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.

startlab: A Bank-Funded Incubator in the Heart of Galway


In a corner of Eyre Square in the heart of Galway City is the Bank of Ireland’s startlab. This is a tech startup incubator whose stated aim is to educate, connect and scale. It doesn’t take equity nor does it fund startups.

Tracy Keogh is the Program Manager and runs the incubator day to day. She is responsible for bringing in the coaches and mentors and working with the teams afterwards.

She brought the first bank-run incubator to Galway with the idea that, “In a formalised, structured way we could do something great.”

Interest was immense and it took, “Two hundred meetings to get down to the eight companies that are there. But my personal milestone achievement for this was that two of the companies came from Dublin and one came from Limerick. We are starting to attract in good talent; bringing more people in, more knowledge, different perspectives.

“For the first cohort… We needed people who had some level of funding beforehand. We wanted to see some level of traction, some cash behind them and a good team.”

She emphasises that, “For us a team that is coachable is very important. When somebody takes their day out to spend time here and gives their valuable knowledge to the teams it is really important that the teams are able to take on board the information and feedback that’s been given.”

For Tracy an entrepreneur is someone who is, “Prepared to take on all the risks and runs up against brick walls constantly.” And, “Being able to bring on board employees one and two and lead them on that journey so that they can actually create something.”

Tracy was originally destined for corporate life but yearned to do something on her own.

“I was actually at a roundabout. There were two cars either side of me. One was a Mercedes. One was a clapped-out little Nissan. The man on the right-hand side in the Mercedes was on the phone and you could see him pulling down his face and he looked so stressed. And the guy in the Nissan was bopping away to some music. I thought what sort of life would I like?”

She opted for the Nissan.

“I loved working in a startup, I loved being a jack of all trades… You were always learning. Conversations were always about new things. You were just fulfilling your curiosity all the time. I felt if you were doing that you could never really go wrong.”

As for the teams currently working at startlab. “We’re very excited to have them here. We want to be part of their journey. We want to see what they do over the next six months. To help them as they are zig-zagging along the route to greatness is, frankly for me, thrilling.

“My goal would be that they would come out of here after six months with all of the networks — all those coaches and mentors still onside — and they move into the PorterShed, then grow and expand and then IPO.”

Eventually Tracy wants to start her own company but is not in a rush, “I used to have a fear that I would run out of ideas but I don’t anymore because they keep coming.”

Blackstone LaunchPad at NUI Galway – A One Stop Shop for Ideas

The recently opened Blackstone LaunchPad at NUI Galway offers students, postgrads, alumni and staff the opportunity to feel out, test and nurture their fledgling startup ideas. They also have the opportunity to see if the life of an entrepreneur might be a possible or worthwhile career path to follow.

To help them with their questions and to provide support in determining the feasibility of ideas and creating a pathway of development is Executive Director, Mary Carty and Program Manager, Natalie Walsh.

LaunchPad is centrally located on the Concourse at the heart of the NUI Galway. No matter what background the students have or what degree they are pursuing, they can come to LaunchPad discuss their ideas.

Mary says that, “If they have an idea or they want to pitch something or present something, they want to build out some skills or they are just curious, they can just come in and talk to us and we’ll help them to figure out what’s next in their journey.”

Mary is herself an experienced entrepreneur having been CEO of Spoiltchild, an award winning design and development agency, and co-founder of Toddle, an email marketing system for small businesses. Prior to LaunchPad she co-founded Outbox, an incubator for young women with tech ideas.

“I pretty well understand how you start something, how you develop something, how you grow something.”

The number one question she hears is, “Is my idea a good idea?” To which the answer is, “We have to figure that out. This is the first stage of the conversation. Let’s figure out if this ideas has legs and what are you going to do next.

“We use the lean business model. That’s very good as it focuses very much on the problem that you want to solve. It focuses on the customer end – what the pain is and how you are going to help the customer solve that problem. It is a very interesting flip of the mind for a lot of people.”

LaunchPad is funded by the Blackstone Foundation in partnership with the Galway University Foundation.

Blackstone LaunchPad already works with over 500,000 students across the United States. In Galway, over six hundred students signed up for the program in the first month.

The space itself is mainly fitted out with benches and bare tables – no computers. “We wanted this space to be very collaborative and open so students could come in and talk about their ideas and work on their canvas. We have a well-used blackboard and people can become as hands on and as creative as they want.”

“We are signing up people from across the colleges. So that’s arts, humanities, social science, medicine; then, obviously, science and business as well.”

Mary says that LaunchPad is, “A one stop shop for ideas. Our aim is to help you to get you to the next point from where you are at with your idea.”

It is expected that some users will go on to other incubators and accelerators while others may go through the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) at NUI Galway.

“The pipeline is there and there are pathways that people can follow and we can help people to figure out where to go next.

“We have StartLab. PorterShed is going to come online. BioInnovate is here. The TTO office is here. No matter where you are at in your career or in your evolution as a startup there’s a place for you to go.”

NUI Galway Launches Unique TechInnovate Fellowship with Support from Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland has been announced as a sponsor of TechInnovate, a new technology entrepreneurship fellowship at NUI Galway. TechInnovate is a unique specialised technology innovation programme at the University, where teams identify real needs in a certain domain and invent/implement solutions. The programme is a 10 month full-time stipend-supported fellowship.

The full-time programme combines teams of high-calibre Fellows from either an engineering, business or design graduate background that aims to align unmet domain needs with a market opportunity. Team members are chosen to contribute their skills, knowledge and expertise as part of a multidisciplinary Fellowship team.

Now recruiting, TechInnovate’s focus is on enabling technology innovators and innovations, by producing more technology entrepreneurs in local startups, as well as more intrapreneurs in established technology companies in the West of Ireland. High-calibre Fellows are recruited to form 2-3 person interdisciplinary teams and participate in an intensive 10-month programme that goes from concept to product.

