Galway Startup Ecosystem: What You Need To Know

by Donncha Hughes and John Breslin

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Introduction to Galway

To set the scene for Galway’s vibrant startup ecosystem, one needs to appreciate Galway’s geographic, cultural and business landscape. Galway is located in the West of Ireland, approximately a two-hour drive (200 km) from the capital, Dublin. The population in the greater Galway hinterland exceeds 250,000 people, making it the island of Ireland’s fourth largest centre of population after Dublin, Belfast and Cork. For many Irish and international visitors, Galway is synonymous with the Galway Horse Races. For over 100 years, the Galway Races has gone from strength to strength with now in excess of 150,000 people attending the week-long festival every July. Recognised as the greatest midsummer festival in Ireland, the ‘Races’ is known for attracting people from all walks of life with a broad appeal beyond traditional race goers. Complemented by other cultural experiences such as the Galway International Arts Festival, it is indicative of the standards of excellence that Galway strives for – recognised recently with the city’s designation as the European Capital of Culture 2020.

Galway was named as the top microcity in Europe in 2014/2015 by the Financial Times fDi magazine (for cities less than 100,000 people), and the top microcity in Europe in 2016/2017 for both business friendliness and economic potential. We are also the world’s friendliest city according to Travel & Leisure Magazine.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has played a significant role in the development of Galway’s business landscape, as facilitated by IDA Ireland. Since the 1960s, companies in sectors such as medtech and life sciences, ICT, food and engineering to include: Boston Scientific, Medtronic, Fidelity Investments, SAP, Cisco, Avaya, Aviva, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Valeo Vision Systems and many more have operated successfully in Galway. The importance of this multinational base has also laid the foundations for the development of a vibrant indigenous sub-supply and logistics sector.

Galway is Ireland’s medtech capital, with a third of Ireland’s medtech workforce in one of Europe’s if not the world’s top medtech hubs, with a density of companies and medtech research institutes only rivalled by Minnesota. Just take a look at the Galway Tech Map and Galway Medtech Map and you’ll get a good overview of the companies based here.

Over the last decade, Ireland has attracted a new wave of global brands such as Facebook, Apple and Google to base key European operations here. Galway has also benefited from this trend. 100 jobs were recently announced by Australian hotel cloud giant SiteMinder, and 200 more by MetLife. Like Dublin and Cork, this has boosted the startup ecosystem as personnel emerge with key skills gained at these multinationals.

Galway’s startup success stories

There are 16,381 enterprises in Galway. Over 250 employ over 50 people, with the majority, 14,900, employing less than 10 people. Established international businesses which were founded and are headquartered in Galway include: Chanelle, Aerogen, Supermacs, JFC, CF Energy, and SSL Logistics. Other companies such as financial services firm Fintrax (sold for €170 million, and subsequently valued at €0.5 billion), fleet management leader Celtrak, and medical devices manufacturers Creganna (acquired for €821 million) and Creagh Medical (acquired for €30 million) were established in Galway before their multi-million euro acquisitions. Current international growth focused startup businesses include: Channel Mechanics, Game Golf, Altocloud, Nua Naturals, Hillwalk Tours, Solaris Tea, Ex Ordo, PiP Payments, OnePageCRM, VT Networks (now based in DCU Alpha), DiaNia Technologies, and Bluedrop Medical.

Some of Galway’s award-winning businesses include:

  • Topform won the SFA National Small Business Award 2016. Topform has evolved from a traditional manufacturer of kitchen worktops. Established in 1976, the company now employs forty seven at its manufacturing facility in Gort, Co. Galway.
  • John Power – Aerogen – 2016 winner of the entrepreneur of the year at the RSM awards in Milan.
  • Aerogen – overall winner of the Irish Exporters Association Exporter of the Year Awards 2014.
  • EssentialSkillz, providers of online compliance training and risk assessment software to SMEs and enterprises worldwide, was ranked in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards for 2015. Established in Galway in 2001, EssentialSkillz has offices in the UK, USA and Ireland, and is recognised as a market leader for health and safety e-learning.
  • Pocket Anatomy won the 2014 Best Startup Award at The Next Web Europe Conference.
  • In 2013, Galway companies Westway Health and Element Software won the two top awards at InterTradeIreland’s Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition.

Galway’s strengths

A total of 20,997 new companies were formed in 2016 in Ireland according to the Vision.net Business Barometer. Ireland is a good place to start and run a business. Galway was the third most popular startup county accounting for 4% of all companies registered during the year.

First and foremost, Galway is a great place to live for families young and old. It is a happening place with a wonderful social, tourism, community, multicultural and commercial vibe. Part of the magic is that Galway is a university city with two third-level institutions having strong academic and research and development traditions. There are 26,000 third-level students in the city, and 45% of the adult population have third-level education.

In terms of the city’s startup roadmap, 2014 saw the emergence of Startup Galway which serves as an umbrella network for all things startup-related in Galway. It is both a networking organisation and an agent for change. In 2015 and 2016, several new startup coworking and incubation facilities opened in the city centre (SuperPixel Labs, startlab, Workbench, and the PorterShed), with the emerging tech spaces in the Eyre Square area being dubbed “Silicon Square”.

