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US Leadership Spotlight

West Coast Regional Highlight: Niamh O’Donnell

  1. Q: When did you start working for EI?
    • I joined Enterprise Ireland in August 2020, first working in the High Potential Start-Up Department before transferring to Enterprise Ireland’s San Francisco office. 
  2. Q: What city are you based out of?
    • San Francisco, The World’s Technology and Innovation Capital.
  3. Q: What sectors do you work in?
    • I currently lead our Enterprise Software, Artificial Intelligence and Digital Entertainment portfolios from the West Coast US. 
  4. Q: What excites you most about the sectors you are working in?
    • The technology being created in the big data and artificial intelligence space in Ireland is incredibly disruptive, really driving an impact on the Profit & Loss sheet for growing SMEs and large multinationals around the world. AI is a prevalent force across the fastest-scaling technologies and megacorporations. For example, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has created a processor that works with the help of AI, called the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU). It is designed to make its advertising, search, Gmail, Google Photos, and other services smarter.
  5. What is your favorite ‘fun fact’ you’ve learned since working in that sector?
    • Even though you may have only started hearing about AI in recent years, AI goes way back to the 1940s. Alan Turing is crowned as the father of AI and cogitative science and he was a leading early exponent of the hypothesis that the human brain is in large parts of digital computing machines. Back in the day, he invented a test, world-renowned as the ‘Turing Test’, based on natural language conversation with a machine. This tests a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
  6. Q: What are some accomplishments of client companies you’ve worked with that you are most excited about?
    • I have been really impressed with some of our Enterprise Software client’s abilities to negotiate and close contracts with large US corporates. For example, Utmost Extended Workforce System is a single, global platform built to manage and engage all classifications of workers, which has been chosen by the likes of AstraZeneca, ChristianaCare and Doordash here in the US.  
  7. Q: Has there been an innovation or product from one of your clients that really blew you away?
    • At the height of the pandemic, Nearform took on the responsibility of building the gold-standard COVID-19 contact tracing app within 3 months. The use of existing Bluetooth technology in smartphones to support contact tracing — considered one of the most important activities for controlling the spread of coronavirus — emerged as a potentially life-saving option. Their application development was such a success that NearForm is currently working with several other countries to develop contact-tracing apps that meet their unique requirements. I am very proud to support a client able to contribute its skills and expertise to the global fight against coronavirus.
  8. Q: What are some projects you’ve enjoyed working on?
    • I am currently working with Screen Ireland here on the West Coast to bring a delegation of Animation Studios to Los Angeles in November, coinciding with the World Animation and VFX Summit. We are also going to visit Disney and Netflix whilst in market and host an evening reception at the Consul General of Ireland’s, Los Angeles residence. The caliber of animation coming out of Ireland is fantastic, so I am really excited to celebrate it, particularly with the upcoming release on Netflix of My Father’s Dragon, which was produced by Enterprise Ireland client company, Cartoon Saloon. The incredible studios coming out of Ireland like Cartoon Saloon and Giant Animation are a testament to Ireland’s history of creativity, foclóir & rich storytelling.
  9. Q: What do you enjoy most about being a Market Advisor for EI?
    1. Personally, I get a great sense of self-actualization supporting Irish digital tech companies’ access to new market opportunities here in the United States. The work and mission of Enterprise Ireland align with my own personal values. I love playing my part in helping Enterprise Ireland to deliver on the vision for Irish businesses delivering economic growth and job creation. Also, as an advocate for innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship, there are few roles where I would get the opportunity to work so closely with such an array of Ireland’s leading digital technology companies.
  10. Q: What EI accomplishments are you most proud of that you’ve seen while working as an MA?
    • Seeing the rapid growth of some of our early-stage start-ups with the support of Enterprise Ireland makes me very proud. Workvivo, for example, was founded in 2017 by John Goulding in Cork. With annual growth of over 200% year-on-year, 500,000+ users across more than 50 countries, and customers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to tech start-ups, Workvivo is on a mission to elevate everyone’s workplace experience. To date, Workvivo has received backing from Enterprise Ireland as well as Zoom founder Eric Yuan, Frontline and Tiger Global, which has invested in market-defining companies such as Facebook, Linkedin, Stripe, and Spotify. As our Enterprise Ireland value stipulates, “We make a difference!”
  11. Q: What are you looking forward to most about being an MA in 2022?
    • I am really excited about attending more conferences, walking the floor and identifying opportunities for our client base. The next conference I’m going to is TechCrunch Disrupt here in San Francisco. The global startup community comes together each year at this conference to discover insights, collaborate, and celebrate achievements that have defined each founder’s journey and for those yet to come. Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Benioff, Elon Musk and many other startup stars have been on the Disrupt stage long before they were in the headlines.
  12. Q: What do you think EI will accomplish in the next year?
    • EI constantly evolves to ensure it meets market demands. EI will continue this evolution to support our clients’ continued growth.
  13. Q: What makes EI a unique and great place to work?
    1. For me, it’s the opportunity to work with my amazing colleagues and with Ireland’s most exciting emerging digital technology companies. Needless to say, there is a great culture within Enterprise Ireland, and I take great pride in supporting our clients with their US market entry strategy. I am also passionate about the sector I lead and clients I work with as Artificial Intelligence technology offers several critical benefits that make it an excellent tool for virtually any modern organization.
  14. Q: What makes working on the West Coast unique?
    • Silicon Valley is where it all began and persists as a primary destination for tech startups. Particularly in San Francisco, you have many communities from around the world in such a small, condensed area, with tons to do and ways to share that cultural knowledge. Despite the move towards remote work, the continued dominance of regional tech superpowers like the Bay Area is still crucial to early-stage business development and R&D work for startups. 
  15. Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
    • When I am not working, I love to travel and embrace the beautiful nature that the Bay Area has to offer. You can usually find me hiking, skiing, surfing or dancing at a music festival! I may still be a novice but I recently surfed in Malibu, which was an incredible experience. My lifestyle has changed a little since I left The Curragh plains!

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