Startup Weekend Galway 2014

Startup Weekend is a non-profit organisation based in Seattle, which has been holding weekend long business creation events since 2007 in cities all around the world. Last weekend it was Galway’s turn to host the event.

Participants gathered on Friday evening. Some had come to pitch ideas and others had come to offer their services as developers, designers or biz dev people. They were given colour-coded t-shirts at registration to make it easy to identify the various roles.

There were 30 one minute pitches made to an audience of 67 people. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time but it turns out that 60 seconds was a perfectly adequate amount of time to introduce oneself, give a brief headline of the idea and to make a request for the sort of people and skills the pitcher required to work with him or her on their project.

Ideas varied greatly, some grand in scale and some niche specific. People wanted to create career management tools, price comparison web sites, listing guides and one person even proposed a treehouse and swing business.

The pitches were then posted on separate sheets of paper around the walls in a large room kindly provided by the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway. Attendees then indicated their preferences for the ideas put forward by attaching sticky coloured notes.

The top 12 ideas were selected by the organizing team and the originators of those ideas then stood roughly equidistant around the room and gave a brief recap of their idea in turn. This was then the opportunity for the developers, designers and biz dev people to gather around the pitchers of the ideas that they most wanted to work on and in this way the teams were formed.

But four hours had passed and now before them lay another 50 hours of the weekend to get produce a minimum viable product (MVP), a working user interface, and a plan for creating customers and for handling the relevant financial issues that go along with starting a business.

On the Saturday morning it was remarkable how quickly the teams settled down to work. I had somehow expected there to be a getting to know you period where team roles and bonds would be established but people got stuck right in.

One of the good decisions of the weekend was to have all 12 teams in one large room. It wasn’t at all disruptive and there was a nice, continuous buzz of productivity that helped to keep everyone’s energy up through the entire weekend.

In the afternoon the mentors arrived. They came from all aspects of the Galway business community and in turn were able to offer the nascent startups a complete range of advice from legal to sales and all stops in between.

Among those giving up a valuable Saturday to share their experience and knowledge were Ian Knight from Flynn O’ Driscoll – Commercial Law and Investments, Mark Campbell – Pocket Anatomy, Dorothy Creaven – Element Wave mobile technology, Alan Burke – Annertech and Mark Quick – Entrepreneur and Engineer.

(Picture: Mike Conroy (r) – Cisco Galway mentoring at #swgalway)

A free massage was available on site throughout the weekend from Michael Klusak of Mobile Massage Galway. In the late afternoon a rather delightful yoga session was led by David Cunningham from The Yoga Shala.

In a break shortly after supper teams were asked to give a quick rundown to the other teams about where they were on their project. Interestingly, when the time came for them to make a request for additional help, it was suggested by the facilitator, Adam Haun, that the teams should reach out beyond the resources immediately in front of them. They should try to utilise the network effect already present to find a wider community of people to obtain information and feedback.

The participants also took the opportunity to watch an item about themselves on the local news.

Then it was down to work right through until 10pm. At least one team was going to carry on coding some place else afterwards. Dedication.

It was a foggy start to Sunday morning but the energy in the room burned on undimmed. It was a constant surprise to see how much work had actually been done. Information garnered from the market research done on Google Docs, Twitter and Facebook had been utilised into shaping numerous MVPs.

One team had a couple of its members go into town to talk to real live business owners. Initiative.

Shortly before lunch I spoke to one of the organisers, Paul Killoran of Ex Ordo. I asked him about the aims of the weekend.

“We have had people who have never met each other before arrive into a venue and get up and pitch their ideas. As an organiser you just sit back and watch this Petri dish of energy come together. It’s incredible that these people didn’t know each other a few days ago and by the end of this weekend twelve startup companies will have been created.

“The reality is that most of these startups won’t last until next weekend – one or two of them might. For me the most important part is founder education and networking.

“If we want to create startups in the West of Ireland, in Galway, what we really need to do is educate people about what it is you have to do to create a startup.”