A new angel syndicate was announced early in 2016 with €2m worth of capital set aside that year for startups on the western seaboard. HBAN’s ‘West by North West’ fund (WxNW) was set up to invest in sectors including tech, manufacturing, education, and tourism. A similar medtech angel syndicate is also facilitated by HBAN. WDC has an investment fund to support enterprises in the West (from Clare up to Donegal), and WestBIC has been providing advice and services for entrepreneurs planning or starting a new business in the West for nearly 20 years now.

A digital-focused accelerator programme will be launched in Galway in early 2017 based in the PorterShed. This is part of the vision for the Galway City Innovation District. The Yield Lab from St Louis also announced their intent to run an agtech accelerator in Galway.

“Galway may be considered small in relation to other medtech cities, however it has a big heart. The connections which exist across and between industry and academia and the willingness of talented individuals to lend a helping hand makes it an ideal location for a startup. DiaNia Technologies is an innovative materials science company focused on the development of advanced technologies to enhance the performance and functionality of medical devices. Our minimum viable product has the potential to reduce friction on the inside and outside surface of many catheter-based medical devices whilst increasing patient safety. For us, the ability to tap into the wealth of global medtech business knowledge and experience available in Galway helped mould our strategic direction. Selection of DiaNia Technologies by the European Commission for a Phase 1 Horizon 2020 award demonstrated that our technology has the ability to meet a huge market need within the medical device industry. The recent investment in DiaNia Technologies by experienced medtech professionals and Enterprise Ireland will enable us to commercialise a global solution to an unmet market need through the application of materials science.” — Sinead Kenny, CEO, DiaNia Technologies

Areas to be developed

Galway can be viewed as a microcosm of Ireland’s economy both historically and projecting into the future. Ireland is a small market on the global stage. This context must be fully embraced in the development of enterprise and startup policy. To develop the startup ecosystem in Galway requires challenges to be addressed at both national and regional level and at both large enterprise and startup level. It also requires Galway to part its full part within “Ireland Inc.”.

Enterprise Ireland has a vision for Irish enterprise to be a powerhouse of economic growth and job creation in Ireland. Galway buys into this vision. Five issues which Ireland Inc. needs to continually revisit are:

  1. Availability of information: This would include supports for nascent entrepreneurs and a streamlined process to avail of soft and financial supports for startups.
  2. Promotion of startup role models: These are of all types to include female, graduate, technology and social entrepreneurship to stimulate and foster continued interest in enterprise. The key is highlighting a robust startup process to include strict market testing and validation.
  3. Advanced infrastructure: Enterprise-grade infrastructure is required such as telecommunications, roads, rail and air access along with startup-specific infrastructure to include coworking, incubation, and graduation spaces for larger startups as they scale.
  4. Research commercialisation: We need to facilitate the leveraging of research outputs from our third-level institutions and research centres/institutes for spinouts and licensing to Irish-based businesses.
  5. Aiming to scale our startups: By international standards, Ireland could improve its performance in developing companies that reach beyond €10 million and then €100 million and €1 billion in annual revenue.

Significant work has been undertaken by various bodies to identify how Galway’s startup ecosystem can grow and succeed. For further reading, consult:

Details of events, networks, accelerators and change agents

“Galway has proven itself to be one of the best places in Ireland in which to start and grow an enterprise. Over the past few years there have been welcome additions and enhancements to the local startup scene in Galway including more space for startups, more money for startups, more events and initiatives for startups, and more recognition for startups and the benefits, vibrancy and prosperity they bring. Startups and young companies are recognised for the significant contribution they bring to job creation and Galway is punching above its weight with the growth rate of company formations double that of Dublin’s. One of the great strengths of the startup ecosystem in Galway is the genuine level of collaboration between the ever expanding number of participants. It’s fun, it’s innovative, it’s happening in Galway right now.” — Barry Egan, Regional Director – West Region, Enterprise Ireland

Innovation centres and startup programmes

Startup promoters and teams have access to several innovation, incubation and coworking spaces in the greater Galway area.

Innovation Hub, GMIT

  • This on-campus Innovation Hub (iHub) provides a supportive environment for startups on their journey from concept to commercial success. In addition to office space, the Innovation Hub provides access to research, coaching and networking.
  • Key contact: George McCourt
  • Twitter: @GMITihubs

Ignite Business Innovation Centre, NUI Galway

Galway Technology Centre (GTC)

  • Galway Technology Centre provides serviced office space in a prime location in Galway to meet the needs of companies in the ICT, digital media and other knowledge- and service-based sectors. GTC also provides a range of business startup and virtual office services.
  • Key contact: Niamh Costello
  • Twitter: @GalwayTech

SCCUL Enterprise Centre

The PorterShed, backed by AIB

  • The PorterShed is Galway’s newest innovation hub in the heart of the city, and incorporates a coworking space housing 20 innovative companies and up to 70 people in total, and an open space for events and workshops.
  • Key contact: Mary Rodgers
  • Twitter: @PorterShed

Other centres based outside Galway include The Hub in Headford and The Burren Enterprise Centre in Kinvara which both provide affordable professional office space.

There are two excellent pre-accelerator startup programmes to assist entrepreneurial teams to bring their business from concept to funding-ready status.

