Tech Humans Of Dublin # 27: Sean Blanchfield, PageFair

Sean Blanchfield

I’m a technology entrepreneur, an engineer turned businessman. I’m the CEO of PageFair – formerly co-founder and CTO of Demonware, before that co-founder and CTO of Phorest, which we started in college, and between times CTO of Jolt Gaming and about ten other startups, most of which didn’t make it. But a few did.

I think I’ve got about seven full-time jobs at the moment. Things are going very well for PageFair. We deal with ad blocking: we called this three years ago, predicting that it was going to be a big threat for all online publishing. It turns out we were right, and we are now the international authority on what’s happening, and we’ve come up with a solution. So my job is a mixture of sales, talking to publishers, dealing with inbound inquiries, talking to press, marketing, managing the internal team, financing, maintaining partnerships – I manage to try and fit strategy in at the end if I can, but I normally only get to that on a Bank Holiday Monday, after two days of resting my brain (laughs). We’re on a major upward curve with the company right now, and we have no excuse not to make a success of this. If it doesn’t work out, it’s nobody’s fault but our own. We have a queue of large brand name international customers calling us to get access to our software, and we’re struggling to keep up with the demand. We rapidly need to grow the team so we can service these companies – which is why I just spent the day hiring. But growing a good team takes time. You can’t just throw people at a problem.

Why am I doing this from Dublin? I get asked that a lot, mainly by Americans (laughs). I’m from here, my co-founders are from here – it was organic. There are obvious benefits, even though there’s a talent war going on at the moment for talented engineers – that aside, Dublin is still better than New York or Silicon Valley for talent. We also have Europe on our doorstep, and time zone-wise we’re situated nicely in the middle of everywhere we need to deal with – and it’s a nice place to live. I spend around a third of my time in New York now; every time I go, business speeds up, because you’re in the middle of everything, talking to people who matter – the rumours are in real-time – and you get to be part of it. Ideally, I have to be everywhere, so I’m trying to spread myself between London, Berlin, NYC and San Francisco at the moment. No matter where we go, the product is always going to stay here, in Dublin. We don’t all want to move to New York. The quality of life is better here, so we’re going to stay. That’s going to mean a lot of time in random airports and hotels, but that’s the life I chose (laughs).

At the core of it, Dublin is thriving right now: the tech scene is amazing, we’re all bouncing off each other, coming up with some great ideas. We’re beginning to see some osmosis between the global multinationals based here – and we have nine of the top ten software companies in the world here – and the smaller startups. You have this cross-pollination of people moving between the two, which is awesome.

What have I learned from all my startups to date? Stop being ashamed of being Irish. We are as good as anyone else out there, if not better. This little island has always produced a prodigious amount of talent, and startups and technology is just one more thing that we can be great at. We’re world-class, and that’s okay. Don’t worry about it.

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