November 14, 2010
Ireland: Things I Forgot, New Things Learned
22 years later, give or take, I recently returned to Ireland, but this time, Dublin was the first and only stop. Unlike the last tour which took in the southern countryside, this adventure centered around Dublin and was jam packed with meetings, coffees, lunches, dinners, and more coffees. And of course, a few pints of Guinness along the way.
Having Irish friends in the states, England or any other country for that matter, doesn't really give you an authentic snapshot of Irish soil, largely because so much about the culture and experience IS the soil.....the soil and the rain, the wind and the air.
Some of my most vivid memories of my first trip to Ireland were of massive breakfasts and the charming albeit cold B&Bs. Twenty years ago, there wasn't a stop off that had central heating and your bones felt every bit of the result.
THINGS I FORGOT:
1. How incredibly witty the Irish are, and not just occasionally, but all the time.
2. The Irish live for a good story - telling one and taking one in. And, there are always interesting historical tidbits and mythical legends thrown in for good measure.
3. How much I resonate with Irish culture because of their zest for life AND their ability to pull something from a hat even when there isn't one.
4. If they don't know an answer, they'll make one up, and even if its wrong, it's almost always interesting.
6. Hospitality. Not only do they understand the word, but they're efficient at it. Ask for something and it'll be waiting for you with a smile, followed by a grin, not necessarily in that order.
7. When they say they're going to do something, they deliver. Their word means something as does the word Honor.
8. For the record, #5 is worth repeating.
9. How much many of the town layouts reminded me of some of the English rural towns, always marked with a pub in the center.
The difference is that the bartenders always seem to be happy, or if they're not when you first sit down, it doesn't take long to get a smile out of them.
10. The Irish are laid back; they left uptight behavior somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.
11. Guinness is not just an Irish brand, it's an institution. Pubs wear the name on their seats, towels, banners, coasters and glasses and people drink a lot of it. A helluva lot of it.
12. Just how damp the air is, not unlike my memories of England. The dampness not just hugs your bones but it goes through them.
14. History is a big deal. They all know a lot of it and you won't leave without a lesson or two.
15. Abortion is illegal. I forgot that it was and was shocked to learn that it still is.
16. How different the north and south is and how loyal the people are to their county, towns, villages, cities and pubs.
17. How entertaining any pub visit can be regardless of which one you walk into.
18. How gorgeous the pubs are -- inside and out, from the drapes and windows to the old wood, brass and textiles.
NEW THINGS LEARNED:
1. Sadly, American beers like Budweiser and Miller seem to have made a successful entry into Ireland despite the fact that they brew their own beer which is 10x better.
3. There's a growing technology scene in Dublin, Galway and other pockets of the country.....and a lot of innovative ideas and people are emerging.
4. You can find a great selection of boots and shoes and they're on par with what I found in France, Italy and Germany, but in more cases than not, for about the same price as Paris.
5. More people than not thought I was Irish and apparently it wasn't just because of my auburn hair and pale white skin. There's something in a walk I'm told and it looks like I have "it" whatever "it" is.
6. There are enough fabulous restaurants with great food and ambiance that you could eat out every night of the week in Dublin and never get bored or have a bad meal.
7. You can easily meet 5 Paddy's, 5 Connors, and 5 Iains in one afternoon.
8. Wine is heavily taxed, so much so that you can easily pay more for a bottle or glass of wine than you would in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of America's most expensive cities. And, for 6-8 Euros a glass, you may only end up with a mediocre French Bordeaux. It's considered a luxury I'm told whereas beer is not. Moral of the story is: drink beer. There's a ton of it and it's really good.
9. More people still read books, magazines and newspapers in their hard copy form, not on their iPads or laptops - even on a park bench in the rain.
10. People text a lot more than they do in the states.
11. Entrepreneurs I met are more interested in building a business than flipping one.
12. Radio still flies. I ran into one start-up CEO who met his $20K angel investor because of a local radio interview.
13. Google has their European headquarters in Dublin. The rest of Silicon Valley may already know this, but I didn't. I also learned that they're not easily "accessible."
