b"Rachel Bill, how were you introduced to The Ireland Funds? RachelHave you stayed in touch with any of these teams going forward? Do you keep an eye on them as they grow?Bill I was introduced to The Ireland Funds by its West Coast Director, Marjorie Muldowney. As I met people who were involved with The IrelandBill Yes, I occasionally get calls from some of the folks and theyll Funds and understood their passion and commitment to the Ireland, I startedprovidemewithupdates.Thequalityofthebusinessplanshasreally to become more involved. When I first got involved back in 2010 or so, Irelandimproved over the years.was in a very difficult place. The Irish recession was in full force. Unemploy-ment was very high. The economic climate in Ireland was pretty bleak. I feltRachel Tell us a bit more about that.the biggest contribution that we could make to Ireland was to help create jobs, because a job is the best philanthropy that anyone can provide.Bill I think thats a function of a few things. I think that the Competition has become more widely known, so were getting applicants from a broad-Rachel So, you established The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition?er population. I think the collaboration with the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) has really been a positive development in the Business Plan Bill Yes. Back then we talked about the fact that every job startsCompetition. NDRC provides ongoing mentorship. They run a bootcamp for with an entrepreneur. My belief was that entrepreneurship is critical to thethe competitors before the final competition, and they allow them to refine long-term success of Ireland, just like its critical to every country. When Itheir business plans and refine their pitches, and so theyve been instrumental looked at Ireland, to me, the big difference between Ireland and California,in making the pitches much more compelling. Then, afterward, they provide in terms of entrepreneurship, was the appetite for risk among young people.an incubation facility so that teams can pursue their dreams. NDRC has really been a positive development for the Competition.RachelIsn'tthatsomethingyouvespokenaboutattheBusinessPlan Competition, the idea that young people need to be more comfortable with risk and with failure? Rachel Where do you see the Business Plan Competition going in the next few years? Are there areas that can be improved? Bill Exactly. Its clear to me that the Irish are intellectually gifted. Theyre well-trained, and as innovative and creative as anyone, but from myBill I think one thing I would like to see is a tighter collaboration with experience, particularly the young people, they seem to be more risk-aversethe nine universities in Ireland. We work with the professors of entrepre-than the young people in the U.S. neurship or engineering or economics, and educate them about the nature of the competition, encourage them to encourage their students to think about Rachel What do you think is behind that?entrepreneurshipandthinkabouttheBusinessPlanCompetitionand submit plans. I do think that a tighter collaboration with the universities Bill I think its a cultural thing, and its a function of their exposurewouldexpandtheimpactoftheCompetition,becausethenwithineach to risk taking. In Northern California, if you walk into any Starbucks, youuniversity there will be some momentum around entrepreneurship that contin-see business plan pitches going on at virtually every table. Thats a functionues throughout the year.of the culture of Northern California. It was my belief that by exposing the young people in Ireland to the entrepreneurial process and to entrepreneurs,Rachel How do you feel about the growing social entrepreneurship movement that they would be more comfortable with entrepreneurship, with failure andin Ireland?with the lessons that they can learn from that. Thats really what the Busi-ness Plan Competition is all about. Its exposing young people in Ireland toBill Ithinkthatsafunctionofyoungpeoplesawarenessabout entrepreneurs and to entrepreneurship in the hope that they become moresocialresponsibilitytodayversuspastgenerations.Imveryencouraged comfortable starting their own businesses. by that. In many ways, a lot of what The Ireland Funds does is about social entrepreneurship.Itsaboutencouragingpeopletosolveproblemsin Rachel The Business Plan Competition has grown over the years to be socreative ways.much more than that one day in June. Wed like to think that early-stage business ideas are really being identified and nurtured, and not just the first-place winners.Rachel Bill, youre a National Board Director of The Ireland Funds America. Do you agree? Has all of that helped you stay connected to Ireland?Bill Theres no question. The Competition is much less about findingBill Even though San Franciscos pretty far away from Ireland, the Irish a business plan that can become a billion-dollar company and much morehave a rich history in San Francisco. I feel The Ireland Funds, and Marjorie about education. Its about getting the young people comfortable with thein particular, do a great job of celebrating that rich history. We have an Irish entrepreneurial process and thinking about entrepreneurship and thinkingconsulate in San Francisco, and they do a lot of things as well, but also, the about what it takes to start a successful business. That may result in themeconomic climate in San Francisco attracts a lot of Irish business interests.pursuing the business they describe in the Business Plan Competition or it mayI think The Ireland Funds acts as a sort of force multiplier there be a business they develop at a future date because of the lessons they learnedin generating more interest in Ireland and celebrating Irish culture in San at the Business Plan Competition.Francisco. Thats in large part thanks to Marjorie. She does a great job.connect 201853"