Galway City Innovation District Hires Innovation Community Manager for the PorterShed

Photo: Niamh Costello, General Manager GTC and Director GCID, Mary Rodgers, Innovation Community Manager at the PorterShed, and Maurice O’Gorman, Chairman GCID

The Galway City Innovation District, a non-profit company whose aim is to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation in downtown Galway, has announced the appointment of Mary Rodgers as Innovation Community Manager in the soon-to-be-opened PorterShed innovation hub, backed by AIB and located behind the Ceannt Train and Bus Station in Galway City.

Ms Rodgers brings years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive manager and advisor to this new role, supporting startups and entrepreneurs in the PorterShed. She is the Founder of Stateside Solutions, an entity that helps Irish companies to enter the US market. Prior to Stateside, Ms Rodgers was a Vice President at Credit Suisse in New York, with whom she worked for nine years and was promoted several times during that period. Before that again, she worked as a Paralegal for entertainment law firm Gold, Farrell & Marks in her first role in corporate America.

Ms Rodgers is a keen networker in both Ireland and the US. She is a business mentor for Líonra and LEO Galway, as well as a member of Going for Growth, the International Irish Business Network, New York Digital Irish, and global professional women’s network Ellevate. Ms Rodgers has previously been named three times by Tatler Magazine as one of their Top Women in Business, and twice by Irish Voice as one of their Most Influential Women in Business. She is a graduate of GMIT and NUI Galway.

“I am thrilled to join Galway Innovation District as Innovation Community Manager. I have followed closely the evolution of Galway as a major technology hub, and now with the framework of the Galway City Innovation District in place, I am confident we can attract dynamic businesses to Galway. My role will be to ensure that all members of our community are supported and to connect and accelerate their growth potential on both a national and international stage.”

“We are delighted to have someone of Mary’s calibre joining us in this key role at the PorterShed, leveraging her passion for entrepreneurship and advising/networking with entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses,” said Maurice O’Gorman, Chairman of the Galway City Innovation District. “In her role as Innovation Community Manager, Mary will act as the right-hand person to the board of the Galway City Innovation District, helping to create a culture focused on supporting members of the community and helping them to make the connections they need to grow their businesses.”

The PorterShed innovation hub, backed by AIB, is the ultimate mashup of entrepreneurs, startups, growth companies, educational institutions, the Galway Chamber, state agencies and local government. Its goal is to create an innovation ecosystem, one that creates a synergistic relationship between people, companies and place, that facilitates idea generation, open learning, collaboration and accelerates commercialisation.

The PorterShed allows entrepreneurs to use collaborative spaces, mingle with other entrepreneurs and have efficient access to everything from insights into the latest technology to legal and financial advice. Rather than endure long commutes and daily congestion, those working in the PorterShed can choose to work and live in places that are connected, walkable, bike-able and connected by technology.

The PorterShed is located in the heart of Galway City, just off Eyre Square, adjacent to the CIE train station and close to the Bus Éireann terminus.  The site is within easy walking distance of the main commercial and tourist areas of the City. It is well serviced by the road network, with access from Eyre Square and Lough Atalia. The PorterShed will not only house young and growing companies; it will accelerate their growth by combining collaboration, with access to a wide variety of support, national and international networks and events.

The ethos of the Galway City Innovation District is driven by the need to combine Galway’s economic assets (companies, education institutions and organisations), its physical assets (public and privately-owned spaces designed and organised to stimulate new and higher levels of connectivity, collaboration, and innovation), and its networking assets (the relationships between individuals, companies, organisations and institutions that have the potential to generate, sharpen, and/or accelerate the advancement of ideas).

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.”