West crucially own the intellectual property.
It is not unusual for the founders of a company to be ejected within 3-5 years of the start-up. We call it ‘Founder Syndrome’. Ask Steve Jobs. And although the full detail of why Zampella and West were fired is still unclear, it may turn out to be a critical call for Activision in the long run.
Andy Grove, one of the people who created the modern giant that is Intel, was once allegedly to have said that “only the paranoid survive” and although he claims to not remember saying it he went on to write a book by the same title. Grove wasn’t some nut living in a basement, but the very open leader of Intel when it grew at astonishing speeds to become world leader. What Grove was really talking about was keeping an eye on the external world. In his book he talks about an organisation (any organisation) having a ‘strategic inflection point.’ That is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But Grove point outs that it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end.
Another quote attributed this time to Charles Darwin (which no scholar can actually find in any of his work) that is even better known is “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Although the messages of these fine men are often quoted it is amazing that so many organisations to not take heed. This is particularly true in the social sector, where often the month to month survival like that of any SME, is more important. Yet many organisations will conduct strategic planning without a proper analysis of not only their environment but of the wider context in which their organisation exists and will exist. It means that when the unexpected (according to them) happens it is a ‘shock.’
Too many strategists and indeed leaders (I would argue of all hues) assume that acknowledgement of such shocks ‘smacks of speculation.’ Far too many leaders, be they in government, military, corporate or non-profit, are too concerned with the present. There are tools for analysing such issues be it horizon scanning or indeed the use of established strategic foresight. This is one of the reasons why the Ryan Academy is putting on a two day module in Foresight Planning on the second and third of March, partly delivered by a leading ‘futurist’ from the UK. To apply a proverb “Forewarned is Forearmed.”