About Tom ...

(Drafted in 2008.)

I lead several parallel lives today, which makes life wonderful.

A formal profile says that my "primary industry of expertise" is venture capital and private equity, that's because I was trained as a financial engineer and had a professional career as a venture capitalist. However, depending on who you are you will know me for different things: Holonics Entrepreneur; Gardener; Parent, Son or Brother; Lifestyle Coach, Venture Capitalist; Editor; IT Hacker; Business Advisor, Windsurfing instructor, Mountain Biker ... but I've never been fond of pigeon holes, for myself or others.

I pursued a career in venture capital from teenage years because I saw it as a way to make a difference to young businesses. I wanted to help them not only be profitable, but ethical and nice places to work too. I had my first taste as a summer job working for the late Dick Onians at Baring Brothers Hambrecht & Quist, then some years later after business school was lucky to land a job in Asia helping manage a couple of VC funds.

Those were interesting times ... and became more interesting with the Asian Financial Crisis. A few of years of working with businesses in those difficult times confirmed that I loved the work and was good at it, but that the VC industry, like the rest of the financial industry, suffered from the problems that I wanted to overcome - greed and fear.

I enjoyed working with the team I was part of and helping the people on the ground and in the communities we worked, but it seemed difficult to change the industry from within. So I said, “Thank You” for a wonderful experience and a good life, and decided to do something completely different. I wasn't sure what or how, but I wanted to balance ethics and economics, so, dragging my young family with me, I jumped over the edge.

I had been thinking about it for at least 5 years and had a file full of notes outlining everything from business method to brand and logo. I went back to my roots in Ireland to find out where I came from and explore those ideas. I researched and tested organic growing, ethical venture capital, socially responsible retail and catering, land management, family dynamics and more. I was driven by a passion to stop doing things in a way that I felt compromised integrity and to change the world for the better. Ha! What a dreamer.

I wanted to push out the envelope to see what was possible in terms of living with nature. But living over the edge was not comfortable. It wasn't log cabin stuff, and I had a loving safety net of friends and family. But there are few of my peers that would imagine some of the conveniences that we compromised on. It was easier for me than my wife and children, because I knew in my heart where I was going and why, even if I could not rationalise it; they allowed me to do it and supported me. And of course I was swimming against the tide – my parents, wife and close friends probably thought I was a bit nuts!

But I wasn't looking for luxury and I knew that most people were much worse off than me so we stuck at it.

Today, back from the edge, I know what sort of realistic boundaries there are to expectations. I know what can and can not be done. Importantly for me, I've rationalised the Big Picture and this has converted in to a clear understanding of a holonic framework for describing life, and a experiential ability to help people change, without some of the compromises that we took upon ourselves.

We enjoy the bounty of nature, living in an old garden cottage. We've rejuvenated the garden, discovering for example, a ancient granite aqueduct that had been submerged under mud. I know a bit about horticulture (organic of course) and grow enough to share some locally. I still dabble in VC, ethical of course, and help people plan their own business success. I can use IT to leverage my mind in time and space, including linux networking, website management and integration with legacy systems. I help people change their lives and even play a role in transforming our community. I do some charity work. I build and rebuild buildings. I've learned to make few resources go a long way. I spend a lot of time with our 4 children and I'm beginning to be a competent parent. Mostly I love life and enjoy it!

www.astraea.net (holonics) www.griequity.com (finance and VC) www.ballintemple.com (garden and retreat) www.pestalozziworld.com (children's education charity)

For those that prefer a more formal spiel ...

Finance professional, specialised in venture capital. Now pursuing the combination of sustainability and ethics with finance and business. Taking a step in the right direction by Walking The Talk: combining investment management and advisory with teaching, organic gardening and parenting!

Business and venture capital experience in Asia, Europe and US (in that order).

Specialist in holonic technology.