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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High altitude wind turbines: a step above ground based turbines

I wrote this piece for the Irish Times for April 6th last.  I had been following Makani with interest for some time,  and thought it opportune to write about the opportunities for Ireland.  Then,  by complete co-incidence a week later, the major German power companyy E.on announced a project with the Dutch start-up Ampyx Power for an airborne wind generation system on a test site in Co. Mayo..

The Fianna Fail administration established the Digital Hub in 2003 in Dublin’s Liberties to provide a national focus for innovation, and to nurture digital skills for a new economy. The iconic symbol of the Digital Hub is St Patrick’s Tower, a 40m monolith topped by a St Patrick weather-vane. Built in 1805, St Patrick’s Tower was the largest windmill in Europe for much of the first half of the nineteenth century, when it was used to provide power to Roe’s whiskey distillery, until the distillery converted to coal-fuelled steam power in 1860. Continue reading

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Space: the final, increasingly accessible, frontier..

I wrote this piece about the accessibility of satellite technology for the Irish Times,  on March 16th last..

In October later this year, we will celebrate sixty years of space technology. On 4th October 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik-1. Continue reading

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How “America First” is hurting Silicon Valley, how Silicon Valley is hurting “America First”, and how China has Silicon Valley in a necklock.

I wrote this for the Irish Times which duly published it on February 9th last.  The impact of Silicon Valley on blue collar jobs,  and of China on Silicon Valley,  has not been much discussed to my knowledge in the media..

‘The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins remorse from power.’ So mused Shakespeare’s Brutus, contemplating his response to the increasingly tyrannical behaviour of Julius Caesar. Caesar introduced term limits for important governing positions while making his own appointment indefinite; installed his own men to control the senate; appointed his own pool of magistrates; reduced social support funding; and outlawed professional guilds. Continue reading

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