Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Big Exits Make Ireland's Serial Entrepreneurs - Pride In Irish Teams

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 23, 2012

My first night in Dublin for the Web Summit was to kick off with drinks, in advance of a pub crawl, which was to lead to a big dinner for attendees, and then after-hours drinks. Fortunately for my liver my evening started off really well because I met the remarkable Jerry Kennelly, founder of Tweak.com (above).

Jerry's family is in the newspaper business and he worked as a photojournalist for some of the largest UK tabloid newspapers before founding digital photo agency Stockbyte & Stockdisc in 1996, which quickly became one of the largest stock photo companies in the world.

Ten years later he sold the company to Getty Images in April 2006 for $135 million -- great timing.

He's very active in establishing entrepreneurship programs in Ireland, designed to teach young people the skills and the means to establish successful startups.

His latest venture is Tweak.com, which offers small and medium sized businesses high quality design and printing services.


We quickly ditched the scheduled Web Summit festivities in favor of heading over to another pub and meeting with some of Jerry's pals, who were hiding out from the Web Summit crowds, most notably Ray Nolan (below), Ireland's most successful entrepreneur - so far. He managed to build his company Web Reservations International into a massive travel site, which he sold for $340 million in 2009.

Also in attendance was Eamon Leonard, who managed to found and sell his cloud computing startup Orchestra, to one of my favorite SIlicon Valley firms, Engine Yard.

There was more than half-a-billion dollars in exits crammed into a narrow Dublin pub nook.

From left: Jerry Kennelly, Ray Nolan and Eamon Leonard.

Not only are these entrepreneurs incredibly successful, they aren't done yet. They are serial entrepreneurs, ready to do it again, and again. After all, they say, what are they going to do at home, or hanging around on the golf course? The startup life is incredibly attractive regardless of the profits.

These entrepreneurs are also incredibly patriotic and incredibly supportive of their home grown teams, and they claim each one is equivalent to several Silicon Valley team members in terms of their productivity and talent.

They are all very much involved in cultivating and motivating younger Irish entrepreneurs. Eamon Leonard has been organizing meetups for local developers for years. Interestingly, he says that he never sees people from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, or Twitter at his events, even though those companies have European operations in Dublin, profiting from the low taxes and high quality talent.

We continued discussions at Ray's favorite steak restaurant, which specializes in a "Pittsburgh" rib eye -- charred to perfection. It was a great first night in Dublin. A perfect start to what turned out to be a fabulous week.


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