Meeting the Family: This is the Director's Retreat at Startup Grind

It’s February, and for me that means it’s Silicon Valley time. For three of the past four years, I’ve jetted from Dublin to San Francisco to be part of something special, something that has had a profound impact on both my personal and professional worldview — the Startup Grind Directors’ Retreat and Global Conference.

On the first two occasions (2013, and 2014) I was only peripherally involved: at that time I was working with Enterprise Ireland on the ‘Start In Ireland’ project, selling Ireland’s business ecosystem as a location for smart and ambitious founders to start and scale. We spotted an opportunity (chapeau, Darren Mulvihill) to take this message to the Startup Grind Chapter Directors, who appeared to be a well-networked and influential bunch — and, crucially, with an incredible geographic reach.

Those first two years I met and built lasting relationships and friendships with Directors from all corners of the globe (London, Cape Town, Toronto, Dubai, Stockholm, Tel Aviv), and had an opportunity to showcase Irish innovation by putting Irish entrepreneurs like Connor Murphy up on stage to tell their story firsthand. These experiences and interactions helped shape my view of the startup community back home, and the ways in which I could make an impact — and, ultimately, led me to take on the role of the Dublin Chapter Director back in August 2015.

Third Time's The Charm

This year, I’m back in Silicon Valley wearing two entirely new hats. First, as a Chapter Director, I’m going to be much more involved with the behind-the-scenes activity in running one of the world’s greatest tech startup events; and, I’ll also be participating as a peer in the Directors’ Retreat, swapping tips, tricks, and war stories with some of the best community managers and event pros in the world.

I’m also going to be attending for the first time in my (relatively) new role as Venture Investor Leader with NDRC, with 20% of our investee cohorts coming from outside of Ireland, exploring further international opportunities is part of our new strategic focus, something that the leadership team have been working on over the past year or so, and we’re incredibly excited about it.

So, what kind of opportunities are we looking for? As Ireland’s leading early-stage investor, we have been a successful proponent of the accelerator-led model for a number of years, and have seen strong growth in the market value of our portfolio companies. We take a venture-centric approach, so one of my primary objectives over the coming week will be to raise awareness of the breadth of companies we support.

We're looking at companies in fundraising mode, like BizimplyNuritas,SelfSenseArtomatix and Sensipass. Naturally, I’ll also be on the lookout for promising commercial partnerships for companies in the portfolio: there is a long and successful history of mutually beneficial trade between Ireland and the US, and we’d like to see that grow in the future. And, we’re building on our international successes to date, including NDRC portfolio companies like SoundwaveLogentries, and FieldAware.

From an NDRC perspective, there are some additional goals: we’re fundraising ourselves at present, and I plan to connect with private, return-seeking investors interested in learning about our vision and track record. From our side, we can add significant value to North American corporates, funds, accelerators etc. who are keen to gain a better awareness of the innovation model and pipeline in Europe — our track record with partners such as 1776 have highlighted our capability in this area over recent years.

Above all, I’m coming to Silicon Valley to learn, both as a representative of NDRC, as well as representing the Dublin startup community with my Startup Grind hat on (alongside those wonderful people from Intercom, of course). If you’re interested in sharing in that learning, please reach out and connect: I’m always on Twitter, and you should definitely keep an eye on the Global Conference hashtag.

And don’t forget: keep on Grinding.