One of the mentors, Greg Osborne – I Speak English Graphic Design Solutions, also spoke about the wider effect the weekend’s activities may have.

“It’s about the journey as well as any of the services or products they may create.”

After lunch the teams were reminded of the essential elements of their projects that they were expected to show the judges that evening.

Customers – Validation

  • Is this a real problem that needs to be solved?
  • Have you identified a specific market?
  • Did you talk to customers?
  • SHOW the validation in your presentation.

Product – Execution and Design

  • Do you have an MVP or prototype?
  • Can you show a demonstration of your MVP or prototype?
  • DESIGN MATTERS! How easy and user friendly is your product?

Business $$ – Business Model

  • What is the value proposition?
  • How do you plan on making this a successful business?
  • Go to market strategy: How are you going to launch?

So, no pressure then.

Soon enough it was time for the teams to show the judges what they had created in the previous 54 hours. The very experienced panel consisted of Barry O’Sullivan – Altocloud, Aideen Bergin – Bank of Ireland, Oliver Daniels – The Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Breda Fox – Galway Local Enterprise Office, Paul Gilson – Veryan Medical and Maurice O’Gorman – Galway Chamber of Commerce.

Each team had five minutes to pitch their idea, immediately followed by a three minute question and answer period with the judges. NB: Each of the pitches was recorded and will be posted separately on the Technology Voice YouTube Channel over the next week or so. So look out for them.

While the judges were in deliberation a popular vote amongst the teams themselves was held for the best business idea. That was won by Hours and their application to make shift management easier for small and mid-size businesses. Also an out of competition honorary mention was made to Random Acts of Karma (pictured above) and their social enterprise project.

Finally the judges returned and the winners were announced in reverse order:

3rd Place – Arrow – Arrow is an In-Airport application that guides users to their boarding gates, taking the hassle out of airport travel. It adds value by providing all relevant information about the specific airport and the users trip (Dylan Commons, Gavin Ward, Patricia Organ, Patrick Breslin and Michael O’Meara)

2nd Place- What Paws Around – What Paws Around is an online platform that allows dog owners to find dog related services close to their location (boarding, trainers, groomers, sitters) and access to a wide variety of educational information in one click. Every service is peer reviewed, to help customers choose what is best for their furry friends. Dog related services have the opportunity to advertise their businesses and to connect with a new customer base. (Caterina Lodo, Anthea Middleton, Gavin Donohue and Gianmassimo Vigazzola)

The Winner – FriendShip – FriendShip makes it easy to share the shipping fees when you buy online. Partner with your friends to place your order and share the fees. (Gofran Shukair and Emir Muñoz)

(Pictures: Snaphappystudios, Ireland)

Finally a shout out to the organisers and volunteers. Events like this don’t magically happen by themselves so here is a look at just a few of the people behind the scenes who helped to make Startup Weekend Galway happen.

L-R Paul Killoran, Tara Dalrymple, John Breslin, Laura O’Connor, Ciara Deane, Michelle Clarke, Darren Kearney and Noëmie Martin-Pascual (Picture: Snaphappystudios, Ireland) Those not pictured are Michael Campion, Ciara Loughnane, Emily Mannix, Jane O’Connor, Rose Barrett, Tom Murphy, and Paul Mulhern.

If you are interested in hosting your own event in your locale check out the main Startup Weekend site to find out details on how to participate.

Disclaimer: John Breslin is the publisher of Technology Voice and I am a regular contributor. One of Technology Voice’s aims is to promote Irish technology and its associated businesses both large and small. Any bias you may detect in this article is of the flag-waving sort and we are quite happy to put our hands up to that fact.

