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December 16th – Power of connections shine through at NYC conference – was it worth it?

IrishCentral proud to have supported the IIBN OpportUnity conference.

Authors: Susan Hayes Culleton & Stephen Smith

More than 300 Irish Americans, Irish and other Irish diaspora gathered in New York earlier this month to participate in the annual conference of the Irish International Business Network (IIBN). This represented the culmination of a year of hard work, organization and co-operation between New York, London and Dublin.

Read more coverage of the IIBN OpportUnity conference on IrishCentral here.


IIBN Confrence Website


Beyond the immediate rewards of renewing connections, building new professional relationships, listening and learning from the content, what are the lasting benefits to arise from a two day business conference? In collaboration with IrishCentral, the Positive Economist and IIBN member Susan Hayes Culleton reached out to a selection of speakers, attendees and organizers this week to learn what their takeaways from the conference were.

Susan Hayes Culleton

It wasn’t until I attended some IIBN events that I really discovered the power of this network that brought Irish people together with a clear business focus. My experience has been more rounded and of a richer fabric than can be measured by a number or a spreadsheet. I have found kindred spirits, a limitless vault of experience and advice, incessant exposure to people and companies that have ascended to the top of their fields. My contribution to this conference was to moderate a discussion about ‘Diaspora Bonds’, a development linking philanthropy and the financial markets with participants, Minister for Diaspora Affairs Jimmy Deenihan, Drew O’Brien, US Department of State, Dash Boyer-Olson, Merrill Lynch and Norman Houston, Northern Ireland Bureau. In the future ‘Diaspora Bonds’ will mobilise finance through the market mechanism with a view to solving, or at least making a quantifiable dent in, social problems.

Click here to view the session.

One of the highlights of the conference was the hugely inspirational Mark Pollock. If you have never witnessed him speak then check this out.

“In Jim Clerkin’s closing speech he described how connections have specifically impacted his life. And, it is the power of connections that shone through at the conference. In preparing to deliver my session on stage with Dr Ruth Freeman from Science Foundation Ireland and Nick Terrafranca from NeuroRecovery Technologies, we began a series of conversations. And, those conversations have continued beyond the conference and I believe they will turn into action as we pursue our mission at The Mark Pollock Trust to find and connect people worldwide to fast track a cure for paralysis. Thank you IIBN for the opportunity to make those connections.”

“The conference provided an insider’s seat to a broad range of business endeavors outside my field of work. I was fascinated by the sense of creativity, passion and self-sufficiency that suffused the day and I came away feeling recharged.”

Mary McEvoy, Pepsico

‘I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect until I got there but I was completely inspired by the positive stories and the positive energy that defined the day. It made me very proud to be Irish listening to so many entrepreneurial journeys that have become global successes as well as the engaged debate on a broad range of relevant issues’

Cathal Gaffney, CEO, Brownbag Films

‘This event and other great events that foster business connections and highlight Irish entrepreneurs are essential. As an American I was reminded how important it is to make sure that we keep the doors open to immigrants who want to access this great country. The entrepreneurial spirit is what has made America great and that spirit was a gift given to America by waves of immigrants who came here looking for opportunities. Nothing could be more anti-American than turning our backs on immigrants who want to start companies, create jobs, create opportunities and contribute to keep this country great.’

Sean Gaffey, Merrill Lynch, Co-Chair IIBN NYC

‘The conference far exceeded everyone’s expectations. It was a unique opportunity to meet with members of IIBN across the various international chapters. The networking was incomparable – from prodigious business and political leaders to new startups – and everyone present was of the same mindset – connect and collaborate to do better business.’

Susan O’Brien, Founder, Smigin

‘For me, it was not so much the content of any one individual’s speech (and some were outstanding), but the sheer energy that was evident within the whole IIBN family; the speed with which people were connecting; the good humour; the great one-minute pitches; the bravery of some of the exhibitors; the 300+ people buzzing at the reception overlooking the lights of New York the night before; or the animated chat at Fitzpatrick’s party post conference, all made for a very special business networking event.’