The programme has been inspired by BioInnovate, a successful medical device technology fellowship that is modelled on the prestigious and internationally-recognised Stanford BioDesign programme.

In parallel to the fellowship programme, the second aspect of TechInnovate involves a series of ten day-long industry training workshops that are offered to industry partners, and that mirrors the TechInnovation process undergone by the full-time Fellows. The aim of this stream is to instil intrapreneurial thinking among staff from participating corporates.

Tracy Keogh, Galway Community Manager at Bank of Ireland, said: “Support for the technology community is one of Bank of Ireland’s pillar activities, and we’ve implemented a number of successful initiatives around this in Galway. We’re delighted to invest further in the creation and growth of tech startups in this thriving community.”

Dr John Breslin, director of TechInnovate, and senior lecturer at NUI Galway, said: “In the West of Ireland, we need more people thinking entrepreneurially and intrapreneurially, and TechInnovate will provide an injection of these people into the tech ecosystem in the region.”

TechInnovate is a joint initiative from the College of Engineering and Informatics and the College of Business, Public Policy and Law at NUI Galway, and is supported by Bank of Ireland, Blackstone LaunchPad at NUI Galway, the Galway University Foundation, NUI Galway, and the Western Development Commission.

Interested fellowship candidates can apply for the TechInnovate fellowship at www.techinnovate.org before 8th April 2016. Candidates in the areas of engineering, information technology, design, law, and business must have completed an undergraduate degree in their area and should hold a postgraduate qualification or have equivalent professional experience.

TechInnovate Presents: The Galway Startup Guide

You probably know that the startup ecosystem in Galway has evolved and grown rapidly over the past two to three years, but it’s only when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together that you realise how much stuff is actually going on. As part of an effort to collate these resources, and under the auspices of TechInnovate, a new technology entrepreneurship fellowship from NUI Galway, we’ve published the first Galway Startup Guide.

From A to Z (well, from B to Y actually), we list 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, we provide a short description, key contacts, their webpage, and Twitter handles where available. We have many small tech tribes, but they’re all part of a big Galway startup community!

You can download the Galway Startup Guide for 2016 in either single page format or as a double page spread.

TechInnovate is a 10-month stipend-supported Fellowship from NUI Galway that 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. For more information, visit www.techinnovate.org

Let’s Shine a Light on Galway’s Greatness

Picture of Black Head Lighthouse on Galway Bay (Allgau, Wikimedia Commons). My grandfather was the first lighthouse keeper here, having helped build it from 1935 to 1936 with the Galway Harbour and Irish Lights Commissioners (this Clare lighthouse was requested by the community of transatlantic liner captains and freighter masters using Galway Bay).

Galway has so much to be proud of that often remains under the radar. Sometimes we tend to be a bit “Irish” about the great stuff going on here, hiding our lights under bushels. So I wanted to make a plea to everyone in the West to shine a light on the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship of Galway, the capital city of the West, whether it be through social media, word of mouth, or promotional material you may be creating for your organisation.

Here are some tidbits that many of you may have heard before, and some others that you may not have encountered thus far:

Barry O’Sullivan wrote an article in the Irish Times on Friday about various initiatives centred around what he dubbed “Silicon Square” in Eyre Square, including the Galway City Innovation District’s PorterShed, StartLab, and other projects that are aiming to raise the game in terms of innovation density in downtown Galway. The final line of his article summed it all up very nicely: “The folks in the west have a vision of Galway as a birthplace of ambition, so that our kids will have a choice to have amazing careers in the west, and not have to pack their bags for Dublin or San Francisco or even Lisbon.

Galway has a great reputation for quality of life and culture, but to attract the creators, innovators and entrepreneurs (and keep our own kids here) we should be telling them first and foremost about our ecosystem of internationally-renowned and award-winning tech and medtech companies, as well as the skilled and talented graduates and postgraduates from our respected educational institutions (NUI Galway, GMIT) and research centres (Insight, Cúram, GMedTech, CiSET, Marine Institute), because it is this density of ecosystem that will primarily draw them in.

The literary, arts, music and food events plus other outdoor activities to do around Ireland’s cultural heart and most multicultural city are a huge feature and added benefit, as it could be the Derroura mountain bike trail outside Oughterard, Ireland’s only Computer and Communications Museum, or the Food on the Edge extravaganza in Galway that further resonates with the CEO of a high-potential startup or multinational who is already considering Galway as a location. Few others can boast having Galway Bay, Connemara, the Corrib, the Twelve Bens, the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands on their wild Atlantic doorstep, not to mention the Galway Races, Arts and Oyster Festivals held here every year. Christopher Columbus even paid us a visit in 1477.

But we also need to appeal to those businesspeople who are just visiting Galway as a tourist destination (1.13 million visitors came to Galway in 2014) and who have no idea of the fact that there is a tech and medtech hub right under their noses. Real-time social media searches often unearth such people: I remember a few years ago, one of the heads of a large internet organisation was on holidays in Galway and I felt that we had missed out on an opportunity. It would be great to instantly make these people aware of the ecosystem here in case they choose to combine work with pleasure and have a tour of what’s going on.

I also do a daily search for the word “galway” along with “innovation”, “tech”, “technology” or “startup” on Twitter, Google News, etc., and as part of my routine I share out the interesting things I come across on social media. You too may have seen a fascinating story about a Galway innovator or innovation in the newspaper or elsewhere: we can all be ambassadors, so I am calling on you to share these good news stories (online, verbally, hand-written, whatever!) with your peers, colleagues and friends.

Let’s shine a light on the treasure that is Galway, the best small city in Ireland, Europe, and I believe, the world.