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Friday 16 February 2007


Gee, welcome to my blog, thanks for stopping by.

A little about me: electronics engineer, then got into software. Co-founded IONA back in Feb. 1991, along with Annrai O'Toole and Sean Baker. Was CEO from then until 2000, including taking the company public in 1997. Came back again as CEO in 2003 and stepped down for the second time in 2005.

Today I’m Vice Chair of the Board, and have no executive role. In practice, I attend our board meetings – typically twice a quarter, one physical and one by concall. I take part in strategy discussions, including our merger and acquisition plans. From time to time I’m asked to meet customers, and always enjoy doing so.

Since stepping down from an operational role in IONA, I’ve got myself involved in a fair few other activities. I have an interest in China, and founded the Ireland China business organisation back in 2000, although today I have no longer have any committee involvement. Together with Nicole Bernard I co-founded, and chair, Slisiar which provides business services to companies entering the Chinese market. We have a small team in Beijing – Nicole is resident there – and have clients not just in the IT sector, but also for example in wind farms, the building materials industry, and agrifoods. Pretty much regardless of a sector, the challenges of trading with China, or establishing a business in China – hiring, legal authorisations, channel and partner development, etc – remain similar. I visit China a few times each year.

I also co-founded and am non-executive chair of Cloudsmith, along Mitch Sonies as CEO and Henrik Lindberg as CTO. Cloudsmith is very virtual – Mitch is in Manhattan, Henrik is in Stockholm, I’m in Dublin and we also have a small team in Prague: but skype and our internal wikis and blogs keep us together. We raised private finance for Cloudsmith over the summer of 2006, and started operations just in October 2006, and will launch its initial – free - service to the world wide developer community round about Eclipsecon 2007. The Cloudsmith guys have already donated open source technology to in the form of Buckminster and Cloudsmith will add some interesting services later this year.

Last November, I agreed to become non-executive chair of LeCayla. LeCayla was founded a few years ago by Conor Halpin, who created and managed our CORBA mainframe business in the late 90s. LeCayla is private, and venture capital backed by Trinity VC. It is a very interesting play in the “software as a service (SaaS)” space, and offers billing, rating and metering technology for software ISVs who want to build a new business model using SaaS. LeCayla’s technology can be bundled with an ISV’s software package, and then when installed inhouse on end customers machines, can monitor actual usage (driven by whatever business rules the ISV wishes) and securely report this for billing purposes. SaaS is typically positioned – eg by – as the combination of remotely hosted software and pay-as-you-go. LeCayla’s technology enables pay-as-you-go but the actual software can either be remotely hosted or inhouse.

In 2006, I became involved in a couple of projects for Trinity, from where we founded IONA back in 1991. The bigger of these is one of the seven national centres for science and technology (CSETs) in Ireland. I’m chair of the woefully named – I didn’t chose the name! – centre for telecommunications value chain research (CTVR). Participants in CTVR are seven universities led by TCD, together with Bell Labs Ireland and Lucent-Alcatel, and some smaller participation by Xilinx and EADS. It’s a big project and working in areas as diverse as photonics systems for terabit ethernet, cooling technologies, corrosion and failure research, ultra wide band antennas, and software and cognitive radio. The key theme underlying and guiding the research is identifying leverage points in the global telecommunications industry – in its value chain – for which successful new research could have a highly disruptive impact and create entirely new business opportunities. Donal O’Mahony is centre director – the CEO – of the project and is doing a fine job co-ordinating such an ambitious inter-disciplinary, inter-institutional nationwide academic-industry initiative. One of the very exciting aspects of the project is the license granted to it by COMREG, the Irish telecommunications regulator, to allow experimentation of ultrawide dynamic frequency techniques for cognitive radio on the national electromagnetic spectrum: the only such license granted anywhere in the world.

A second project at TCD which I chair is the Science Gallery. This is the ground and first floors of the new ship-shaped building at the corner of Pearse street and Westland Row. The Gallery will open later this year, and will be free to the public. It will be a venue for discussion and debate on scientific issues of interest to society: for example, global warming, the MRSA super-bug, avian bird flu, radiation from mobile phone masts, and so on. It includes exhibition space and a theatre. We have just appointed Michael John Gorman as the first CEO, and Michael John is putting his team together for the official launch and opening later this year.

I have been the chair of UNICEF Ireland for several years, which fund raises from the Irish public and commercial sector on behalf of UNICEF world wide. We also actively advocate on childrens’ issues to Irish Government, and have been successful in for example getting the Government to allocate a considerable proportion of its investment in HIV/AIDS work for children. Maura Quinn has been the CEO since 1996, and is stepping down next April having rescued the organisation from near bankruptcy in 1996 to the multi-million euro business it is today. We have just concluded our search process for her replacement but we have not yet announced who is the new CEO, who will start her work in April.

I’m also currently acting as a business coach to six CEOs of Irish software companies. They were allocated to me by Enterprise Ireland under its inaugural one year mentoring programme for 30 CEOs, together with Stanford Graduate Business School and with CLG Executive Coaching. In practice, we meet together monthly for peer discussion, and I naturally keep in touch with each of them on their strategic issues.

I guess that’s about it. I do also have occasional meetings of the IBEC ICT management committee; and with Vinny Cahill and David Abrahamson as an advisor to the Dept. of Computer Science at TCD on the research and teaching programmes.

Every day, and every week, is different. Sometimes I have a lot going on. Sometimes not. I work from home a lot, and avoid going into the city if I can. I’m usually travelling once a month or so, although from October to December last I don’t think I had a single trip. Right now, I’m just back from Beijing and Shanghai last week, in Dublin and Cork this week, and heading for Stanford next week.


Anonymous said...

Hi Chris. Glad you've decided to start blogging. Thanks for explaining CTVR so concisely. I've always wondered what an organization with a name like that would actually do!

chris horn @chrisjhorn said...

I didn't choose the CTVR name but inherited when I became chairman about 18 months ago :-) I find the CTVR technology exciting, and out of my "comfort zone" of enterprise software. Watch out for two major inernational conferences being hosted by CTVR in Dublin next April, see DySpan / and VTC

Unknown said...

great start, you managed to get my attention... which is a hard thing to do. I have admired your work for many years, and its great to get some insights into what you do, Please keep it up. I got the link from Tom Raftery’s I.T. views


The Lal said...

so u're not busy then :)

chris horn @chrisjhorn said...

not as busy as I was when I running IONA full time :-) Since the posting, I was asked and have accepted, to go on HEA as well :)