#98 Strategies to Support Entrepreneurship in Your Giving Strategy, with Conor Carmody Program Director @The Innovation Exchange Furthr & Chief Commercial Officer (COO) for Airify Technology

Oct 10, 2022

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We are joined by Conor Carmody to discuss entrepreneurship and how nonprofits can support innovation. Conor explains to donors how to recognize a successful organization that collaborates with start-ups and what warning signs to watch out for. Conor emphasizes the value of businesspeople who support the next generation of businesspeople by giving back. 

Sybil asked Conor to join because she was intrigued by the Furthr Festival that Conor and his team are organizing this October, and most years, to help entrepreneurs. 

Episode Highlights:

  • How donors can fund entrepreneurs
  • How a donor can spot a successful nonprofit that assists start-ups.
  • The “Furthr” Festival in 2022. 

Conor Carmody Bio:

A highly experienced business executive who has held senior management positions across all commercial disciplines in telecoms. Conor is a results-focused individual with strategic, operational, and entrepreneurial qualities. His core area of expertise is developing and implementing business strategies, Leading, mentoring, and developing teams to deliver success. A clear focus on results through teamwork.  Key strengths include Sales, Marketing, Strategic Planning, Project Management, and implementation Specialties, Strategy Business Start-Up, Marketing, Communications, Training, and Development

Connect with Conor:


Links referenced in this interview


If you enjoyed this episode, listen to these as well:

#91 New Investigation Into a Wealth Generating Asset with Marc Beshears Owner of Top Wealth Agenda/ Bank On Yourself Professional® 

#76 The Creation of a Giving Circle to Support Survivor-Driven Change with Ken Kroner, Principal, Kroner Family Foundation

#73 Sybil Speaks: It Takes Time to Make a Difference


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In this new course, you’ll gain access to beautifully animated and filmed engaging videos, and many more! 

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Full Transcript

Conor, thank you for being on my podcast.

Conor, I didn't know you before this podcasting experience, and I got reached out to be one of your folks asking if you could be on my podcast. I'm honored to have you on here, and the reason why I am is that you are running a cool conference called "Further" and you're going to tell us all about it. And I want to tell my listeners why I wanted you on here. You work with entrepreneurs, and you run a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs kick but essentially!

I want to talk to you all about that, I also want to talk to you about helping entrepreneurs succeed through your nonprofit. But I also want to talk to you about how you support these entrepreneurs in doing good in the world. Let's say they're successful. That kind of thing So, first I want to talk to you. Tell me about your life journey and, like, what brought you to this cool career that you're doing now?

Well, first of all, thank you so much, Sybil. It is a privilege to be here with you this morning. So, a little bit about myself, my background. I've done lots of things in my life journey. I've kind of started businesses, sold businesses, and now I'm helping others to do the same. I guess one of my first careers was in clothing, in the right traders. They call it in. I was working for a company called Primark.

They're a rather large European retailer, and I did that in my early 20s. I then went to Moscow, Russia as the wall was coming down and as that country was starting to open up and set up some businesses over there, so I lived over there for a good number of years in the early 90s. It was a really interesting time. It was a time of great change.

It was a country, a society, and a culture going through an enormous upheaval. I met my wife there, which was wonderful. She came over and worked for the same organization as me, so we're both Irish and we were. Over there, we started a family, came back from there, and then set up a mobile operator here in Ireland called Meteor, which was with the help of US shareholders and investors, and we built that business for most of the 90s and then sold and exited.

At the end of the millennium, and then, I guess, I was kind of tired of that life, so I decided that I'd move into a different frame. So, I do a lot of consulting now. I still do some start-up work. I'm still trying to set up new businesses because once it's in your genes or your blood, it's in your blood You can't escape it.

With this organization, furthermore, I'm kind of giving back, I guess, in some respects. I'm trying to help other entrepreneurs who are getting started, who are starting to scale their businesses, and I'm trying to offer some of my kind of experience from all those years of traveling and starting and scaling and selling and exiting.

And Conor, I feel like you started this nonprofit to help businesses scale. Why did you feel like you needed to create the nonprofit you must have gone through some challenges on your own.

Every person starting a business knows that he or she is going to face challenges along the way, and I think one of those challenges is finding a sustainable or supportive network where you can reach out when times are tough. When you know the journey to starting a business is not a straight line. As you well know, it's a jagged line. It moves up and down. There are highs and lows, and you know, for many entrepreneurs, they're starting by themselves, and they may have a co-founder.

Or there may just be two of them, and they don't know what they don't know having an organization like further, which is what we do, offers advice and guidance but also access to an ecosystem. And I kind of firmly believes that having the ability to talk to an ecosystem to reach out and say "I'm struggling with fundraising, I'm struggling with my first customer. I'm struggling to find a way to implement this plan. form, how do I scale it?” 

