The annual Gateway trade mission to the US, led by founders Adie McGennis of Sigmar Recruitment, Matt Mohan of FKM, and Robert Mac Giolla Phadraig of Skill Stack/Talent Summit, broke new ground, taking in Atlanta and Austin for the first time before finishing in Boston.

The premise of Gateway is simple. The participants arrive at Dublin airport, put on an Irish jersey and start networking. For The Panel, we get great access to a variety of C-suite professionals across a range of businesses. Most of our networking is done with the people on the plane and we make deep and lasting connections with like-minded individuals.

“Friend-raising” is how Robby describes our mission and it is safe to say that we achieved that. The access to the cream of Irish America in all three states was second to none. Matt and Adie’s connections in Atlanta gave us access to the Irish consulate where Caoimhe Ní Chonchúir hosted us.

At that reception, we met David Walsh, a Dubliner and CEO of Peachtree Foods. David has an automated pancake-making solution that he sells globally, a niche business if ever there was one. Tom Daly, a proud Kerryman, is the CEO of the recruitment tech business AppVault and a seed investor. Both David and Tom went out of their way to host our group and make connections, two highly networked Irish entrepreneurs opening doors.

Successful entrepreneurs

Atlanta is growing fast and is business-friendly. The calibre of the network that Gateway is plugged into was best illustrated by the speakers at our breakfast briefing: Sinead Fitzmaurice, CEO of Transfermate, and Andrea Reynolds, CEO of Swoop, two hugely successful entrepreneurs leading unicorn-like companies. Both of them shared excellent insights with the group.

Sinead Fitzmaurice, CEO of TransferMate Global Payments.

Irial Finan, chairman of Smurfit Kappa and formerly of Coca-Cola, also spoke. He was fascinating about his career, his time with Coke, and the Westrock/Smurfit Kappa merger. Irial also gave us sage advice on asking the right questions and getting clarity. He advised us to be the ones to ask the awkward/silly question because he reckons if you don’t understand something, half your board doesn’t either.  

We spent a wonderful afternoon at Georgia Tech, with access to all areas of their amazing sports campus. Georgia Tech is playing Florida State in the opening college football game in the Aviva on August 24. Brendan Meehan, the commercial director at the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, spoke to us on campus about the importance of the game from both a business and cultural perspective. The Aviva will sell out again, with 20,000 to 30,000 visitors coming from the US alone. It will also get significant media exposure stateside, promoting Ireland Inc.

Breakfast in Austin

In Austin, one of the highlights of the week was the breakfast briefing on AI in the Indeed Tower. Donal McMahon is the vice president of data science for Indeed, a Clare man in a global position who shared real insights on where AI is now.

Donal spoke with clarity on the pace of change AI is bringing, the roles that will become redundant, the new roles that AI will create and the growing importance of soft skills. Donal believes that AI is as big a game changer as the internet; it will impact everybody, and we need to be cognisant of how we navigate its use.

Mary McEvoy, the indefatigable IDA representative in Austin, was key to opening many doors while the delegation was there. Mary is the glue for the Irish expats in Austin. One connection made was Andrew Connolly, the founder of the recruitment technology business Wrksense. Andrew is a natural networker and a man with a mission. 

Boston support

Boston is a huge Gateway supporter as a city. The Gateway connection with Boston College is deep and enduring. Bank of America hosted a breakfast briefing, where Robby spoke to Dr Anita Finnegan, another impressive Irish entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Nova Leah. 

Dr Anita Finnegan, CEO of Nova Leah, in conversation with Gateway co-founder Robert Mac Giolla Phadraig.

The Boston College CEO lunch was our last stop. The cream of Boston’s business community attends every year. At the final CEO lunch, we met Linda Henry, owner of the Boston Globe and wife of John Henry, the owner of Liverpool Football Club. It was a proper, heavy-hitter event. 

Warren Zola, the executive director of the Boston College Chief Executives Club, welcomed us to the lunch. Warren has opened many doors for Gateway in Boston and is an integral part of the trade mission’s success. It was fitting that the late Dr Bob Mauro was acknowledged. Bob was another key Boston College supporter of Gateway who succumbed to cancer in 2022 at the age of just 46.

Gateway’s Matt Mohan was a guest of Joe Kennedy, the US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, and David Cordiana, the CEO of The Cigna Group, was a very impressive guest speaker. It was a superb event to end the Gateway trip.

If you are interested in learning more about Gateway 2025, please contact Jamie Harnett at [email protected]