14. Art in Dublin is pricey compared to what I've seen in other European cities. That said, there IS a scene.....from poets, painters, photographers and designers, to illustrators, architects, fiddlers and film producers.
15. The architecture industry is suffering; the decline being hit by a reduction in building because of the economic downturn. That said, there's more "church" architecture gigs than you'd find in the states because of the volume of them. And, projects could easily take a year or more.
17. Pub crawls in Dublin are not just for tourists. What else is cool and may not be well known, is that they have literary and music pub crawls too.
18. Festivals are quite possibly as common as pubs, and....they're scattered throughout the year. And, all of them look interesting and worth attending.
19. People may be having fewer kids but 3 is certainly not uncommon and more the norm than it is the states, particularly in cities.
Lastly, and most of all, the charm and yesteryear culture of Ireland remains. Misty gray skies are part of its unpredictable weather, regardless of the time of year, but with it comes a stronger tolerance for things and a heartier stock of folks who are a joy to meet and get to know.
Passion and creativity also reign as much as they always did, which will be enough of a reason alone to bring me back to Irish shores and valleys again and again.
November 10, 2010
The Magic of Family Businesses & the Stories that Keep Them Alive
Occasionally you come across an old shop, creamery, pub, restaurant, chemist or cafe that......simply speaks to you and feels so damn authentic that you go back in time simply through its walls, floors and ceilings.
Having grown up in New England on Richard Russo's soil, I gravitate to places like that or they simply find me. It even shows in the banner of Down the Avenue, which is a modified version of the upstate New York main street small town where I grew up.
Jack Carvill & Sons along Dublin's Camden Street (renown for thrift stores) dates back to 1905. Online, someone referred to it the Rolls Royce of off-licenses.
Not everything in the place is still original, yet many of it remains in its antiquated authentic form, including the door behind the counter, the tills, the back hutch and the gorgeous albeit "dinged up" wooden counter.
Jack Carvill's apparently even got a mention in "Ulysses" although the real story is in its history, which I learned through the young man running it during my recent trip to Dublin. (Jim Bourke is the current owner btw).
In the early 1900s, it was called Delahunt and run by the Delahunt family through the mid-thirties when they sold it to the Cavey family, who ran the place for another thirty years until they sold it in the mid-sixties to Jack Carvill. It was Jack who renovated it (we think in 1968) and for nearly another thirty years, Carvill and his two sons ran it. Carvill died in 1993 but their sons still managed the store until their mother died in the late nineties (she apparently lived upstairs over the shop).
Take a look at this. He showed us the daily revenue book from the mid-thirties. Fascinating. While it may be hard to read, they took in 252 pounds (16 shillings and 4.5 pence) on Christmas Eve in 1936, which was higher than their typical take, which ranged from 80 to 185 pounds.
All I can say is thank God places like this still exist and thank God there are people on the planet who still care enough to restore history and remember the stories which keep the wonderful characters from distant times still alive.
Camara Educates African Communities With Reburbished PCs
Camara's John Fitzsimons tells me about their latest work in Africa during a recent trip to Dublin.
We have both spent time in Africa volunteering and teaching so had some common ground; the difference is John is still committed to making a difference there through his day-to-day working as General Manager of Camara.
It has nothing to do with photography despite the a/e slip in the word that could fool you if you read too quickly.
All about giving back, Carama is a volunteer organization dedicated to using technology to deliver education more effectively to disadvantaged communities in Africa and Ireland.They operate as a social enterprise in two distinct business lines: ‘Education Delivery’ and ‘Computer Reuse’. The connection between these two, seemingly disparate activities is technology.
Essentially they bring in in used computers from Irish companies and individuals, wipe their hard drives of data (in line with US Department of Defense standards), refurbish and load them with educational software before setting them up as Learning Centres in schools in Africa and Ireland. How cool is that?
