While most people are at least slightly familiar with roles in the sci-tech sector, the work on the other side of things – the work of venture capitalists and funding companies – is slightly more opaque.
The world of sci-tech start-ups is bustling. In such a crowded market, it can be hard to make your product or offering stand out from the rest to catch the eye of those willing to provide funding and hand you a bag of money. That’s where financing companies come in.
Paul Pietrangelo of independent public funding advisory Alien Technology Transfer (AlienTT) tells us about what his job entails.
What is your role within Alien Technology Transfer?
I run the Ireland office of AlienTT, a company that specialises in project finance, project management, concept development and business models for innovative products. We are based in The Digital Hub, close to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin 8.
I am mainly responsible for looking after a team of project managers – the team is overseeing more than 30 new product development projects, while fundraising many more. Specifically, I oversee projects and make sure that they are well managed, train new staff, and am responsible for business development in Ireland, as well as the random day-to-day tasks that come with running an office.
Tell us about your background.
I am a graduate of politics from the University of Southampton. It may seem like a complete change to now be in a science-and-technology-based role, but most of the skills that I use on a daily basis have been picked up from my current role and previous work experiences. My time at university did help me develop the analytical and critical-thinking skills that I need to use on a daily basis, as well as time management, which is key.
I developed a passion for entrepreneurship and seeing new ventures reach the market at a very early stage. During my time at university, a group of friends and I started an ice cream boat business in our hometown, Poole. We fitted two boats with freezers and sold ice creams from them to local beach goers and fellow sailors. The business was a success and, a year later, we took them to Greece.
After university, I followed my degree and worked in the environmental department of the local government, exploring emissions and cost-saving methods. However, after two years, I had the desire to live abroad and decided to move to Rome, where I started teaching English. Not satisfied in this role, but wanting to stay in Italy, I found a job working as a project manager at a private research laboratory.
What steps led you to this role?
I was headhunted from my role in Italy to join AlienTT as part of the core funding team. I was immediately given a lot of responsibility, which allowed me to excel quickly within the role and to successfully raise funds for many companies. Since I joined, AlienTT has grown rapidly, which has resulted in me getting more responsibility.
Eventually, a move from Italy to Ireland was essential to keep up with the growth of the company, and I was given the job to oversee this move. Although I am still very passionate about Italy, I have never looked back.
If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?
With such a diverse portfolio of clients, no two days are ever the same. On a typical day, I would review and analyse business propositions for incoming clients and suggest changes where needed.
I also supervise the preparation of business plans and feasibility studies for the clients, with the aim of securing them funding.
Another important element of my day is project management for funded projects, which aims to help companies achieve their deliverables and milestones.
What types of project do you work on?
We work on a very broad range of projects involving medical devices, drug development, new energy systems, software, green transport, new materials, manufacturing processes, etc. What they all have in common is a high growth potential and the aim to deliver a positive social impact.
What skills do you use on a daily basis?
Analytical, problem-solving skills, project management and time keeping, and efficient writing and communication skills. Flexibility and availability is also very important in supporting the clients.
Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?
Keeping a continuous and dynamic list that you can add and remove tasks to and from helps you to not forget the smaller – but nevertheless important – tasks.
It is also easy to spend too much of your time catching up on emails throughout the day. A useful time-saving method I use is setting aside dedicated times to check email, which helps me utilise my time better and also works as a break as its splits up the longer tasks.
How has this role changed as the tech sector has grown and evolved?
Fundraising has grown and evolved in parallel with the tech sector. It has provided the support needed for many young innovative companies to help get their products through initial testing and to introduce them to the market. Now, as many technological innovations are emerging from start-ups rather than large companies, the opportunity for fundraisers to be the first to find the next big technology has increased. There are now many more ways for start-ups to seek funding than in the past.
What do you enjoy most about the job?
Having the chance to be the first to experience the future of science and innovation is always very exciting.
However, what really excites me in this sector is collaborating with people who are genuinely passionate about what they are doing. I hope to be remembered as someone who believed in their idea and helped them reach their target market.
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