What Silicon Valley Can Learn From Irish Entrepreneurs

by on November 6, 2010 at 9:28 am

Storyteller Dublin has a lot to offer, much more than what meets the eye from nearly 6,000 miles away. No, I’m not talking tourism although the city certainly has plenty to offer on that front.

Meet a new emerging market for technology, entrepreneurship and innovation, which was realized from experiencing Web 2.0 the Irish way at the most recent Dublin Web Summit and F.ounders event that spread over three days.

Says Butcher in his Techcrunch post, “F.ounders event did exactly what it said on the tin: almost 95% founders, few investors and an extremely well oiled organisation of events to network everyone together.

Almost no investors meant the entrepreneurs could compare notes, swap war stories and generally relax…..heaven for entrepreneurs who can get pretty sick of having to feel like they are under pressure to perform all the time.”

But it doesn’t end there and it’s only part of the story. What the two simultaneous but related events did was combine the best-of-the-best in one city from Europe and the states, during non-stop rain, to connect in a meaningful way…..and this my friends, involves the exchange of human stories not technology ones.

What made it so special? Unlike so many events in Silicon Valley, we didn’t talk business models 24/7 or money 24/7 or tools, deals, plug-ins and traffic strategies 24/7.

I had an opportunity to meet with a number of entrepreneurs in the context of dinners, coffees, pints of guinness, walks in the rain, lunches and before and after Irish fiddling late in the evening. (which btw is 4 or 5 am, not 10 pm which is the time most of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs either go home or are online connecting rather than over pints and bottles of brew, whiskey and port).

I’m not trying to beat up on the Valley, because frankly despite having had a reputation of being an “energizer bunny” (you know, the battery commercial), I’m not sure I could keep up with a wee morning pub culture year round. What I am trying to do is point out cultural differences which is what was instrumental in making this event ‘magical.’ Multiple cultures brought their own curiosity and their unique ways of pitching, engaging and exchanging with them to Dublin.

There’s other magic I discovered too and it has to do with BEING IRISH: the Irish know how to tell a bloody good story…..all the time. As one Irish entrepreneur said to me, “we live for telling a story – we’ll talk at ya all day long if you’ll let us.” The downside he said, was that “we might be more focused on the story than the business model and making money.”

Fair enough, yet my initial thought was this: HIRE someone who knows how to get your business to cash-flow positive, whether that’s bringing in the right biz dev guy or finding some seed money. Any idea how hard it is to instill storytelling in someone who doesn’t ‘get’ storytelling? Dragon

A lot of CEOs over-complicate their pitch, get bogged down with the details, the technical features and what they think is important. If you have a good storyteller on board, no one will leave your campfire gathering, when if presented correctly, can be the most powerful ‘magic sauce’ in your corporate recipe book. The Irish are naturals at this. And, they also know how to add humor to their story in a way that keeps you engaged for longer.

And we all know what longer engagement can lead to….it’s all anyone talks about in social media circles. (modern translation of campfire gathering: your website, blog, presentation, facebook fan page, twitter page and so on).

While this discovery meant that it took a little longer to get entrepreneurs to talk about their company and products, I got to know their personalities, backgrounds and the things they cared about OFFLINE. It’s amazing what you can learn about a company and their direction when an entrepreneur is more focused on their story and your story combined than their iPad, iPhone or Blackberry in front of them. No one checked in to anything, tweeted or sent an email in the middle of any of our conversations.

What a joy to have a “human” focus dominate over a “digital” one during a meeting……Imagine truly being present for the journey, participating in that journey and focusing on the laughing, breathing, singing, talking and eating around you rather than the Hootsuite stream in the palm of your digital hand.

“Storytellers, the very act of telling, communicate a radical learning that changes lives and the world: telling stories is a universally accessible means through which people make meaning.”-Chris Cavanaugh

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