And that's what we offer. So, we think it's a very structured program in many respects. We call it our Investor Ready program and go further. And really, what we'd do is, with one of our teams, we'd sit down with the entrepreneur and we'd say, "Look, what are you going to do over the next 5 to 10 years, how, what do you want this organization to be, how are you going to build it, what does the scale look like What do you want to do? Do you want to exit? Do you want to stay? Do you want to go?” And then have a strategic debate on this caution before getting into, well, how can we help you?

And a lot of it is being there when they need advice or when they need support. Sometimes it's a shoulder to cry on and sometimes it's a, well, a push to make them move around to go further, as we say, and that's what we do So there's very specific advice around, you know, a business plan. Or an investment deck, or a pitch deck, or a financial model.

There are very specific introductions to funders and other sources of funding, and then sometimes there's just a walk down for coffee and to chat and to talk and say, "Well look, here's my take on the world, and we offer all of those services and…

That's what's great. That's so great Conor, I'm sorry, and you were going to keep going.

Keep going. Tell me the last thing and then I'll ask you a question.

No, no, no, no. No, no, you asked your question. Then you go ahead.

No, my listeners want to know what was at the “and” before Sybil interrupted him.


It's gone out of my head now, but it will come back.

Oh, no, no. OK, well, here's the question I have for you, Conor: Most of my listeners are donors who want to give money to worthy causes and nonprofits. A lot of donors that I have worked with in the past have their wealth from being entrepreneurs and getting bought out, so they really have a strong affinity for supporting start-up entrepreneurs because it's where they came from.

So, I feel like this nonprofit that you're working with is an interesting connector, so talk to me a little bit more about what I would do if I were a donor with a similar background who wanted to donate to a nonprofit like yours. Can you talk about the kinds of things that a donor should think about in this area?

Because you're not the only nonprofit that does this kind of stuff. So, a donor is going to be looking around at a lot of nonprofits that help entrepreneurs, what are some of the signs of a successful nonprofit that's working with start-ups? And what are the things that we should do? be worrying about a little bit.

Wow, really interesting question. I guess the starting point, looking at an organization, we're very clear. We don't charge entrepreneurs to work with them. So, we use services, as you mentioned, donors; we strike commercial deals. We have an investment fund. I'll come back around to that, but our starting point is that we don't want anything from the investors or the entrepreneurs.

And I believe that any donor should be wary of this because putting money into an organization means the organization is taking money or equity from entrepreneurs, and equity is the lifeblood of an entrepreneur's business. And they shouldn't give it away at such an early stage. They should hold onto it at all costs.

But you will hear of organizations who say, "Well, we'll work with you, and we might take. 7% or 5% or whatever that might be, we don't do that. We don't charge for our services.

We, in the work that I do around the festival that we'll come to or the other areas that we, we raise our money, we use that money to invest back into the entrepreneur, and the reason we do that is twofold 1 because we believe entrepreneurs should have their equity and shouldn't be taking funding from the government when they're starting a business. But secondly, it allows us to adopt a role as an honest broker, and, whatever we say to that entrepreneur, we give our advice freely and we give it with the best intention; we do not have a hidden agenda. And we're working with folks, and they're very concerned.

And not everyone wants to be told that their baby is ugly, but that's what we'll do. We'll kind of say to them, this is it, this is how we see it, this is the world as how we see it based on our experience, collective and individual, and we give you that advice freely. You're free to take it, you're free to leave it, and you're free to ignore it. 

The entrepreneur coming to us knows that we have a very clear, no kind of agenda, no strings attached. There's nothing we want from you in return. What we do want in return from the entrepreneurs is that when they're wildly successful, they will come back, and they will continue to turn up and speak at our events. So, they continue to contribute to our alumni series, and, by doing so, in that, we have this kind of virtuous circle that keeps on going where people pay us back. So, for a donor looking in, they should first understand that whatever their work with the organization is, that they're working with has the best interests of entrepreneurs at heart.

And I think that's important and that would be kind of the watch out for me. The way we take commercial partnerships as we call it, we don't have a donor program with a commercial because we believe that even if you are a donor and you've done exceptionally well and you've scaled and sold your business, you do want something and you want to get involved.

So, what we do is run events. We have set up an investment fund at VC. So, we have gone out and we've raised private money from the likes of the folks that you've mentioned there, but we're offering them a return on that investment. We're asking that you put money into a fund into which we will then invest in start-ups. It's run-on a, you know, very strictly commercial basis.