New Frontiers, GMIT

  • New Frontiers is a national programme managed by Enterprise Ireland, delivered in Galway by GMIT. Phase II of the programme is six months. It provides leading edge training, mentoring and introductions to early-stage capital investment networks. It includes a €15,000 payment to participant entrepreneurs.
  • Key contact: Tony O’Kelly

startlab, powered by Bank of Ireland

  • startlab is an incubator programme built from the ground up to educate, connect and scale tech startups. Each program runs for a six-month period where startups meet with key speakers, coaches and mentors to help grow and scale their company.
  • Key contact: Tracy Keogh
  • Twitter: @Tracy_Keogh

BioInnovate Ireland

  • BioInnovate Ireland is a medtech-focused entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship programme, training successful medical device innovators for over five years now.
  • Key contact: Paul Anglim
  • Twitter: @BioInnovate_Ire

Blackstone LaunchPad, NUI Galway

  • Blackstone LaunchPad is the go-to place for budding entrepreneurs at NUI Galway, both students (past, present) and staff, and was established in 2016 with funding from the Blackstone Foundation and GUF. Blackstone offers mentorship and a wide range of resources, as well as running regular entrepreneurship events.
  • Key contact: Mary Carty
  • Twitter: @LaunchPadNUIG

TechInnovate, NUI Galway

  • TechInnovate is developing entrepreneurial skills in two target groups: professionals who undergo a career change and undertake a 10-month entrepreneurship fellowship to become startup founders, and employees in indigenous or multinational companies who want to learn and apply similar entrepreneurial skills to develop innovative products or services within their organisations, through what is called intrapreneurship, and taught over a series of 10 workshops.
  • Key contact: John Breslin
  • Twitter: @Tech_Innovate

The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Galway also provide a range of leading startup training and management development programmes. Keep up-to-date with LEO Galway via Twitter.

Publications and media

Traditional and online media in Galway (Galway Advertiser, Galway Independent, Connacht Tribune Newspaper Group) and in Ireland (Silicon Republic, RTÉ, Irish Times, INM, Sunday Business Post) generally are very positive towards startups. This means that the profile and regard for startup entrepreneurs has never been higher – as reflected in results from Ireland’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). This is facilitated and supported by proactive and progressive personnel working within our state enterprise agencies – led by Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office Galway – offering national supports delivered locally.

A weekly column about startup activity in Galway was published in the Galway Advertiser from 2015 to 2016, written by Bank of Ireland startlab’s Tracy Keogh.

Technology Voice publishes stories about technology developments and events in Galway (and Ireland), on an irregular basis.

Finally, the NoiseyGenXYZ ezine and podcast promotes awareness of how extraordinary people with extraordinary ideas from generations X, Y and Z are impacting on and shaping the future entrepreneurial landscape in Galway.

Major events

The AtlanTec Festival, organised annually by the Information Technology Association of Galway (ITAG), brings in world-class speakers and practitioners and connects them with the most exciting innovative companies in the West of Ireland. The goal of AtlanTec is to unite and empower the different technology communities by facilitating the spread of information within the tech sectors in the West of Ireland.

Innovating West is another annual conference which brings together changemakers and innovators in the West of Ireland. Set up in 2015, it initially focused on highlighting key innovators who have established successful businesses along the west coast of Ireland, giving local entrepreneurs and businesspeople the chance to learn from them and their successes. In 2016, it expanded its remit, bringing in international entrepreneurs, investors and other guest speakers from Europe and the US. A sister event, Venture West, brought all of Ireland’s VCs together for a public conference and meeting in Galway in late 2015.

MeetWest, held each year towards November, is the largest business networking event in the West of Ireland, and brings all of the business sectors together to connect and collaborate. The event includes a conference and networking dinner, but also facilitates matchmade one-on-one meetings as well as ad-hoc opportunities to network and do business.

An entrepreneurial locally based financial institution – St Columba’s Credit Union Ltd (SCCUL) – has for the past six years created Galway’s largest entrepreneur competition called the SCCUL Awards. In 2015, 160 early stage businesses entered the awards which has a prize fund of €50,000. The awards event has expanded in recent years with all entrants and local entrepreneur ecosystem participants exhibiting in a business expo and showcase at the local University campus.

The PorterShed has become a nexus for startup events in Galway. Between its opening in May 2016 and the time or writing, 100 events had been held in the PorterShed, attracting about 2,000 people into the space. For example, Startup Galway held three fireside chats with investors (from Hyde Park Angels, Founders Fund and Qualcomm Ventures) during the summer/autumn of 2016.

Further information

The good news is that there are plenty of online resources available with further information for a deeper look at Galway’s events, networks, accelerators and change agents. The starting reference is the Galway Startup Guide – here is an excerpt:

“From A to Z (well, from B to Y actually), this guide lists all kinds of startup resources including:

  • The best recurring and one-off startup-related events,
  • Galway’s tech hubs including coworking spaces and startup offices for those looking for a place to launch,
  • key organisations helping startups to get started and scale up, and

networking groups and tech meetups where you can hear from experts, leaders and founders, because it’s good to talk, but even better to talk, listen and learn.

For each resource, the following is provided: a short description, key contacts, their webpage, and Twitter handles where available. Galway has many small tech tribes, but they’re all part of a big Galway startup community!”

