03 July 2012
Last week saw the Entrepreneur Of The Year CEO Retreat group return from Silicon Valley. We had 113 people in attendance on the trip including almost 100 entrepreneurs, sponsor agencies, media agencies, a TV crew and partners from Ernst & Young. It was the biggest CEO Retreat we have ever held with over 30% more attendees than last year.
The CEO Retreat was held in San Francisco this year, with a lot of the company visits, talks and events held in Silicon Valley, San Francisco. The week included talks from key figures in technology, executive education from world-renowned professors, networking with fellow entrepreneurs and field visits to some of the most iconic institutions in Silicon Valley.
The week was truly inspiring with a visit to Facebook Headquarters where we received an eye-opening talk from Irish man, Paul Adams, Global Head of Brand Development for Facebook. His talk about the power of social media and the future of websites localising their content to each individual user provided plenty of food for the thought for the entrepreneurs in the audience. We also received an exclusive talk from Niall O’Connor, the CIO of Apple. The awe-inspiring talk from Niall was about being an Irish man who holds one of the top positions in the top IT company in the world. He took an intensive Q&A session with the entrepreneurs, which really opened everyone’s eyes to the future of technology. While the talks on advancements and trends in technology were fascinating, it was equally inspiring to see the success of the Irish in the Valley. The Irish Diaspora really have a strong foothold in Silicon Valley, which shouldn’t be too surprising given the exciting and vibrant start-up scene in Ireland at the moment. All the incubators in the country are brimming with high-potential Irish start-ups and at the same time all the IT mammoths such as Google, Apple and Facebook are locating their European headquarters in Ireland. This is surely a sign that there is something in the water here!
The CEO Retreat also provided a range of top-quality executive education from Professor Kellie McElhaney of Berkeley University, Professor Charles O’Reilly of Stanford University and a particularly thought-provoking talk from Salim Ismail, the Executive Director of the Singularity University. Our minds were blown as we were confronted with emerging trends in not only technology, but society that we will see in the coming years (including 3-D printing!). We also had classes on change management, corporate social responsibility and female representation at senior management level. Everyone left the education sessions with food for thought, and new views on how to manage their companies.
We had the pleasure of hosting the Keiretsu Forum last week too. The Keirestu Forum is the world’s largest angel investment network and they hold forums every few weeks where start-ups give their two minute pitches to a panel of investors. We hosted the forum and listened to some high-potential start-ups pitch their business ideas. Two of our EOY 2012 Finalists, Paul Kenny of Cobone.com and Matthew Browne of Connect Telecom decided to pitch their businesses to the investors to see how they fared, and they managed to score higher than all the Californian businesses. Paul Kenny got a perfect score from each investor!
While the people and places we visited blew our minds, the real magic lay in the community of entrepreneurs that came together for the week in San Francisco. These 100 Irish entrepreneurs came together and both challenged and supported each other. They offered advice to each other on business issues and collaborated together on business opportunities that emerged from the week. The strength of the group wasn’t weakened after returning to Ireland. In fact the group of Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year alumni who attended the retreat have formed an action group since returning to Ireland. The aim of this group is to develop an entrepreneurial culture in Ireland by means of developing the education of entrepreneurship studies in schools and colleges around the country, and also offering business development and support to Irish companies starting up.