What’s Behind the ConsenSys Expansion to Ireland? World-Class Talent For Starters
The Luck of the Irish: ConsenSys Expands to Ireland
In case you weren’t aware, Ireland is getting quite a name for itself in the blockchain space. When it comes to technology in general, Ireland’s already attracted a lot of the top multinational software companies to its shores. And the likes of LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, who all hold their EMEA headquarters here.
Perhaps it’s not surprising then, that the next in a long line of cutting-edge tech companies to call the Emerald Isle home is ConsenSys. Why? Beyond some rather enticing tax breaks, innovation incentives, friendly people, and pint loads of Guinness, the main reason is world-class talent.
Ahead of MoneyConf Dublin later this month, where some of the world’s brightest minds in finance and technology will come together (including Joseph Lubin), Coin Central’s Christina Comben spoke to newly-appointed Managing Director Lory Kehoe to find out more the company’s plans and their interesting approach to talent. Check it out:
It Starts with Great Talent
ConsenSys knows better than anyone the importance of hiring smart people. Kehoe himself has been working on blockchain solutions for clients for several years and is a well-known player in the space.
As a pioneer in bringing blockchain to Ireland, his enthusiasm, drive, and faith in decentralized systems made him a perfect fit for the Ethereum blockchain giant.
“ConsenSys has some very interesting plans and visions for Dublin,” he says. “This is week eight, we have a team already of 12 people and we’re looking to be 60 at least by next year.”
Commitment and Passion
Kehoe admits to having a deep passion for a decentralized world and has always been a fan of Ethereum. When asked why he believes Ethereum is the right blockchain on which to build their innovation, he smiles; quietly confident that his team is backing the right horse in this race.
“We feel like this is the right technology in the space–in fact, no–feel is the wrong word. We know this is the right technology… It’s a multiple horse race to find the right platform to follow and go after. And what’s critical is to look at the ecosystem. So, which has the most developers, which platform has the best developers? Certainly, Ethereum has 30 times more developers as part of its community than any other platform out there. Also, I think the caliber of the developers is important.”
He continues, “You want the smartest people and the largest number of the smartest people. With Ethereum, we’re fortunate enough to have those. Talent attracts talent, and that’s the beautiful thing about it. So far we’ve seen people move from some of the world’s largest companies to ConsenSys at key levels.”
Kehoe is also a firm believer in the way that Ethereum works with other companies. “Rather than on a time and materials basis, we look to work hand in hand with the individual. So, we’ll say, ‘we’ll help build it,’ and we ask for equity, we invest in the idea, as opposed to being a consulting house. We won’t charge them loads of money, but in return for that we would like equity in the solution.”
Fostering Believers in the Technology
There’s an existing blockchain ecosystem in Ireland, and ConsenSys is looking to build on it and contribute to it. Kehoe enthuses, “There’s a real opportunity for people to work on a cutting-edge technology.”
He points out the multiple multinationals that have their European headquarters here, from Google and LinkedIn to DropBox and Twitter, saying, “with all those tech companies, there’s a huge amount of smart people.”
With a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate and fast-track program for outside talent, it’s not surprising Dublin is starting to thrive. “We’re growing up as a European city,” he reflects, “which is cool, that’s also helping us attract talent. People are hearing that Ireland is a cool place to live. They’re hearing there are great opportunities here and ConsenSys also wants to tap into that.”
The ConsenSys Approach to Talent
ConsenSys is working with the Irish government to nurture the talent pipeline and get people as involved in blockchain as possible. Kehoe explains:
“From a talent development perspective, we’re developing short, medium and long-term programs to bridge any skills gaps that are there but also really focus on the fact that we think blockchain is a really big deal–not just to ConsenSys but Ireland full stop. We need to have everybody primed to take advantage of those opportunities.”