Andy Rogers, IIBN London

‘On a personal level – to be reminded of the tangible and powerful connection the Irish American community have to ‘home’ both in the US and in Ireland and how they are truly committed to pro-actively engaging with Irish talent to give them the support, introductions or just confidence they need to ‘go for it’. This was further enhanced by the Mentoring Programme re-launched by Cloman with support of the Emigrant Support Programme Grant which harnesses the power of the Irish diaspora, the drive of the next generation of Irish & Irish American talent with the reach and relevance of technology – utilising an online platform to do what Irish people do best – mentor, support, open doors, connect and be either a voice of reason or madness – depending on what is required!’

Sinead Crowley, Director, IIBN

‘My abiding memory of IIBN OpportUnity 2014 was the quality of interaction between speakers, panellists and attendees. The polite discussion that mingled with coruscating Irish wit occasionally slipped into the level of outright argument that is the hallmark of a first-rate conference.’

Niall Fenton, Director, Lotus Capital

‘The IIBN conference in New York was the first IIBN event I have attended and I was immensely impressed – our needs were taken care of on all levels. We were made feel so welcome, had plenty of inspiring and engaging speakers and dialogue and numerous opportunities to network. Personally, I gained a great insight into the way the network operates and how committed everyone is to progressing the Irish Business landscape. Since returning, I have had two meetings with people I met at the conference and I’m delighted to say that I have a conference call next week with a business owner in NY with a view to doing business with them. I was delighted that I travelled to it.’

Monica Murphy, Owner, Monere Development Services

‘Most conferences couldn’t get away with an agenda as ambitiously broad as at the Opportunity conference but it worked spectacularly well. Every panel and keynote had something in it for everyone in attendance and the infusion of startups throughout the sessions kept things at an appropriately New York pace. Great job all around.’

Feargall Kenny, CEO Glenborn, Founder NY Digital Irish

‘The OpportUnity conference in NYC was fantastic. As one of the founders of IIBN, I have been actively involved with the organisation since inception in London back in 2007 and I cannot express in words how proud I was sitting in the conference in NYC and seeing how the organisation has moved forward and how many exceptional people are now involved all of whom are continuously propelling IIBN forward, and, with their time, dedication and expert guidance are enabling it to become the most important global Irish business network to date.’

Fionuala Pender, Co-founder, IIBN

‘Common purpose. Comradeship. Conviction. And…craic.. tonnes of it!! These are the words that for me encapsulate the essence of the IIBN Opportunity conference. What a super experience for all of those who took part in the Smartstart Zone. The enthusiasm, the intent and the interest shown by the the organizers most definitely filtered though in spadefuls to the participants and attendees. Wow just look what we can do when we put our minds to it. It’s a super organization that I am proud to input to be part of and will be for some time to come.’

Gerry Moan, CEO, SmartStart

‘The program was great, which cover lots of great topic from fashion to aviation to animations. There was so much energy in the room and a lot of people making connection so they could do business together. Just what IIBN is all about.’

Ailbhe Mullen, Vice-Chair, IIBN New York

‘The IIBN” is by its definition a network. A network is its ‘people’. In this case, people whose common goal is to assist each other in defined areas to themselves. From this conference I was hugely motivated, inspired and came away with a renewed reaffirmation that Irish people can compete with the best the world has to offer. From the opening speaker to the last, this was hugely evident. The quality of presentations given, stories highlighted and the attendees themselves, backed this up in spades. It was an outstanding event as I knew it would be. Of course, the final value of a truly outstanding event is the quality of our actions in the aftermath. All day, people,shared the actions that they had taken and where it had brought them. Now its up to us to make sure it leaves a legacy.’

Gerry Duffy, Motivational Speaker and Entrepreneur

‘It is incredibly fulfilling to see a voluntary network host a successful 300-person business conference in New York for the first time, demonstrating great drive and ambition. The dynamism of so many accomplished Irish congregating in New York, to foster business globally, is inspiring.’

Colman Lydon, VP, Everwise

Susan HayesCulleton, CFA, “The Positive Economist” is a board member of IIBN Ireland. She is Managing Director of Hayes Culleton, which specializes in financial markets, economics and entrepreneurship education globally. Her latest book is “The Savvy Guide to Making More Money”. Register here for her free monthly newsletter and podcasts.


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