Conclusion

While Galway may be viewed by many as a small ecosystem, it can contribute in a big way to Ireland’s startup ecosystem as a whole if given the right resources, including: better transit/transport infrastructure, increased access to finance, new skills programmes for entrepreneurs and innovators (e.g. commercialising research), improved ICT connectivity, and many more downtown working and living spaces.

Credit and acknowledgements

Donncha Hughes is a startup mentor and business trainer. He co-curates Galway’s StartupDigest – the news and events calendar for startups. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of Bizmentors.ie, a pro-bono business network in Galway managed by SCCUL Enterprises which recently announced plans to expand its service to Roscommon and Mayo.

John Breslin is a senior lecturer in electronics at NUI Galway, where he is director of the TechInnovate entrepreneurship programme and lead researcher at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. He is co-founder of boards.ie, adverts.ie, Startup Galway, and the Galway City Innovation District / PorterShed.

The image of the Long Walk by Tom Murphy is used under a Creative Commons license from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Long_Walk,_Galway.jpg

The original version of this article was published on StartupBlink.com.

My two-and-a-half years ‘away’ from Facebook

On 30 June 2014, I effectively stopped using my Facebook profile, with no personal posts during the subsequent two-and-a-half years. At the time, I wrote a rant about my reasons for doing so – “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to Facebook anymore” – a wordplay on Peter Finch’s famous scene from the movie Network. So, have I been missing much? And is it time to come back?

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No posts

Not really for the first question, and kind of for the second. Since I locked down my personal profile and friend settings, I’ve had about 70 friend requests and 40 to 50 items that I’ve been tagged in for timeline review. I’ve still needed to login to Facebook occasionally for administering various pages, while also writing posts under the guise of those page profiles.

 

I’ve made just two comments with my personal profile during the past 30 months, one to gain access to an educational course and the other to thank the providers for doing so. However, in the future, I do want to interact more with communities (pages, groups, etc.) related to my interests, both professional and personal.

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The overlapping worlds of work and family / Images from PublicDomainPictures.net

I realise that my main gripe with Facebook has been the overlapping universes of work and family contacts. I remember Blaine Cook talking about this in 2009, when he likened the platform to being stuck in a big room with your parents, your boss, your sports team, your current and past partners, your colleagues, your family, and more.

 

So as a fix for this, I’ve started disconnecting from my 50 or so (extended) family contacts (sorry all!) while keeping my other 570 contacts, to make a clearer separation between work and family online. This still allows me to make use of Facebook for marketing, information seeking, promotion and other interactions, but avoids the uncomfortableness I’ve always felt with the platform, which I mainly used for cross-posting work-related stuff from Twitter anyway. At least my family all have my phone number if they still want to/need to get me!

A Great Year for Galway, But We Need More of This Sort of Thing

As we come to the end of the year, it’s a good time to remember some of the remarkable accolades our city has received during 2016. Galway was awarded the 2020 European Capital of Culture, as well as the EU’s prestigious European Green Leaf Environmental Award, and was designated European Region of Gastronomy for 2018. The Financial Times FDI magazine ranked Galway City as the number 1 Micro European City of the Future for both the Economic Potential and Business Friendliness categories in 2016/2017: this is a full level or two higher than our rankings in both categories in 2014/2015. Also, NUI Galway has moved up to number 249 in the QS world university rankings. To put that in perspective, the University has risen 235 places over the past nine years from when it was at number 484. NUI Galway is also 48th out of 1,336 educational institutions in Europe in terms of Horizon 2020 funding received, and second overall in Ireland.

Stats

On the jobs and startups front, Galway and our region do face significant challenges. You may have seen the Irish Independent article by Dan O’Brien in May this year, based on CSO data, which said that the Galway-Mayo-Roscommon region has had 0% job growth since the crash, with job destruction continuing to outpace job creation in the region. All other regions had between 7% and 15% growth. As of the first quarter in 2016, employment in the region was said to have hit yet another low, being at the same level as it was in 2003.

stats

According to Eurostat, Ireland ranks second lowest in terms of startup creation, across the entire EU-28. The number of enterprises in our region, and with it the Western region’s share of enterprises in the state, has declined each year between 2008 and 2014: in 2014 it was 9% below the number in 2008. In contrast, in the rest of the state it was just 1% lower. While this figure is for all enterprises, it is an indicator of the region’s level of entrepreneurship.

The population of Connacht is still less than it was in 1926. County Galway has more people in the 35+ age bracket than the national average, resulting in an increasing rate of age dependency, while the age group that has experienced the largest decline in population terms in recent years is between 15 and 29.

The above statistics are quite worrying. Giving all those who wish to live and work in the region the opportunity to do so, decreasing emigration, and encouraging workers and their families to stay and settle in the region, must be our highest priority. If the trend of depopulation continues, many of the businesses in our region will feel the effects. For these reasons and others, we need to keep doing what we are doing in terms of strategies and investment towards stimulating entrepreneurship and innovation in the region – both in new enterprises and existing ones – but much more of it.

