Galway village’s connection with Menlo Park in Silicon Valley

29 Nov 20132 Shares

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Mayor of Galway Pádraig Conneely (left); Mayor of Menlo Park Peter Ohtaki (centre); and outgoing Cisco SVP Barry O'Sullivan

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Menlo Park, California, is the heart of Silicon Valley’s tech scene – home to Sand Hill Road, where the region’s top venture capitalists are headquartered, as well as home to Facebook’s headquarters. But few realise Menlo Park owes its origins to two Galway brothers and that connection was honoured today.

Galway City and the city of Menlo Park, California, have signed a friendship agreement in recognition of the fact that two Irish emigrants in the 19th century called Dennis Oliver and his brother-in-law DC McGlynn from the village of Menlo (Menlough, or ‘small lake’ as Gaeilge) in Galway bought a 1,700-acre tract of land in the 1850s, 48 kilometres (30 miles) south of San Francisco.

A sign to the property led to the San Jose Rail Road naming a station ‘Menlo Park’ and a city rapidly began to spring up around the area.

Menlo Park is now home to the biggest concentration of wealth in the west coast of the US. It is also where Facebook – whose international headquarters happens to be in Dublin – has its sprawling campus and it was home to Cisco Systems’ first corporate headquarters.

Ironically, the company that pretty much laid the plumbing in terms of the infrastructure for the internet, Cisco Systems happens to have a major R&D hub located in Galway City.

Even more ironic, a man who worked on Cisco’s IPO when he was a young banker in Silicon Valley was in Galway today as Mayor of Menlo Park.

Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki explained that the connection between Galway and Menlo Park was rekindled a year ago. Gerry Hanley from Menlo in Galway, now a section of Galway City, went to Menlo in California and met with the Menlo Park Historical Society and reminded them that until the early 1850s no one lived in the Menlo Park area except two Irishmen from Galway.

“The two former residents of Menlo village in Galway made their way to San Francisco, they bought property 30 miles south of the city and put up a gate called Menlo Park because the land was reminiscent of where they came from,” Ohtaki told Siliconrepublic.com.

“When the first train line came here 150 years or so ago they named the stop after the sign and a city was born.

“In effect, they were the original start-up,” Ohtaki said.

The mayor said the rekindled relationship between a vibrant city on the Pacific coast of the US and an equally vibrant city on the Atlantic coast of Ireland could spawn a lot of opportunities between companies active in the IT and biotech space.

“At one end of Menlo Park we have over 50 of the biggest venture capital firms headquartered there and at the other end we have Facebook.

“What I’m hoping to see over the next couple of years is more early stage start-ups getting funded in our area of Silicon Valley and I believe there is scope for a partnership and relationship that will facilitate start-ups here in Galway, too.”

Going full circle

The friendship agreement between Menlo Park and Galway was signed today by Ohtaki and the Mayor of Galway Pádraig Conneely, who has already conducted an official visit to Menlo Park.

“There is a longstanding relationship with Galway, not only from the standpoint of cities, but universities, where NUI Galway has a longstanding relationship with Stanford University (in Stanford, California).

“Cisco’s first headquarters were in Menlo Park and I mentioned to Cisco SVP Barry O’Sullivan that earlier in my career I worked on Cisco’s IPO when it was only a 250-person company,” Ohtaki recalled.

From Menlo, Galway, to Menlo Park, California, from small acorns grow big trees.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com