If you put some money in, you will get a return on it. So, the people we work with, who are similar to the types of people you mentioned, as well as your listeners, know they're putting money into a well-run organization, a well-structured fund, and there's a good chance they'll get a good return in their funds. At least they're putting money in and it's well structured, and the other thing we do is to identify who is.

We've got a wide range of folks that we draw on all the time. Consultants like me who work with the organization have a wider pool of those who are very well connected in an ecosystem of like-minded folks. So, for the donor or for the thing that you mentioned looking at, you're looking at an organization that is central to Irish entrepreneurship.

It has a deep reach across that whole ecosystem. It has a track record of very successful investments and support and advice given over the last 20 or 30. Two years and you can look at that and say, "You know what? These guys kind of know what they're doing. So, for your donors, what's the organization, the culture of that organization, is it really poor entrepreneurs? I guess that would be a big question they should ask themselves. Is there a track record within that organization and are the folks that are working within that organization living up to the values?

That the organization advocates, and are they truly involved in that regard, would be a plus. So that would be the kind of due diligence that your donor should be looking at.

Conor, that's very good advice. Thank you very much for that and I also just want to make a note too. What were you talking about geography as well, like entrepreneurs in Ireland in this situation, and there are a lot of different nonprofits and others that are working in similar areas that connect to whatever a donor is interested in if they want to, in addition to giving money to nonprofits that are doing good in the world on issues if they want to they can help more entrepreneurs. They can do that, which is super cool.

You can't.

Because a lot of times, people don't realize that they can do that as well as the typical donation. So, I just really like this a lot. Thank you for that advice.

And the other point, I guess Sybil mentioned, is that while we are an Irish-based organization, our reach is global.

Yeah, please.

So, Ireland is a very small village on the edge of Europe, and you know, we talk about going global the whole time. So, the successful companies that we work with, always keep an eye on us.

What's happening in the US is kind of the biggest available market. So even for your donors or for the people who are listening, you know, we have success stories that have come off this island and have gone to the US, have gone to Europe, and so on.

Good point. Yeah,

In the US, and we also have it here in Dublin, we would have most of the major kinds of tech. Many organizations have their European headquarters here in Dublin. So, we're very close to the US market, and because we work with a population of 5 million people, you can't scale an organization with that, all of the companies that we work with spend their time and we spend our time thinking, how do you get off the island and how do you go somewhere else? And you know, for most of them, the US is the logical market, and they know how to step over there.

We work very closely with the US embassy here in Dublin and would select the USA, which is the inward investment arm of the US government, on how we get folks from this country into the US to build on a truly large scale.

Thanks for that. Thank you so much.

That's a great point too because I do see that with other nonprofits that are working in a similar sphere as you, it's all about scale. It's all about success and scale, right?


Thanks for that OK, let's go to some other questions around how to give effectively through business. world and, like, how do we think about those things? But before we go there, the reason we're talking is because there's this conference that's coming up this October.

And so, can you tell me a little bit more about the further festival in 2022?

Yes, indeed. And thank you again for the opportunity. It's great to be chatting with you. It takes place on October 21st in Dublin at the International Convention Center, which is based in the center of Dublin.

What we're trying to do, as I mentioned in the Earth talk earlier, is that we consider ourselves at the heart of an ecosystem, and we spend a lot of time thinking about how we connect the various players within that ecosystem. So that is for both start-ups.

It's a scale UPS. Uh, it's academics, its government players, and indeed the multinationals, the large MNCs, and the foreign direct investment companies that are based here that I mentioned already. And what we're trying to do is to understand what the business opportunities arising from new transformative technologies are and what the global challenges are to be solved, and we're very clear that it's dumb. So, we didn't run this festival over the last two years because of the cold, but we believe it's an in-person event we shouldn't stream because the success of the event depends on people coming and enjoying the day.

And what we're trying to do is understand the role, what is the role of emerging technologies in solving some of the big business challenges and, indeed, the big global challenges, with digital transformation, climate, and health being kind of probably three of the top pillars.

How does someone in the organization do it? How does somebody in the audience understand opportunities to grow their business? And then it's about collaboration. Returning to the question of what entrepreneurs require when starting a business, how do we help facilitate collaboration between innovators and innovation seekers? And that's a really interesting kind of dynamic there because, you know, a lot of the large companies and corporates that we work with are very aware that maintaining the status quo, while great, is not enough in a time of tremendous change that we're going through right now, and one might say that over the next decade, we'll see a greater shift in technology advancement than we've seen maybe over the last 20-40 years or so, and what we're trying to do is put innovators and innovation seekers together. We're trying to kind of get all of that into one room and the kind that we run several stages.

But the main stage, I guess, is our global stage and insight in that we're talking about Great Expectations industries being shaped as we speak. Entire industries are being reshaped by emerging technologies. And what does that mean for the future of business? You know, if one looks at the metaverse, which a lot of people are talking about, or if one talks about AI and the vast troves, and lakes of data that we have, what are we going to do with those?