ConsenSys is running short programs for people already from a similar discipline that want to learn more about Ethereum. “We’re going to be running week-long boot camps so to speak, to bridge any skills gaps that are there, so people who have back-end experience but aren’t familiar with Solidity, or some of the more Ethereum-based applications that we use… That’s like a top-up course in a way.”
“These are more like eight-week programs. We ask, “How do we work with a university to develop a program that covers the business aspects as well as the technical aspects?” We’re going to help people be constantly more attractive to employers like ConsenSys and start them on the journey if they’re not quite there yet.”
“We’re working to develop and decide what the Ph.D. subjects that we need to focus on are and what the questions are that we need to raise, and then get candidates from around the world to answer the questions that we want answers to. ConsenSys and I are working with the IDA to figure out how to make Ireland a blockchain powerhouse. We’re meeting with government officials every two weeks.”
The ConsenSys Approach to Regulation
One of Kehoe’s main job roles is to be involved in regulation and to engage with regulators and governments. When asked what the ConsenSys approach to regulation was. He said:
“It’s to get involved. Or as involved with regulators as we can, in light of all the projects that we’re doing, we get in touch with the regulator and let them know what we’re doing to get feedback early on and frequently. For me, that’s not the best way to work with regulators, that’s the only way to work with regulators.”
“Ireland is in a very advantageous position. We are the strategic blockchain advisers to the European Commission. That gives us access to the inner workings of the EU and the regulators within. We can see what’s going on in each jurisdiction, not only Ireland but all countries within the EU.”
Decentralized Technology, Decentralized Company
“The company is much like the technology, in that it’s extremely decentralized. There are probably few things that I’d get fired for, but if I started acting like a boss and telling people what to do, I don’t think I’d be in the job long. We are incredibly flat, everyone is respected. We try our best to hire smart people, and if we hire smart people, they don’t need to be managed. If we bring people in and show them a range of opportunities then people will be passionate about what they do.”
Is it hard to know you’re hiring the right people when it’s such a new area?
The simple answer is yes. Hiring at ConsenSys is an exhaustive process, currently absorbing a large chunk of every team member’s day.
“Any candidate that we meet that has gone through the first or second round,” he says, “we’ll ensure that that person meets every single person in the team, to see if they fit. So, the first couple of meetings might be skilled based. The next will be less formal, to see if they fit. We’ll ask ‘Do they get ConsenSys?’ and ‘Are they a people person?’”
On the technical side, they’ll have a proven background and a coding test before interview.
“We’re still a small team,” he says, “it would be great if you checked in again when we get to 50 people and 100 and 200 people, and see if that process is still in place! But at the start, culture, especially as we build a team in Ireland, is absolutely critical. I want everybody to be happy, it’s the only way to go.”
The team is currently comprised of just 12 people. So how does it feel going from such a big company to a small team?
“I think it’s really fun,” he says. “We’re all looking for office space together, everyone’s coming to work to bounce things off of each other as we get the office up and running here in Ireland. This is the best job I’ve ever had and I don’t think I would be alone in saying this.”
What Challenges Lie Ahead for ConsenSys in Ireland?
“The key challenge is growth,” says Kehoe. “Hiring and becoming a team of 60 if we’re going to hit those targets is hard. We’re also working on projects to make it easier to build on Ethereum.”
What’s the Next Goal?
“In terms of ConsenSys, I would like for ConsenSys in Ireland to be judged by what we achieve over the next three, six, nine, twelve months, sixteen months. So let’s stay in touch and then rather than say ‘this is what we want to do,’ I can say ‘this is what we have done.’”
For anyone with doubts over the ability of blockchain to provide a solution to pressing problems, they should go and speak to Lory Kehoe. He’s passionate, enthusiastic, and has a refreshingly deep belief in what he’s doing. As we usher in a new world of endless possibilities, we need more bright minds like this lighting up the way.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christina is a B2B writer and MBA, specializing in fintech, cybersecurity, blockchain, and other geeky areas. When she’s not at her computer, you’ll find her surfing, traveling, or relaxing with a glass of wine.