Space

It has been a busy year for us on the space front. Less than a year ago, on New Year’s Eve 2015, Forbes published an article about our efforts to establish the PorterShed innovation space, and I was unexpectedly photographed during the interview by the journalist on his mobile phone wearing my bright blue jumper. I had to buy a couple more blue jumpers afterwards so people would be able to recognise me!

space

The PorterShed was set up to address a number of needs. I’ve been part of the meet-and-greet team for a number of FDI visits to Galway, and a recurring theme was the lack of a downtown innovation hub for incoming but also indigenous startups – with all the expected features: red brick walls, wooden beams, fibre internet, and of course, super coffee. Two years ago, a group of us had our first meeting about downtown spaces for rent, and I subsequently worked with some fantastic people and the Galway Chamber to make the first step in what we called the “Galway City Innovation District” a reality. In September last year, we started renovating a former Guinness storehouse, the PorterShed, backed by AIB, which opened its doors to startup companies in April this year, and officially opened in May.

The PorterShed is a showcase for Galway’s tech startup scene, and incorporates a coworking space housing 20 innovative companies and up to 70 people in total, and an open space for events and workshops. In the first half of 2017, we will also launch a digital tech-focussed accelerator, which will add 20 startups to our economy per year.

The PorterShed has become a tour stop for visitors – business, technology and otherwise – centrally located on CIÉ land. For example, during Galway 2020, we hosted the European judging team as part of their final onsite visit, where they met members of the business, tourism and tech/medtech communities. We also hosted the Mayor of Menlo Park, Rich Cline, who officially opened our PorterShed conference room, also called the Menlo Park.

As well as future expansion beyond the PorterShed into a cluster of nearby complementary hubs – perhaps for creative media, food and agri-innovation, medtech, marine and more – another stated aim of the Galway City Innovation District is to develop the role of Galway Innovation Commissioner, loosely modeled on the Dublin Commissioner for Startups, and requiring support from key local organisations. This influencer and networker would promote “Why Galway”, surfacing Galway innovations that are under the radar, and representing us nationally and internationally.

The PorterShed requires the support of local companies and multinationals to continue with its remit as Galway’s downtown innovation hub. We’ve had great support from AIB, our title sponsor, Enterprise Ireland, KPMG, IBM, FOD, Collins McNicholas, LEO Galway, and the Galway County and City Councils. As a non-profit company, we are continuously looking for new sponsors, to complement those companies and organisations already involved.

Skills

Spaces for entrepreneurs need to be complemented by the skills to succeed as a startup founder – so that people know how to progress their idea, technology or passion through to a successful startup, or to produce a new innovation within existing companies. The PorterShed Accelerator is assisting in this respect from the startup side – providing a structured programme, seed funding, and desk space for teams who want to transform from a strong idea into a commercially-viable startup. The PorterShed Accelerator will run every six months, attracting regional, national and international entrepreneurs into Galway for a three-and-a-half month programme delivered in the PorterShed. We are also looking for more individuals and organisations who are interested in supporting the PorterShed Accelerator.

skills

NUI Galway is also playing an important role. In September, I took on the role of programme director for a new technology innovation programme, called TechInnovate. TechInnovate is based on the successful BioInnovate programme, which has been producing medtech innovators and innovations in startups and corporates for five years now. Again, this initiative, TechInnovate, is developing entrepreneurial skills but amongst different cohorts.

There are two target groups of people for TechInnovate: professionals who undergo a career change and undertake our 10-month entrepreneurship fellowship to become startup founders, and employees in indigenous or multinational companies who want to learn and apply similar entrepreneurial skills to develop innovative products or services within their organisations, through what is called intrapreneurship, and taught over a series of 10 workshops.

For the first cohort, TechInnovate skills up interdisciplinary teams of entrepreneurial fellows who are embedded in various non-health domains – this year, agriculture and defence – and who identify key needs to be solved in those domains through their combined skills. Each team consists of a businessperson, engineer and designer, and after a bootcamp in the “Disciplined Entrepreneurship” process which underpins the programme, they spend 6-8 weeks in the immersion phase, finding around 200 needs in their domain of interest. They then apply the TechInnovate process to filter down these needs to the one with the most commercial opportunity, and develop a product plan around the solution to that need.

The second targeted cohort – employees in our existing companies – is addressing the fact that many of our local companies are now in an increasingly challenging, noisy and competitive marketplace, with millennial job hopping becoming more common. In a recent survey in the US, it was found that 71% of millennials were disengaged at work, with many pursuing what they termed “side hustles”. As mentioned earlier, retaining talent in the West has become a core focus. Employees can be skilled, creative and innovative intrapreneurs, which becomes not only a “nice to do”, but essential to the bottom line. TechInnovate trains up a team of three from each company in the entrepreneurial principles and processes for creating innovation-driven enterprises, delivering skilled and engaged employees who can pursue new ideas that support the mission and vision of that company, and thereby supporting the company to launch new products and services or pursue new markets.

Our first TechInnovate sponsors are Bank of Ireland, EY, and the WDC, with support from NUI Galway and the Galway University Foundation, and we are actively looking for more partners who share our common vision: to seed a new set of skilled entrepreneurs in the local startup scene and skilled intrapreneurs in our larger companies.

