Steve Connelly’s Irish ancestors would be proud of this deal: The president of the Boston ad agency Connelly Partners has finally pulled off an acquisition in Dublin, after hunting in that city for eight years or so.
But Connelly, the majority owner of his ad agency, isn’t acquiring the Irish agency Strategem for sentimental reasons.
Instead, he sees Dublin’s economic role in the European Union becoming increasingly important with Brexit underway in the United Kingdom, making the Irish capital the largest native English-speaking city in the EU. Plus, Dublin is already a hotbed of tech talent and a natural springboard for US companies looking to expand into Europe.
“The opportunity to be a portal to some major American companies, that we can help them connect into the EU, has got great allure,” Connelly says.
The Strategem deal closed in January, he says, but he waited until some business deals were resolved before discussing the acquisition publicly. Roughly 20 employees joined Connelly’s firm as part of the acquisition, bringing his total workforce to about 165. Strategem founder Keith Lee will stay on as managing director of the Dublin office, and Connelly Partners executive Courtney Doyle will oversee integrating the outpost with the Boston headquarters.
Connelly says he sees an important parallel between the relationship between Boston and New York, and Dublin and London.
“We both have work ethics that come when you’re competing against a behemoth,” Connelly says.
He also sees other similarities between the Irish and New England cultures, though people are much nicer to strangers in Ireland. “I’m supposed to be one of the nicer folks in town,” Connelly says. “Here, I stick out. There, I’m just one of them.”
Connelly says his family, on his dad’s side, hails from the Cork area. But he hasn’t had much time for sightseeing during his visits to the auld sod. After all, there are deals to be done. — JON CHESTO
Showing the love, in a hot-pink envelope
The marketing agency C Space did something unusual when it closed out its best quarter in company history last week: It decided to give each of its 350 US employees — most of whom are in Boston — a piece of the pie.
When workers got to their desks last Tuesday, they were each greeted with a hot-pink envelope with “Thanks!” written on it in bright yellow letters. Inside was a typewritten note and a $100 American Express gift card.
The point was not necessarily the money, which admittedly isn’t much, says Jessica DeVlieger, president of the Americas for the company, which connects businesses with their customers. The point was to recognize everyone’s contributions in a very public way — not just the consultants who usually get the glory, but the tech and finance and other teams that operate behind the scenes.
“We can celebrate this together,” DeVlieger says, as opposed to bonuses that are given out quietly and never discussed. (Regular bonuses and raises are still being offered.)
The thank-you gift also exemplifies one of the company’s newly adopted values: “Show the love.”
The gesture had the Boston office buzzing, says global marketing director Emily Paisner. People were talking about how they were going to treat themselves: new shoes, a nice dinner, a day at the spa.
“I almost cried,” says Paisner, a mother of two who is hoping for a “day of relaxation.” “It wasn’t about the $100, honestly, it was about feeling like the company values me.” — KATIE JOHNSTON
PR exec isn’t worried about Friday the 13th
Beth Monaghan is hoping that Friday the 13th turns out to be a lucky day.
Monaghan, CEO of the Waltham PR firm InkHouse, says she’ll take over as chair of the Alliance for Business Leadership this Friday. The transfer will coincide with the business group’s latest Leader Lab event, which brings together business and civic leaders to brainstorm ways to solve regional issues.
She’ll take the handoff from Jeff Bussgang, a venture capitalist and one of the ABL’s founding members. Monaghan is already known as an outspoken advocate for various progressive issues. It’s probably a safe bet that she’ll be even more outspoken this year, as her group throws its support behind state initiatives to provide for paid family leave and to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“There’s an unprecedented opportunity for business leaders to come forward and say that what’s good for humanity, what’s good for the environment, what’s good for people, is also good for business,” Monaghan says.
The alliance was founded about a decade ago as the Progressive Business Leaders Network to give left-leaning businesspeople a voice at the State House and provide a progressive counterpoint to the big business groups in Boston. That voice has grown louder on Beacon Hill in recent years under the guidance of president Jesse Mermell.
“My goal is to amplify her impact and to really support her,” Monaghan says.
Bussgang, meanwhile, will continue to serve on the ABL’s executive committee now that his two-year term as chair is up. Among the ABL accomplishments he’s proud of: helping to get a new visa program for entrepreneurs launched at the University of Massachusetts, establishing the Leader Lab sessions, and successfully advocating for legislation aimed at ensuring gender pay parity.
“I’m still going to be very involved,” says Bussgang, a general partner at Flybridge . “I’m not going anywhere.” — JON CHESTO
Tech and minorities: addressing imbalance
It might be the most puzzling problem in Boston tech: The industry is dying for talent, but many of the region’s nonwhite communities and their thousands of available workers are largely missing out on the boom.
Puzzling, anyway, to pretty much anybody but Nicole Gilmore.
Gilmore is the new leader of Hack.Diversity, the New England Venture Capital Association’s program to place black and Latino students at Boston tech companies, and she believes the industry has already taken an important step by acknowledging the imbalance.
“It’s as simple as recognizing that we have a blind spot and looking at it, recognizing that there’s an opportunity to find talent in the places we haven’t looked before, going to those places, finding the talent, and then finding the match,” Gilmore says.
Gilmore knows what it’s like to come up in the local tech scene. She was most recently chief operating officer at Savanna Technologies, a marketplace for haircutting services that was a MassChallenge finalist in 2015.
Now, she’ll be looking to open up new opportunities to place Hack.Diversity fellows at local tech companies. The program has been expanding in its second year, picking 37 people from local universities and community colleges to complete 2018 internships, then hopefully get hired.
Participating companies include Carbonite, HubSpot, Rapid7, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Wayfair, athenahealth, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, DraftKings, Liberty Mutual, and WordStream.
Eventually, Hack.Diversity hopes its work will double the number of black and Latino tech workers in Boston. It’s a lofty goal, but Gilmore says she’s game. After all, the jobs are there. It’s just a matter of making the connections.
“If we had an undersupply of opportunity here, we’d be having a different conversation,” she says. — ANDY ROSEN
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