What's with the name I ask him? It's the Bantu name for one who teachers with experience John says. They currently do most of their work in Lesotho, Zambia, Tanzanaire, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
"Camara is not the typical NGO," John says. "I'm not an international specialist. The return on investment for us is a social return, not a financial return. We want to be a 'social enterprise.'" They train teachers to use these computers as tools to improve the delivery of education to their students. And, they produce computer training and educational multimedia materials for use by teachers and children.
When Camara was established in 2005, they had two core beliefs: 1) Education is the key for people to break the cycle of poverty they find themselves in; and 2) properly used, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can be harnessed to revolutionize the way world class education is delivered to disadvantaged communities.
"The Internet is such a great leveler, creating so many equal opportunities with education and distant learning," says John. More on their program and how they operate below.
November 09, 2010
A Chat with F.ounder's Paddy CosgraveBelow, F.ounders organizer and producer Paddy Cosgrave talks to me about the history behind the event, how it got started, and his vision for the future. The chat took place at a 150 year old house along Dublin's Kildare Street early this month.
DataHug on Social CRM
DataHug's Connor Murphy (right) tells me about their service over drinks one night in Dublin last week.
DataHug, which just won an IntertradeIreland award earlier this month in Dublin, has developed technology that indexes corporate email systems and generates insight about the everyday connections between people.
While there are several email filters and indexers, none of them really take the pain out of dealing with information overflow and making sense of it in a meaningful way. Enter the growing need for Social CRM that works.
Currently in beta, DataHug analyzes emails coming in and out of a company to build a rich and dynamic picture of ‘who knows who’ and ‘how well they know them’. DataHug sells their service online to businesses that rely on relationships to succeed and are currently trialling the technology with a number of customers.
The Latest from TweetMeme's Nick HalsteadBelow, I'm chatting with TweetMeme's CEO and Founder Nick Halstead in Dublin earlier this month where he shares his latest insights and company developments. Location? The historical 150 year old Royal College of Physicians of Ireland on Dublin's Kildare Street. The building abounds with historic detail, including an impressive library and exhibition of medical artefacts. Have a listen:
November 08, 2010
Hoorah for F.ounders' in DublinBelow the F.ounders closing dinner in Dublin's Guinness Storehouse, a group of European, American and Irish entrepreneurs give a big hoorah to Paddy Cosgrave for an amazing turnout and 'show'. On stage are folks such as Michael Birch, Jeff Clavier, Tariq Krim, Divyank Turakhia, Matt Galligan and others. The event brought together thought leaders, technology companies, innovators and investors from Europe, the States and the rest of Ireland under one roof.
Irish Prime Minister Chief Economic Advisor Peter ClinchBelow, the Irish Prime Minister's Chief Economic Advisor Peter Clinch addresses a group of technology movers and shakers at a private dinner in Dublin earlier this month - the dinner gathered Irish entrepreneurs, European start-ups and illuminaries (folks like Michael Birch), venture capitalists, media, bloggers and American superstars, such as Chad Hurley and Jack Dorsey. The talk was given at the historical Iveagh House in Dublin.
Meet the 2010 PopTech Fellows
November 8, 2010 in America The Free, Europe, New England, On Africa, On Being Green, On China, On East Africa, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On Science, On South Africa, On Technology, On the Future, On Women, Social Media, United Kingdom, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
November 07, 2010
Weedle Finds the Skills You Need From People You Trust
Free to use, Weedle enables a better way for you to get found by people who need your skill and also, to find people who have the skills you need. Think lawyers, shoe repair, accountants, hairdressers, piano teachers, tutors, photographers, web designers and more. Leveraging social media with semantic technologies, they're combining both with their own search and social graph algorithm, to increase the effectiveness of a match that is right for you -- whether you need the skill or you are promoting yours to the world.
Because it's based on your personal community, you learn about people who have a particular skill inside your network and can see who in that trusted network has used a person and what they think. It's the kind of service that essentially anyone can benefit from; give it a try as it only takes a couple of minutes to get started. CEO with a personality -- Iain Mac Donald -- tells us more.