Episode 14 – Dublin Web Summit & Entrepreneurship in Ireland

00:00 Intro Music “Alone But Not Lonely” by Stefan Ternemar
00:11 Intro by John Breslin @johnbreslin, Marie Boran @PixievVonDust, Jack Harty, Andrii Degeler @shlema, Tom Murphy @tom_murphy
00:01 Shout outs:
Irish Executive Mentoring Program
01:37 News Section:
01:45 Dublin Web Summit
03:17 Jay Bregman on Drones @jaybregman Ireland well poised to be a leader in Drone tech – discussion.
06:44 Driverless Cars – piloted cars discussion.
08:44 Amendments to Article 8 and Article 39 of 1968 Convention on Road Traffic Annex Page 9.
09:44 Audi Pilotless cars Andreas Reich – Head of Electronic Predevelopment discussion.
13:30 Wearable fitness devices are not used over the long term.
19:30 Walkmeter
20:25 Jawbone Up
20:32 Fitbit Flex
20:44 StepTracker
21:05 FuelBand
22:30 Propeller Health
23:00 Tech Finance:
Jack Harty discusses the National Policy Statement on Entrepreneurship in Ireland
30:33 #DigiWomen
50:07 Cool Tech:
50;15 Microsoft Band
56:11 Amazon Echo
57:25 i3 BMW Video
57:34 Onyx Walkie Talkie by OnBeep
58:57 Wrap Up
59:25 End of speech portion.
Outro music “Alone But Not Lonely” by Stefan Ternemar
60:00 End

Bill McDaniel, a Star in the Semantic Cosmos, Winks Out but Shines On

It is with deep regret that I learned this week of the passing of my good friend, colleague and StreamGlider co-founder, Bill McDaniel. Bill was, among many other things, a Semantic Web innovator and serial entrepreneur who co-founded a multitude of companies, shipped more than 70 products, and co-authored seven books and many more publications during his career.

I first met Bill McDaniel at the International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC), held in Galway in 2005. Bill was working as a senior research scientist at Adobe at that time. By chance, I happened to be seated across from Bill and another colleague of his from Adobe at the conference dinner, and I mentioned to them both that there were some job opportunities for researchers at DERI in NUI Galway that could be of interest. It turned out to be an opportune time for him to pursue a new challenge, as Bill joined DERI soon afterwards as a project executive in the eLearning Research Cluster.

Those who knew Bill through his Semantic Web work may be unaware of his long and varied career in information technology, with CEO, CTO and CRO roles in diverse areas such as electronic printing, wireless demand chain management, wireless retail loyalty, advanced 2D bar coding, AI-based military logistics, and of course semantically-powered mobile applications.

His career in IT stretches back nearly 40 years to 1975 when he worked as an operations programmer and manager with NCH Corp (at the time, saving the company $1M a year in order processing costs). He then joined Image Sciences in the 1980s as an R&D director, responsible for their $20M flagship product DocuMerge. From then into the 1990s he was CTO and co-owner of GenText, sold to Xenos for $12M in 1998.

Ever the entrepreneur, Bill established the first internet café in North Texas, as well as a digital recording studio. He worked with DCM Solutions, COPI and Optimus Corp in CTO roles in the early 2000s (having sold another of his own companies, GenX, to COPI in between times). He then joined Adobe as a senior scientist in 2004, where he worked in the Office of Technology and later led the Advanced Publishing Technology Group there, researching the semantic processing of documents and automatic metadata extraction. As part of his work, Bill was also the Adobe representative on the W3C Semantic Web Best Practices Group.

Bill moved to Galway in 2006, joining the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (now part of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics) at the National University of Ireland Galway. At DERI, he designed various semantic eLearning platforms and managed a large team creating semantic software. He went on in 2009 to form and lead the Applied Innovations Unit, set up to commercialise software at DERI. It was Bill along with Liam Ó Móráin at DERI who helped me acquire my first research grant through this unit. In 2010, he spun out three more companies: NKA-Decker (with Stefan Decker), SemantiFace, and SemantiStar.

