Fiona McKenna is a seasoned start-up CFO with almost 20 years experience supporting start ups. She will be speaking at the Atlantic Digital Startup Academy (ADSA) launch on 30 October at the Republic Work, South Mall, Cork city at 17.30.
1 minute pitch for what you’re doing now
After almost 20 years in startups- I joined my first one in 1999, it was a case of ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ and so in late 2017 I decided it was now or never, and formed my own consultancy earlier this year, aimed at bringing the skills and knowledge acquired over many years to more than 1 business. I suffer from a form of business ADHD – I love the chaos of startup fever and the ability to wear many hats, but am less interested when the business scales and by definition the scope of each role has to narrow.
When Peter Elger (CEO, Co-Founder of fourTheorem) asked me to be the fifth co-founder with him and his team, it was a perfect fit, and I joined them too. I am actively working with six different businesses right now, some of which I can’t discuss but all of them are either startups, scaleups or going through massive change. I’m shattered but loving it all!
Fourtheorem are focussed on helping democratise AI and machine learning and making it accessible to all businesses, not just big business with unlimited budgets.
How was last year, what worked well, what didn’t move as quickly as you’d have liked?
I’ve only been out on my own since January, so I’m still in my first year, and only 2 months with fourtheorem. For me, time management can be a struggle, I’ve a lot of plates spinning right now so being organised (not one of my stellar qualities!) is a big challenge. Nothing has gone slower than I’d have liked except some fundraising efforts with businesses I’m supporting. Bureaucracy can be a stifling when engaging with bigger entities with massive legal divisions that slow things down.
Plans for the future
No. 1 is closing an EI fund raising round with 2 businesses – fourTheorem just got approved for some HPSU funding and I want to ensure we engage with them fully to move our business outside of Ireland and the US and grow our client base and our team recuitment wider and deeper.
What will you be talking about at this event? (brief taster)
The importance of structure – thinking about your business as a group before it becomes a group. Thinking wider and long-term, it is so much easier to get these building blocks right at the start than it is to retro-fit a corporation tax planning strategy later on when the business is larger and more complex. Figuring out the big stuff when you’re small enough to invest time and thinking space in this area.
And my second pet talking point – reward structure and employee engagement. Fourtheorem has set aside a 50% option pool that every employee will engage in, as well as democratising AI in our software development work we ‘eat our own dog food’ and believe that those that create the value should share equally in the returns of their labour. I could talk for hours about this!!
A side issue is how to dispel the myth that all good tech jobs have to be in Dublin. I passionately believe that the regions, outside of Dublin need to cross pollinate more and get the word out that you don’t have to live in the capital city to be part of an exciting eco-system at the cutting edge of what’s new in tech.
Which influencers and websites do you follow to keep up to date with the latest developments?
I am not influenced by any one individual but I am an avid reader of articles on Linkedin, my business Facebook account! I enjoy all articles that are exploring the remote working model, both the good and the bad around it, as well as wellness and mental health, stress in the workplace etc. Richard Branson would be the ‘celebrity’ author of articles that most frequently resonate with me, as well as content from The Huffington Post.
How can people find out more about what you are working on?
They can connect with me on Linkedin or get me at [email protected]
or sign up for the fourtheorem newsletter on www.fourtheorem.com to find out when the next Cork AI meetup is scheduled.