Spirit

As well as creating space and developing skills, we also run various events to instill the spirit of being an entrepreneur. In 2013 we set up Startup Galway, inspired by Brad Feld’s book “Startup Communities”, which describes how the startup ecosystem in Boulder, Colorado was established. Startup Galway runs a series of fireside chats with successful entrepreneurs, and our most recent guest in November was Jerry Kennelly of Tweak, whose previous company, Stockbyte, was acquired by Getty Images for 135 million dollars.

spirit

The number of startup-related events being run in Galway has dramatically increased over the past two to three years – from Innovating West to Startup Weekends (the next one is in March) to pitching practice sessions to technology workshops – which is very encouraging. The PorterShed alone has hosted over 100 events in the past six or seven months.

When I think of the likes of Tipperary’s John Ryan, creator of Macrovision, who studied at NUI Galway; Donegal’s Kathleen McNulty of the ENIAC team, one of the world’s first computer programmers; former NUI Galway Professor George Johnstone Stoney, who named the electron; Galway’s Alice Perry, the first woman in Ireland or Great Britain to graduate with a degree in engineering; and Galway natives Oliver and McGlynn who founded Menlo Park in California, we have a lot of entrepreneurial spirit and tech heritage to be proud of in the West.

We also have a great ecosystem of award-winning startups and internationally recognised companies, and when you combine this with the talented graduate and postgraduate workforce from our world class research centres and higher education institutions, with the second highest number of PhDs in the state after Dublin, we do have a density and quality of ecosystem that can draw the creators, innovators and entrepreneurs in to Galway. We also have some fantastic organisations and efforts making stuff happen, including the Atlantic Centre for Entrepreneurship (ACE), BioInnovate, Blackstone LaunchPad, Enterprise Ireland, Galway Chamber, GMIT, GTC, IBEC, IDA, Insight, ITAG, JAI, JCI, LEO, New Frontiers, NUI Galway, OMiG, Regional Skills Forum, SCCUL, startlab, Údarás na Gaeltachta, WDC and WestBIC.

Given the challenges our region faces, we need to do more. If you share my desire for our young people to have the opportunity to live and work in our region, I would ask all of you in the Galway community to support the various initiatives aimed at promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in the Western region, including TechInnovate, the PorterShed, and other efforts being led by the aforementioned acronym soup.

Let’s continue to make Galway the best small city in Ireland, Europe, and I believe, the world.

Photos of the PorterShed, TechInnovate and Innovating West by David Ruffles, Aengus McMahon and Peter Harkin respectively. This article was published in today’s Galway Advertiser, and is based on a recent speech I gave to the Galway Chamber of Commerce. Thanks to Maurice O’Gorman for his input and advice.

TechInnovate Holds Open Evening on “Intrapreneurship” Training for West of Ireland Corporates

techinnovate-industry-open-day-2016

TechInnovate, the entrepreneurship initiative from NUI Galway, is hosting an open evening on November 22nd at partner Bank of Ireland’s startlab location on Eyre Square for local corporates who are interested in openings on the team-based “intrapreneurship” training programme for industry. Intrapreneurship is the application of entrepreneurship and innovation principles within larger companies and corporates.

At the open evening, attendees can find out more about the TechInnovate Intrapreneurship Training programme for industry, commencing January 2017. The event will be led by TechInnovate director Dr John Breslin and Bank of Ireland startlab’s Tracy Keogh, along with NUI Galway’s current cohort of TechInnovate entrepreneurial Fellows who will be mentoring industry participants through a series of hands-on workshops delivered over 20 weeks.

“As proud sponsors of TechInnovate, Bank of Ireland are delighted to host this evening on November 22nd at 7 PM in startlab, Eyre Square,” said Tracy Keogh. “TechInnovate’s big hairy audacious goal, or BHAG, is to have many more skilled entrepreneurs in startups and intrapreneurs in corporates in the West of Ireland. This event will give attendees the chance to hear from current Fellows of the programme and opportunities for openings in the industry programme beginning in January.”

“We have more people founding and interested in founding startups here than ever before. The spirit of entrepreneurship is particularly strong right now,” said John Breslin. “However, in parallel, there is a need for more initiatives that are developing innovation skills for companies, to give structures and processes to those who want to set up innovation-driven enterprises or innovative projects and products within existing corporates.”

 

24steps5bTechInnovate follows a “disciplined intrapreneurship” team-based approach, working through topics including needs finding, market analysis, technology viability assessment, competitive positioning, interdisciplinary team building, product life-cycle planning, marketing strategy, sales channel analysis, and with a strong emphasis on the entrepreneur/intrapreneur as a salesperson.

Ian McMorrough, director at Bank of Ireland, said: “Bank of Ireland are thrilled to host the upcoming TechInnovate open evening, we need more people thinking entrepreneurially and intrapreneurially, and TechInnovate will provide an injection of these people into the tech ecosystem in the region.”

The TechInnovate training workshops have been developed to address the growing demand for innovation training in the sector and are delivered by a combination of TechInnovate Fellows, academics, domain and industry experts. These workshops afford participants the opportunity to work in multidisciplinary teams to progress an unmet domain need through the TechInnovate process to a product plan for a technology innovation.

