Belfast, Northern Ireland — Despite the some 4,000 miles between them, entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland and the Midwest have more in common than one may know.
During a series of business and social gatherings with members of the Pipeline entrepreneurial fellowship program, Belfast entrepreneurs quickly learned how similar they are to those in America’s “flyover” region.
Northern Irish entrepreneurial leader Steve Orr said that the meetings with Pipeline fellows have been as fruitful as they’ve been enlightening. Orr, who serves as director of Belfast-based nonprofit Connect at Catalyst Inc., added that entrepreneurs from both locales ooze ambition, but what’s more, they each hope to better the world.
“The reasons why people are so passionate about the products they’re building and companies they’re creating is because there’s a human story behind it,” Orr said. “There are very similar values — they want to do good but they want to be successful.”
In addition to sipping pints at Belfast staples such as McHugh’s pub and Brewbot, the two groups of entrepreneurs engaged in several hours of “speed dating” with one another. The event afforded about 60 entrepreneurs from the U.S. and Northern Ireland the chance to build a friendship while learning about one another’s businesses. The event also aimed to find new business opportunities aboard.
To the group of innovators in tech, health and agriculture, Pipeline CEO Joni Cobb highlighted the similarities between the two communities. In addition to operating in “flyover country,” Cobb said that these entrepreneurs have successfully navigated conservative business communities where “failing fast” is a newer concept.
“We’re used to being flyover country in the Midwest — we’re not a coastal city that people think of first but they’re starting to think of us a lot more,” Cobb said. “We’ve grappled with those things and have succeeded past those things. … This is the beginning of the relationship-building between fabulous, like-minded people.”
Humility is another attribute that Cobb noticed between entrepreneurs in her organization and those they’re mingling with while across the pond. While modest, the business leaders are set to transform their hometowns into hubs of innovation — despite the challenges their communities present, she added.
“So many of the entrepreneurs we have met are truly humble people, scrappy, boot-strappers who are building very innovative ventures,” Cobb said. “They share a concern that it’s more difficult to build significant ventures from their hometowns, but they are passionate about doing so. … They are all working to build a new economy in a region not typically known for entrepreneurship — in the modern sense anyway.”
Hear from Northern Ireland’s own Steve Orr with the video below.