Kevin Farrar, IBM Global Entrepreneur Lead, UK & Ireland

29 JUN 2010

We recently interviewed Kevin Farrar, who leads IBM Global Entrepreneur. This IBM initiative seeks to partner with technology entrepreneurs interested in delivering solutions to address issues enterprise customers are facing in the areas of banking, buildings, cities, cloud computing, education, energy, food, government, healthcare, infrastructure, intelligence, oil, products, public safety, rail, retail, stimulus, telecommunications, traffic, water, and work . . .

Why was IBM Global Entrepreneur founded?

We know that working with startups can drive change. Today, the world’s physical systems are being infused with intelligence, and this opportunity to apply information technology to physical infrastructure opens up vast new markets for the IT industry.  With disruptive, new technologies, this is the perfect scenario for innovative entrepreneurs to play a major role.  With IBM’s unique vision of a Smarter Planet (, we are looking to partner with technology entrepreneurs who share this vision and want to work together to address this new market opportunity.

What kinds of support do you offer to entrepreneurs?

IBM Global Entrepreneur has the products, people, and promotion that can help technology startups extend the size and reach of their company.  The initiative provides support and resources in the areas these startups need most:

  1. Product
    • No charge access to IBM’s software portfolio on-site or through the cloud to accelerate software development
  2. People
    • Dedicated technical enablement support to help startups develop their product and get to the marketplace faster.
    • Mentors at IBM SmartCamps around the world who can help them grow their business.
    • Industry market intelligence from our top industry experts that can help them understand the enterprise customer and the market opportunity.
  3. Promotion
    • Visibility as part of the IBM Smarter Planet agenda to set themselves apart from the competition.
    • Recognition and additional benefits to partners with the most innovative solutions
    • Opportunity to showcase their company in the IBM Global Entrepreneur directory.

When was the initiative started and how many entrepreneurs have you helped?

IBM Global Entrepreneur launched on 31st March 2010, so is very new at the moment. Given this, we are at the stage of raising awareness of what we have to offer, and encouraging participation. We are doing this by engaging with individuals and organisations who are already well established in this community, and we are delighted that School for Startups is working with us as one of our ecosystem partners. Hundreds of startups have shown interest in our new initiative, and I am delighted with how enthusiastic people have been who I’ve spoken to about what we are doing.

How do entrepreneurs participate?

Startups who meet the eligibility criteria can register at On our application form we ask a few simple questions to help us understand a little about their companies, and once accepted they will be contacted by one of our Project Resource Managers (PRM). The assigned PRM will make a personal call  to welcome them, and will guide them through how they can make best us of the resources we provide on a one-to-one basis.

Startups can also apply to participate in our IBM SmartCamp London event which is taking place on 21st July at Imperial College London. SmartCamp is an exclusive event that brings together entrepreneurs, investors and experienced mentors who want to help us build a Smarter Planet. SmartCamp provides startups access to world-class advisors, plus a direct route to seed and venture capital. Applications for the London event can be made from now until 2nd July 2010.

What is your background and how did you come to IBM?

In 1987 IBM launched an integrated degree scheme with the University of Portsmouth, and I was one of the original intake to the scheme of 20 students. The initiative was pioneering as it was the first time in the UK that a company’s in-house training counted as credits towards a degree – a BSc in Computer Science. Our time was split on a weekly basis between our studies and doing a real job in IBM, so a very different model to a traditional sandwich course. The great thing was that we were paid a salary for the 3 years of the course, which certainly enhanced the experience!

Since graduating, I’ve performed a very diverse mixture of technical and business roles in IBM, both in the UK and across Europe. In 2005 I took on responsibility for establishing the IBM Academic Initiative ( across Europe, Middle East and Africa, and it was through this programme that I first started engaging with entrepreneurial students in the universities. I still look after this programme in the UK & Ireland, and am very excited about the new opportunities that leading the IBM Global Entrepreneur initiative is bringing. It is such an inspirational community of people to be collaborating with.

Is there a way entrepreneurs can learn more about the initiative online?

Our website is the best place to go to learn more:

Additional information on IBM SmartCamp London can be found at