Déjà vu, all over again – the rise of the Chinese tech industry

A musing on my first real job,  and how China’s ambitions continue to rise.  I recall some people “dissing” on the early days of Huawei,  but now its a global leader.  I think we will soon see Chinese leadership in semiconductors and other technologies..  This was published today in the Irish Times..

My first job, after leaving University, was as a junior official in the European Commission in Brussels. It was 1983, and I joined the task force of the European Strategic Programme for Research into Information Technology (Esprit), under the leadership of Director General Michel Carpentier. Continue reading

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Skitster – the app that knows best!..

I put this piece together whilst musing about the 350th anniversary of the Irish satirist and writer Jonathan Swift,  whose birthday I share this month.   I wondered what he would have made of the corruption of society by fake news?…     The article was published in the Irish Times on November 2nd::

I have always been wary of promoting any particular company in this column, but I must make an exception for Skitster. Continue reading

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Ten Years of the Irish Times Innovation Initiative

I put this piece together in response from a request from the Irish Times to reflect on innovation over the last ten years of the paper’s “Innovation Initiative” – and to make some predictions for the next ten.   I gave it as the dinner speech for the annual Irish Times Innovation Awards,  and it subsequently was published on October 12th last.

“Innovation..is the application of imagination. There are plenty of success stories….but that’s the easy pill to swallow. The bitter one is that in the search for innovative ideas come the inevitable failures. …It’s as much about not fearing failures and having systems in place to spot them early and change direction, as it is about success.” Continue reading

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Tranquility – and faking it

If you know my personal history,  you’ll know that Scott McNealy was gracious enough to invest in IONA when we were still a young start-up.  I wrote this when reflecting on his kind and wise words to me and on business integrity – the fine line between calmness under pressure in quality leaders,  and faking it by less scrupulous……  This was published in the Irish Times on 17th August last (under, IMHO, an awful byline but I have no control over that..)

“Hide the terror in your eyes”. Thus a highly successful CEO and entrepreneur quietly responded, when as a first time CEO I sought his advice. I was not surprised when he went on to sell his global company for a cool US$5.6 billion. Continue reading

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Confidence and Performance

Each year, The Irish Times organises an all-Ireland competition for start-ups and established companies to highlight innovation – in products, processes and services.  I have been honoured to be the Chair of the judging panel for quite a few years now.  Its always an interesting event for me,  because there are so many entrants from very varied backgrounds – medtech, food & marine, software, construction industry, fintech, media, services…. and somehow we have to pick an overall winner!   I wrote this piece which was duly published yesterday.

I entered the drive at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham at 8am last week behind a huge articulated lorry. The truck, part of the construction crew for that weekend’s concert on the grounds, gingerly circumnavigated the flanks of the picturesque historic site. We eventually reached the car park at the rear, where a security guard assiduously engaged the truck’s driver before challenging me as to my role in the upcoming concert. He seemed perplexed when I told him I was there to judge innovation for The Irish Times. Continue reading

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President Zuckerberg

I wrote this as an observation on how effective and how powerful digital advertising has become in micro-targetting individuals and groups with specific well-tested messages.  Consequently it has become a powerful tool for influencing voting,  and Facebook has and is being used particularly effectively in this regard on both sides of the Atlantic.  Meanwhile Mark Zuckerberg has since earlier this year,  initiated a number of actions which are indicative of a political ambition — whilst strenuously denying that this is the case.   Who better to exploit Facebook for political gain than Mark Zuckerberg himself?..  The piece was published on the 1st June.

Digital advertising is now proficient at targeting individual consumers with tailored messages for specific products. If you want to sell skin cream to certain millennials, then promote the organic ingredients in the cream. However, if you want to sell essentially the same cream to women of an older age, instead show a pretty millennial using it. If you want to sell a similar product to a middle-aged heterosexual male, you might suggest its use attracts younger women. Consumer groups of varying demographics or social grades respond to different messages. Continue reading

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Watching Big Brother

I wrote this for the Irish Times as a short reflection on how the State watches us whilst we watch each other.  It was published on 27th April.

John de Mol is a Dutch entrepreneur and media tycoon, who has been listed as one of the 500 richest in the world. His influence here in Ireland is chiefly through the reality TV series “Big Brother”, which he created in 1997. Twenty years later, there have been several hundred seasons of the Big Brother franchise in over 50 countries worldwide. In each show, contestants live together isolated from the outside world, in a custom-built house under constant video surveillance. The most “interesting” events are then broadcast on TV. The name Big Brother derives from George Orwell’s book “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, in which Big Brother is the leader of a totalitarian state which wields absolute power over its citizens, not least by telescreens which continuously observe its inhabitants. Continue reading

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