Delivering foreign investment into Northern Ireland
Rebecca Kincade spoke to Áine Brolly, SVP Business Development, West Coast USA, Invest Northern Ireland, about the challenges she faces in a bid to secure foreign direct investment for our shores.
What does your role involve?
I am the SVP Business Development for Invest Northern Ireland, West Coast USA. Our offices are in San Francisco but my team and I are responsible for covering 14 US states as far east as Texas and as far north as British Columbia in Canada. Our role is to target fast growth companies and enterprises and to identify and deliver foreign investment projects into Northern Ireland. We also work with indigenous Northern Irish companies, helping them to establish in the US and with customer acquisition. We work with universities, venture capitalists (VCs), diaspora and sometimes politicians helping to build linkages with Northern Ireland as well. So, there is really no such thing as a typical day!
How do you start your day?
If I am not travelling, I get up at about 6.30am and get my five-year old son ready for school. Quick shower and the face on and then I bolt down to the office which is thankfully only a 10 minute commute on the MUNI (underground). Laptop is on at about 8am to a flood of emails from both Belfast and the east coast offices (the disadvantage of being eight hours behind home and three hours behind the East Coast).
Are you mainly office based?
Typically, I don’t spend much time in the office as I usually have about two or three meetings a day in Silicon Valley with potential investors, influencers and VC’s. I also attend and speak at a lot of conferences and networking events. I am constantly looking for opportunities and trying to engage with the right people and companies to persuade them to seriously consider Northern Ireland as their ideal location for a European operation.
How are you finding the market at the moment?
It is a highly competitive market in Silicon Valley with about 50 development agencies from all over the world here so the team and I are really aggressive and focussed in our approach. Northern Ireland is building a strong reputation in sectors such as ICT, Financial Services and Creative Industries; in fact Belfast is the number one destination globally for financial technology investment and the number one location in Europe for software engineering and customer support investments.
Can you tell me about some recent investments your team has worked on?
Over the last year we have had a number of great investments from the West Coast including Vello Systems, Wandisco and Intel so we are building a strong track record and reputation in the valley. We are also getting great traction in secondary markets like Texas and the Pacific Northwest and are hoping for a number of investments from those markets in the future.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Outside of work, I spend as much time as I can with my husband Ruairí and son Ruairí Óg. The job is so demanding that it can be difficult to get the balance right as a working mother but I continue to try! San Francisco is a really fun and diverse city with lots of things to do and we have made some great friends since we’ve been here over the last 2 years so we try to get out and about as much as possible in our free time. The weather helps as well! I also love reading and music and I sing in a band on occasion which is great escapism.