Founded by John Hartnett in 2007, the ITLG (Irish Technology Leadership Group) is made up of a number of high-level technology leaders in Silicon Valley who are Irish or Irish-American.The Group includes senior executives from some of the Valley’s leading corporations, each of whom are committed to promoting the technology connection between Ireland and Silicon Valley, and helping Ireland address the challenges of embracing new technology opportunities.
At the Global Irish Economic Forum in October 2011, the ITLG set the objective of creating a pool of global industry leaders who would contribute their experience and time to help Ireland succeed and thrive; volunteers who would sit on relevant Irish State boards until 2016, without remuneration (businessandleadership.com).
The initiative was subsequently criticised by Maura Quinn, Institute of Directors, who said that Ireland needed to be conscious of the “optics” of courting overseas executives as it tacitly implied a lack of suitably qualified people in Ireland. “If we are going to restore international trust in Ireland, we should be demonstrating that we have trust in ourselves.”
The nature of the objection failed to recognise the diaspora strategy, and relationship, that Ireland should be aspiring to, and caused the ITLG to step back and consider whether to proceed.
Fortunately, some smoothing out appears to have ensued. The ITLG revised it’s own approach, and the group has been further strengthened by the recent addition of former Intel chief exec Craig Barrett. Announcing his decision, he said: “Ireland’s rebound in the world’s economy will be driven by smart people and smart ideas. The environment to successfully bring these two things together extends well beyond Irish soil and we must integrate the best of Irish innovation from around the world.”
John Hartnett has identified three state boards that he believes the group can add the most value to – Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, and the Science Foundation of Ireland – and more recently, in an obvious vote of confidence, the ITLG has been appointed by the Obama administration to spearhead the Silicon Valley Diaspora Alliance.
Success breeds success, and a bit like any successful European football manager we should be building a team drawn on skills from a global basis. Ireland has an advantage in that we already share a common culture with our diaspora, and those skills (on the pitch) will attract supporters, open doors, and encourage potential investors.
To get into the premiership we have to aim for it.