Bill left DERI towards the end of 2010 and returned to Texas. We shared a common interest in science fiction: when Bill left Galway I gave him a signed Harlan Ellison book, and we often discussed the sci-fi greats and steampunk when we weren’t talking about the Semantic Web or StreamGlider in later years. (Bill also once wrote a treatise on ‘The Infiltration of Buffy into the Real World’, examining the dissemination of Buffy-speak into discursive spaces, as well as ‘Semantic Reasoning and the Buffy Paradigm’, looking at how semantic technologies could aid in making critical decisions in uncertain and unpredictable environments.)

In early 2011 along with Nova Spivack, we co-founded StreamGlider Inc., a real-time streaming newsreader app for the iPad. This was a real distributed project team, with members spread out across the US, Ireland and Russia. Bill was the CEO of StreamGlider, and we continued to work together on this project over the intervening years right up until his passing last week.

I last met Bill in hospital exactly one month ago today – on the 10th of October 2014 – when I was in Dallas for a meeting. Despite his increasingly difficult situation, he remained pragmatic and I would say even positive for the future, as we discussed various software and hardware integration problems and ideas for future research projects that he wanted to work on.

As a science fiction geek like Bill, I wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t been seated across the table from each other at that conference dinner nine years ago yesterday. In a parallel universe, perhaps another person would have sat in my place and told him about the job opportunities at DERI, or maybe something else would have drawn him to Galway (perhaps the fact that Buffy character Angel was born in the Claddagh!), and our paths would have crossed anyway.

All I know is that I am glad things worked out as they did, as many of our lives would have been much the poorer for not knowing him. As well as helping many of us in the past, his influence will continue to be felt long into our future.

You can also read Bill’s obituary and/or leave a message on the guestbook. Our thoughts go out to Bill’s wife Linda and son Ian, and all his family and friends.

Top Software Testing Conference Comes to Dublin: We Have Three One-Day Tickets!

Europe’s software testing community will descend on Ireland’s capital at the end of the month for what is Europe’s leading software testing conference and exhibition. The EuroSTAR Software Testing Conference 2014 will be held in the Convention Centre Dublin from 24th to 27th November, and we are delighted to be able to offer one-day tickets to three lucky winners of our competition.

Organised from their headquarters in Galway, the annual EuroSTAR Software Testing Conference has been running now for over 20 years, and is recognised as the premier event for software testing professionals who wish to both learn and network over the four days.

The first day consists entirely of full-day tutorials, followed by half-day tutorials during the first half of the second day, with the conference itself running from the middle of that second day until lunchtime on the fourth day. The afternoon of the final day consists of a set of active workshops.

Over 40 session tracks will be run during the conference in Dublin, including sessions on: Agile Testing; Test Strategy; Big Data; Mobile Testing; Security Testing; Test Automation; Test Design; and Test Management.

The conference will also feature keynote talks from some renowned world leaders in software testing: Andy Stanford-Clark from IBM Global Business Services; Rob Lambert from New Voice Media; Isabel Evans from Dolphin Computer Access; Julian Harty, an independent consultant; Daniel Maslyn from Sogeti; and Zeger van Hese from Z-Sharp.

The event includes a well-established interactive exhibition where companies can show off their wares and innovations. Companies at this expo include SmartBear, HP, Applause and Accenture. The exhibition will also include a “Test Lab” live testing environment where conference attendees can demonstrate their software testing prowess and learn from the experts.

All-in-all, the event is a must for IT companies who want to learn about the latest developments in the global software testing industry, as well as providing maximum opportunity to network with over 1,000 software testing professionals – from not just Europe but from all over the world – at the social events in Croke Park and Trinity College Dublin.

In conjunction with EuroSTAR, we are delighted to run a competition for three one-day tickets to the event. Simply click on this link to tweet out your entry to be in with a chance of winning: I want to win a ticket for the EuroSTAR Software Testing Conference 2014 with @technologyvoice @esconfs #esconfs.

For more details on the EuroSTAR Software Testing Conference’s programme for 2014, simply go to