There's a lot of talk around blockchain, which as a core technology is interesting. One might argue that the whole cryptocurrency is sitting on top of that the core idea of an open distributed ledger for the kind of minding your funds if you will, is going to be huge over the next couple of years. Technological shifts are happening in the world around us.

And post-COVID, there is a reordering of how we think about society and how we think about the world. In which we live. So, you know. There's the talk of the great resignation and there's the working from the home debate. There are, you know, potentially dark clouds on the horizon with some kind of global conflict, high-interest rates, and inflationary pressure that we haven't seen for a good number of It just makes it a very interesting time in the world right now.

That is so right, Conor, and I want to go with you.

We'll invite you. Don't worry.

Yeah, I love the topics you're asking about, and how innovation can be part of this conversation. So, thanks for sharing that OK, so in this last part of my interview with you, what I'd love to talk about is what I saw on your agenda. I'm going to give a little friendly push here. So, on your agenda, all this. Great stuff about how to support innovators and everything else. Is there any kind of thread running through your conversation about, OK, so there are all these great ideas?

They are trying to do good in the world, but is there some sort of conscious discussion? Or think about OK, once you're successful or even on the way up to becoming successful. How about social responsibility? Support for those who may not have had the same privilege or ability to get into these kinds of forums.

What is the giveback?

So, what do they give back to us by running this festival? Well, let me answer that in two ways. One, as you think about the future of entrepreneurship at a global level, there is most definitely a move towards more sustainable investment. There's a move towards a double or triple bottom line and investors are now expecting from the companies that they're working with that there is a wider societal purpose.

I think we're all becoming more aware of the world in which we live and the impact that we're all having on the planet around us. And so, I guess that's at the heart of what we do. Some of the things we talk about are around, you know, sustainability and the type of investment that's required to build the The future of what we do.

Well said, Conor.

So, in the conferences, we pick up on those thematic areas and, you know, bring some back. So, we'll have a guy speaking on the main stage This guy is called Ken Cattle. He built a business here in our release, a brilliant, brilliant case study, and is a lovely guy.

He took it He went to Boston. He's exited the company recently and has sold out. But Ken is coming back to talk about the journey. He doesn't have to do that. He's taking a flight from Boston. He's coming over for two days, and then he's going back again, and the reason he's doing it is that he believes in what we do. We supported him ten years ago when he was here in Dublin and just getting started before, he sold out, uh, to like, you know, whatever. He sold it for 250 million. He got out of his business after setting it up maybe 10 years ago. Something of that nature. We rang him and said, "Look, we're doing the conference again. Will you please come and speak and share your story with us and the audience? Yep, I jumped on a plane. He's paying his way. He's coming along. He did a lovely talk for us on the main stage about his journey and the learning from that journey. And then he'll fly back to Boston in the afternoon again.

The reason he's doing that is that we worked with him; he believed in what we did then; he believes in us now, and he'll come back; he'll pay it forward. And then there were others, lots of others around the room like that. The great thing about this is that when you get into our ecosystem, we don't forget you and you don't forget us, and we'll bring folks back who worked with us in the past, and they come back and they're happy to share their story.

And you get this lovely circular economy of entrepreneurs who've done it, who've been on the journey, and they're happy to come back and share their story with us. And that, I think, is kind of what makes it different. We're not trying for this to be a back-sphere giveback, yeah. We're not trying for this to be a 10,000-person conference or it's not the biggest conference in the world, but at its heart, it has a very strong purpose, which is how do we help entrepreneurs build the next unicorn that's coming out of Dublin or the next big global chemical that's coming out of Dublin?

How can we learn from all of those who've gone before us and they're happy to come and pay it back?

That's what's great. So, the specific give back, it sounds like Conor, you're talking about is within your nonprofit itself, is really to support these upstart folks trying to make it in the world. And you know, there's another whole conversation that's a little bit different from this one, which is, once those entrepreneurs are successful or on the way up, how do they also create a social responsibility kind of theme and then think about giving back? And it sounds like that's incorporated into the conversation as well and it's another pillar that, you know, I'm eager to think about more in the future. Conor, this has been delightful. We will have a link to the conference in our show notes if anyone is inspired to join you, and we'll have information on how people can reach you and other participants at the firm. At their conference, and if they're inspired to support your nonprofit or other things, we'll make sure that that's all in the show notes, too.

It's been delightful talking to you, Conor. Thanks for the time today.

Thank you so much. Thanks for having me, Sybil, and I'm looking forward to getting you across to our conference. I hope so someday.

Thank you so much.