60 Seconds with: John Phelan, National Director, Halo Business Angel Network

Business, Interviews | Wed 16 Aug | Author – Business & Finance John-Phelan,-National-Director,-HBAN
John Phelan, National Director, Halo Business Angel Network

John Phelan, National Director, Halo Business Angel Network, takes on the Business & Finance 60-second interview challenge.


Q. What was your first job?

My first job was working as a cel painter at Sullivan Bluth Animation Studios, which led to a 15-year career in animation.

Q. What would you regard as your greatest achievement in business to date?

We have a great start-up scene in Ireland and I’m very proud to still be starting up and founding companies myself. I recently co-founded a successful artificial intelligence company and am always looking out for interesting gaps in the market with global market potential.

I have maintained great relationships with almost everyone that I have ever worked with over the years – even those with whom there have been disagreements – which I also view as a great achievement. Life’s too short!

Q. In three words or less, how do you define success?

Happy, satisfaction and bills. Be happy in yourself, your family, circle of friends and colleagues; take satisfaction in your and others’ achievements; and be able to pay the bills and feed the kids.

Q. How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

At HBAN we’re very focused on building awareness of angel investing in Ireland and I find that very rewarding. We have so many high potential start-ups in the country, it’s our job to recruit more angels to invest in those companies. My team and I take pride in the great work we’re doing in increasing the number of angels in our network, the number of deals that are closed and the amount angels invest. Achieving tangible results that are recognised internationally is a big motivator.

Q. If you could step into the shoes of one business person for the day, who would it be and why?

If we’re talking internationally, I would love to step into the shoes of Netflix founder and CEO, Reed Hastings (who I did meet once). He has built an incredibly successful business model that has changed the world of how we create and consume content.

In terms of an Irish businessperson, being Michael O’Leary for a day would be fascinating. I admire his simple business model, how he keeps it clean, speaks his mind and has a great attitude towards bureaucracy and nonsense.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

There are two pieces of advice that have stood me in good stead over the years. Firstly, only work with people you trust. Secondly: Timing is everything and it’s not always in your ability to control it.

Q. How do you relax?

I love both sailing and painting. I have been sailing in since I was a baby and completed two transatlantic trips, four round-Ireland races, four Fastnet races and several Worlds in the SB20 class. I usually paint portraits and love the challenge of representing a real person with recognisable features.

Q. What’s your motto?

I have a few different mottos that are appropriate to different situations. These are: “Get over yourself,” “Life’s too short” and finally, “Do stuff; make stuff happen.”

Q. What are your aspirations for the future of your business?

At the moment we’re on-track to double angel investment in Ireland in the next three to five years. We’ll achieve that by recruiting more business angels to our network. We are constantly on the look-out for more angels that can offer both investment and business knowledge to help Irish start-ups scale.

Achieving tangible results that are recognised internationally is a big motivator.