Isabelle O'Keefe is Principal at Sure Valley Ventures. Sure Valley Ventures is an entrepreneur-led venture capital fund that invests in high growth, “frontiers of tech” software companies, that are solving significant real-world problems through disruptive AR/VR, IoT and AI technology platforms. SVV is based in London and Cambridge, UK and Dublin and Waterford, Ireland.
What has been your career highlight to date?
My career highlights to date have been many and varied across the various roles I have had. During my time working at Telefonica I worked in the M&A/Corporate Development team working on everything from early stage investments, full transactions, divestments to creation of New companies and JV’s. I was very lucky to be able to work in many European countries with differing cultures including Spain, Norway, Sweden and the UK.
A big highlight for me was also joining Sure Valley Ventures as a Principal investing into early stage technology companies in the UK and Ireland. This role is extremely exciting, and it allows me to work closely with entrepreneurs helping them to build and scale their businesses.
What qualities do you need to succeed in business?
I believe that you need to have a large degree of determination, tenacity and ability to find proactive ways to deal with inevitable challenges that will arise. I think a key part to succeeding is listening to the people around you and not just speaking. In my career I have faced several challenges and have always found that when I was stretched was when I learnt the most.
Who or what are your main influences?
Throughout my career my father has been a huge influence, I have always seen how motivated and driven he has been to succeed, and he has always encouraged me to push myself out of my comfort zone. In a business context there are many individuals I consider to be influential including Reshma Saujani who set up Girls who Code, Tim Cook and Melinda Gates.
What is the most challenging part of your role?
The most challenging part of my role is staying on top of it all and prioritising correctly. The nature of the job as an early stage investor is that no day is the same and you are always on the move so it can sometimes be hard to respond to people in a timely manner. The other challenge can be getting comfortable with making decisions with limited information and saying no to people.
What, in your view, is the biggest challenge facing directors in Ireland today?
I think that Directors not only in Ireland but around the world need to be aware of the impact of technology and proliferation of data on organisations and their various stakeholders and need to be able to identify the legal, regulatory and commercial opportunities and risks associated.
What, in your opinion, makes a great leader?
A laser focus on the vision of where they want to lead the organisation combined with the ability to flex the plan when faced with obstacles and work towards an end goal collaboratively with their team. I think that being able to communicate effectively is a vital leadership skill.
What do you hope to gain from your membership with the IoD?
I want to equip myself with the right skill set to add value to the boards that I will sit on. I also see the course as a great opportunity to meet professionals working in different industries and capacities and being able to share knowledge, experience and insights.
(Published October 2019)