Wednesday 19 June 2019

The Big Tech Show: ‘Being an exec in a big tech company stressed me out’

Altocloud founder Barry O’Sullivan sits on the board of Genesys and advises venture firm Permira as well as investing in medtech startups
Altocloud founder Barry O’Sullivan sits on the board of Genesys and advises venture firm Permira as well as investing in medtech startups
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

We talk about the life of a startup founder being loaded with pressure and stress. But one of Ireland’s best known technology executives, who went from managing a $5bn division of Cisco to starting and selling his own startup, says that life in a big company was actually far more taxing than running your own business.

Barry O’Sullivan spoke to Adrian Weckler about it, and a host of other things, in this week’s podcast.

“I never missed any of the kind of trappings of being a senior executive at a company like Cisco,” he says. “I would say the stress level of being a CEO of a startup for me was about 10pc of what it was to be a senior executive at a company like Cisco.”

“When I ran a $5bn business at Cisco, it was a continuous grind. There were always presentations to the board on investments and acquisitions and so on. And every big company has lots of politics. When you’ve got a job like that, at a company like Cisco, it’s a big job and it’s very well paid. You always kind of have to be on all the time, you know?”

“What was most stressful was that decisions often took a long time to make. You would think that as a very senior executive that you would have the power of all the decisions you want to make. But quite a lot of stuff had to be presented and has to be decided with your peers. At a startup you can just do it.”

O’Sullivan now advises a $33bn venture firm, Permira, on investments and acquisitions. He also sits on the board of Genesys, the tech company that bought his Altocloud startup and which has just announced 200 new jobs in Galway.

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