’s Niamh Given on the priceless power of collaboration

7 Jun 2018

One of the collaborative workspaces at Mettā. Image: Mettā

Niamh Given, chief growth officer at, is fuelled by an innate curiosity.

Inspirefest 2018’s line-up is packed with exciting speakers from the arts, science, technology and business worlds. The emphasis on innovation at the event is a perfect match for speaker Niamh Given, whose work with tech start-ups and Fortune 500 companies has taken her all over the world.

Given is chief growth officer at, an innovation platform that enables start-ups to achieve the extraordinary through access to investment, partnerships and community engagement across Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Given has more than 12 years of operations experience and more than eight years of experience working in product development in China. She was a founding member of Highway1, a premier hardware accelerator based in San Francisco that has brought more than 60 hardware start-ups through a four-month accelerator programme and raised more than $80m in funding.

She spoke to about her career, the international start-up scene and the importance of collaboration.

Niamh Given.

Niamh Given. Image:

Givem explained that her career path has always involved start-ups, either working in one or collaborating with young companies in some shape or form, so, when the opportunity came up at, it was a “perfect fit”.

She added: “I first met with some of the team at Nest back in 2013 at a Slush start-up pitch event. Before I joined the team, I had spoken on panels with them, mentored some of their start-ups and also showed them around my ‘hometown’, Shenzhen. I had no idea that when I first met with the team in 2013 that I would now be the chief growth officer.”

The five Cs is also behind Mettā, a platform and community with locations in Hong Kong and Nairobi that aims to facilitate collaboration between high-potential start-ups and innovators. Given explained that the opportunities created there are exhilarating to be a part of. “At Mettā, every day I see new connections being made, new ideas beginning to flourish and new partnerships developing. The energy that this creates gives me a great buzz every day.”

At Mettā, the team has five guiding principles: connective, compassionate, courageous, curious and collaboration. For Given, the two principles that guide her the most are collaboration and curiosity. “I firmly believe that, through collaboration, far more can be done than by any one individual. I also ask way too many questions. I’m curious to understand and learn about new people, ideas, cultures, and curiosity enables me to see opportunities and potential collaborations where other people can’t connect the dots.”

Hard work is another core tenet of Given’s. She described running her own start-up as the hardest thing she ever did –“you literally never switch off”.

She added: “As clichéd as it is, ‘hustle’ is definitely something I live by. Every successful company I’ve worked for or collaborated with has had leaders who are hustling every waking hour.”

Take a chance and collaborate

With a wealth of expertise, Given has some great advice for the start-ups she works with. “I’m most passionate about helping them make the right connections and partnerships to help them accelerate their journey. Many start-ups get so caught up in developing everything themselves and building everything from scratch.” She explained that more start-ups should take the chance to collaborate, partner and build with others.

As well as building a business, many start-ups also want to attract the attention of a venture capital (VC) firm or investor. Given said focused strategy is a key factor. “You need to do your homework on why your start-up is right for the VC’s portfolio. When showing the problem you are solving, it is key to have a focused strategy on how you will solve it. Everybody can talk a big game; it’s the ones who are razor-sharp on how they are going to do it … who stand out.”

In terms of industry areas that are catching Given’s eye, retail tech leaps to mind. “One of the most interesting areas to watch in this space is the application of image-recognition technology – whether it is being used to capture your emotional reaction to branding, your profile so that it can make recommendations, or to track the inventory on shelves.”

She added that the start-up scene needs to be more open to the wider community. “The majority of people feel like they can’t engage with the ‘start-up world’; they feel like they aren’t entrepreneurial enough. But the world is changing; innovation needs to become part of everything that we do or else businesses and people will get left behind.”

Given noted that her aim at Inspirefest will be to show the opportunities available for businesses and innovators in Asia. “I feel very passionately about opening people’s eyes to looking east. It’s not just manufacturing and finance that happens here, there are opportunities for people from every walk of life.”

Niamh Given will be speaking at Inspirefest, Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Get your tickets now to join us in Dublin on 21 and 22 June 2018.

Given will also be the guest speaker at Startup Grind Dublin in Huckletree on Wednesday, 20 June 2018.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects