October 10, 2011
Let’s harness the power of the online Irish networkPosted in Sunday Business Post · 132 comments ·
In 2009, about one million tweets were sent every day on Twitter.
This year, an average of 233 million tweets are sent every day.
In a year, that would amount to a ten million-page book that – if you read every tweet all day – would take you 31y ears to read.
And speaking of days and time: every minute, 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. Facebook has 750million registered users, which is larger than the population of Europe.
Today, there are more mobile phones in the world than toothbrushes. In a few years, no one will send emails. In fact, for anyone under 18, emails are for dinosaurs. They communicate by Facebook or text.
This is the world in which we now live. It is also the world in which we now do business. This is a world where new businesses are being created and sold in a matter of months and years. It is a networked world, where people are flocking together driven by shared experiences, shared interests and shared heritage.
This is the soft economy. Within a decade, the world and commerce as we know it will have changed dramatically.
Most crucially, the pace of this change will accelerate at a rate not seen before. One of the most interesting things, especially at a time when unemployment is so high, is that this economy can’t be managed or predicted. This is an economy with a mind of its own, and it is accelerating the pace at which big companies become smaller and small companies become bigger.
As this transition continues, old certainties will be abandoned. One of these is that the government should be involved in job creation. It should not. In this new economy, the government can’t ‘create’ jobs.
Much of the conversation in Ireland centres on the idea that the government should create jobs, but governments are very bad at creating jobs. In fact, they are very poor at the entrepreneur game.
So we need to change the conversation away from the government creating jobs to the government providing the environment for others to create jobs.
At the Global Irish Economic Forum This weekend, one of the Irish-American entrepreneurs – a man who has funded the start-up of hundreds of companies reiterated this point again and again. When it comes to start-ups and new businesses, governments should not interfere at all. The best thing a government can do is set the conditions for enterprise and then get out of the way.
In fact, he suggested that a government should not even talk to a new company for the first two years. When it was put to him that Ireland was a good place to start a business because it took only two days to register a company, he retorted that two days was one day and 23 hours too long.
If we examine the real world, he has a significant point about start-ups. The vast majority of new jobs in the US and in Ireland come from companies that are less than five years old. These are the companies which are expanding, growing, employing and trying to grab market share. In the US, the single biggest indicator of prosperity is something called the velocity of new firm start-ups. This measures the amount of turnover in new start-ups and how many are being started in states that are dynamic compared to states that are static.
The more start-ups – not the more startup successes, but the more start-ups, whether they are a success or not – is the best indicator.
In fact, in the US, the big corporate battle is not so much between management and shareholders as between big companies and small companies. Big companies destroy jobs. They are the ones laying people off, while young, small companies are the ones employing.
So the state should provide the environment in which new firms can thrive and let the thing rip. This sounds like good commercial sense.
However, there is something the state could do: it could buy from small, new companies. At a time when the private sector is terrified to spend, the only major spender in the economy is the state. So the state could make a huge impact on the success of start-ups by buying from them.
At the moment, due to public procurement laws, the Irish state buys only from big established companies. This excludes smaller start-ups from seeking business from the very government which is supposed to be supporting them. If we want to promote a culture that generates jobs, we need to promote small, faster, more aggressive companies. We need companies that have everything to lose and can’t turn back.
The first market is always the home market because people do business with people they know.
However, the world is Ireland’s market. But to get to the world market we need help in critical markets. So how do we do this?
Traditionally, we have spent huge sums on organisations like Enterprise Ireland, which has gone out and tried to set up contacts and infrastructure for Irish companies in foreign markets. This is very expensive.
But now the world has changed. In the hyper-networked world of 750million Facebook users, it has never been easier for more and more people to know about your product. We have the platforms, now we need the salespeople.
This is where the diaspora comes in. The diaspora is an enormous potential sales force dotted all over the world. With connections and networks cheaper and easier to set up, the power of the global Irish network is limitless.
If we involve them in our story, they can help us enormously. If we give them something back for this help, they will help more. Sometimes big ideas need to be distilled into their most basic form.
The Irish abroad are a natural sales force for new Irish companies, social media is the natural sales platform and the state is the natural facilitator of this. Get these three things right and we begin to move forward.