Attend the TechInnovate Industry Open Day to find out more by registering at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/techinnovate-industry-open-day-tickets-29051228005

New Entrepreneurship Programme to Target Agriculture and Defence

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  • First TechInnovate Fellows announced by NUI Galway
  • Teams will develop innovative technology solutions for pressing needs

“Through the immersion phase, the Fellows get direct experience of the needs of a farmer or soldier in the field”

Dr John Breslin

Innovations in technology for the agricultural and defence sectors are being explored by the newly announced TechInnovate Fellows at NUI Galway. The names of the entrepreneurial individuals who have been accepted onto the Fellowship Programme have been released.

Taking cues from the successful BioInnovate programme for the medtech sector, TechInnovate’s aim is to enable technology innovators and innovations in new sectors, initially agriculture and defence.

The first cohort of six Fellows have been split into two teams, who will immerse themselves within the sectors. Over the course of the 10-month programme, the Fellowship teams will carry out a thorough needs analysis with end users, identify a pressing technological need, and then develop a solution.

The programme is being led by NUI Galway academic Dr John Breslin, who is himself an entrepreneur as co-founder of boards.ie, adverts.ie, and more recently the start-up hub PorterShed. Dr Breslin says: “Understand your users, that’s the key’ is a saying from serial entrepreneur and investor, Paul Graham. It captures the essence of what this programme is about, because through the immersion phase, the Fellows get direct experience of the needs of a farmer or soldier in the field. They then go on to filter and prioritise these needs and develop a solution wherein the key market opportunity lies.”

Each team consists of an interdisciplinary grouping of engineer, businessperson and designer. All members are industry professionals with extensive expertise from different sectors.

The defence team is made up of Ronan Boyle, an electronic engineer with significant industry experience in the medical devices industry, Greg Payne, with expertise in financial services, compliance and sales with a background in sports science, and Leon Butler, an accomplished visual narrative designer who recently completed a residency in LA.

On the agriculture team are Niamh Lynch, an expert in quality and risk management for the medtech and pharma industries, Ciara Shields, a results-focused marketing and international business development executive with a passion for startups, and Paul Flynn, design thinking and learning environments specialist with an education and engineering background.

Dr John Breslin explains the origins of TechInnovate: “The impetus for the development of this Fellowship Programme emerged from the Government’s Innovation Taskforce Report. It made recommendations on how to embed product design teaching and research in Ireland’s engineering schools and how to shift design education in Ireland to a model where creativity and innovation in product design are encouraged. The BioInnovate Ireland Fellowship Programme was created as a result of these recommendations, which in turn inspired the development of TechInnovate.”

TechInnovate also has an experienced team of advisors with entrepreneurial and investment backgrounds, including: Gerard Barry, Galway-based investor and entrepreneur, founder of Privity Pay and formerly Fintrax; Patrick Dawson, investor and adtech entrepreneur (ex-MediaMath, Adobe) who has built businesses in Asia, Europe and the US; Dr Helen McBreen, Investment Director with Atlantic Bridge Ventures and formerly of NDRC and Celtrak; Barry O’Sullivan, Silicon Valley-based investor, entrepreneur, CEO of Altocloud, former SVP at Cisco, and dragon on RTÉ’s Dragons’ Den; and Dr Gareth Keane, Senior Investment Manager at Qualcomm Ventures in California.

The programme is supported by NUI Galway and the Galway University Foundation, and is sponsored by Bank of Ireland and the Western Development Commission. A Continuing Professional Development series of workshops in the TechInnovate process is also being offered to supporting companies, and new sectors and immersion opportunities for teams are also being sought for future years.

QTales Launches Platform for Authoring and Curating Interactive Ebooks for Kids

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QTales, a project to develop a collaborative ecosystem for European SMEs to create and exchange multi-plot interactive ebooks/multimedia apps for children, has recently released a new version of its QTales social platform for ebook co-authoring at qtales.com.

The QTales project began in early 2015, and was established to build a set of multi-platform editing/authoring tools along with players for interactive ebooks developed using the QTales framework. QTales has been designed with young creators in mind, allowing them to foray into a creative domain typically dominated by adults.

“The QTales platform is a great opportunity for young authors, illustrators, etc., to promote themselves and their work,” according to QTales Project Manager Delia Petacchi from Forma Camera, an Italian partner in the project.

After signing up for QTales at qtales.com, users begin by creating a new ebook and then editing it in the QTales authoring application (also downloadable for Windows and Mac), adding various multimedia elements including images, audio, mini games and more for a more captive interactive experience. Users can then choose to submit their ebooks for further curation, inviting those with complementary skills to enhance their ebook further.

“QTales is not [just] another social platform, it is a social platform for professionals who wish to join a new era for the traditional second generation book industry,” said Constantine Abazis, Chief Project Manager with Publisto in Greece.

The eventual aim is to establish QTales as a known brand for next generation ebook production within the European publishing industry. The ebooks can be interacted with using a set of easy-to-use QTales players for popular mobile devices and operating systems.

Dr Tony Hall, Lecturer in Educational Technology at NUI Galway, highlighted the importance of QTales for both literacy and creativity: “QTales will support children’s literacy and reading development, by encouraging them and supporting them in the development of ebooks, authoring them and sharing them through the QTales portal.”

The authoring portal is at qtales.com. QTales is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme (ICT-18-2014 645588), and will produce its final version of the QTales platform this summer. You can find out more about QTales in this recent video on YouTube or by visiting the project site.

The Yield Lab Announces the Launch of the Yield Lab Galway

Agri Tech Conference at The Portershed, Galway, IRL. Photograph by David Ruffles

Thad Simons (Managing Director, The Yield Lab) makes the announcement at the Agriculture Technology and Innovation Seminar in the PorterShed (photo by David Ruffles).

The Yield Lab, the United States’ first food and agriculture technology (AgTech) business accelerator, announced the launch of the Yield Lab Galway, in the PorterShed on Friday, 15 July. The Yield Lab Galway is a food and AgTech venture fund and business accelerator, located in Galway, Ireland. The Yield Lab Galway is a significant boost to the investment opportunities available to emerging AgTech and agriculture innovation spinouts and startups from Galway.

The Yield Lab is an early-stage venture fund and business accelerator that invests $100,000 in early-stage food and AgTech startups, provides one-on-one mentorship, free workspace, and networking opportunities supported by agriculture-focused organisations and businesses from the St. Louis region.

Agriculture is a leading industry in the US Midwest, with extensive business connections to the St. Louis region and beyond. The diversity, central location, and solid business community support makes the St. Louis region a leading market for AgTech expansion. St. Louis is a sister city with Galway, which has an emerging and vibrant agriculture innovation system.

“We believe finding innovative solutions to sustainably feed the world’s rapidly growing population is the biggest problem facing humankind today,” said Yield Lab Managing Director Thad Simons. “The launch of the Yield Lab Galway is the appropriate next step and will provide greater access to financial and strategic opportunities for both our St. Louis- and Galway-based investments.”

The Yield Lab Galway has been established on the same building blocks and strategy of sourcing, transacting, and mentoring as the Yield Lab in St. Louis. The fund plans to invest in 8-12 companies over the next two years. Each Galway-based food and AgTech startup will receive up to €100,000 and participate in a twelve-month accelerator program.

Professor Charles Spillane, Head of the Plant & AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) at NUI Galway highlighted that: “The Yield Lab’s establishment of its first European base in Galway is extremely exciting for the translation of agriculture research activities into agriculture innovations and AgTech startup companies. The multi-disciplinary PABC looks forward to collaborating and working closely with the Yield Lab Galway as one of its key investment and startup partners. The sustainable intensification challenges facing the agriculture and food sector in Ireland, and internationally, present opportunities and necessities for the development of disruptive agriculture innovations that the Yield Lab can foster.”

Dr John Breslin, one of the founders of the PorterShed and a PABC Principal Investigator, highlighted significant synergies between the Yield Lab and the NUI Galway AgTechInnovate program which he leads.

He indicated that: “AgTechInnovate is a new Fellowship Programme from NUI Galway which aims to create interdisciplinary teams of technology entrepreneurs (“techpreneurs”) who are embedded in a particular domain for 6-8 weeks to identify real needs, following which they invent, implement and iterate solutions. In the case of AgTechInnovate, this would be in an agricultural environment, with our initial plans to immerse the 2016 AgTechInnovate team in 10 large dairy farms.

“Spinouts emerging from AgTechInnovate will have the opportunity to pitch to the local Yield Lab Galway for investment. The establishment of Yield Lab Galway will further strengthen the agriculture innovation ecosystem in the West of Ireland, which includes the NUI Galway PABC, Teagasc Athenry, Mountbellew Agricultural College, GMIT and agriculture innovators like JFC, Food 360 and McHale.”

“AgTech companies work in a global economy and our goal is to build a bridge to St. Louis for Irish AgTech companies looking for a US footprint,” said Joe Reagan, President & CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber. “In St. Louis, we are focused on supporting entrepreneurs and innovators, and our economic development strategies in the 21st Century must be bold and innovative as well.” The St. Louis Regional Chamber has made a founding investment in the Yield Lab Galway from its Spirit of St. Louis Ventures fund, which has previously made founding investments in five early-stage business accelerators as part of a comprehensive strategy to support the formation of early-stage capital and to support entrepreneurs.

Galway was the obvious choice for the Yield Lab to establish a European footprint due to the strong relationship as a sister city with St. Louis. It also offers a number of regional resources such as the multi-disciplinary NUI Galway PABC, GMIT, Teagasc Athenry, Mountbellew Agricultural College and a central location to the vast agricultural production systems of the west of Ireland. Galway has built itself into an entrepreneurial stronghold, boasting a thriving technology park and growing support ecosystem for innovators.

Cultivation Capital has developed a significant interest in agricultural technologies,” said General Partner Rick Holton. “The Yield Lab has provided us with valuable insight into their portfolio companies that has consistently presented Cultivation with the opportunity to capitalize on promising investments. This was the value proposition that led us to invest in St. Louis, and this is why we are investing in Galway.”

“The new Yield Lab partnership enables a two-way street of economic activity between St. Louis and Galway. The growing Yield Lab portfolio in both regions will now have overseas networks to leverage. The Yield Lab Galway portfolio companies will attend a programming session in St. Louis to provide them with opportunities to access US markets and alternative sources of capital, and the Yield Lab St. Louis companies will be encouraged to leverage the resources unique to Galway. This marks a critical milestone for the St. Louis entrepreneurial and economic ecosystem. This bridge of economic activity with Galway should bring further opportunities for St. Louis.” said Sheila Sweeney, CEO of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.