Itera’s Lana Liubetskaya: “Use tech for good things”

This article was originally published on and has been republished here with permission.

Svetlana Liubetskaya is a tech professional with over 15 years of experience in computer science and artificial intelligence, and she has recently arrived in Ireland from Ukraine, looking to make a new start.

Our conversation starts with Lana telling me that her decision to move country was forced after her house in Ukraine was destroyed because of the war being waged by Russian forces.

Having spent a number of years in project management and software management, Lana currently works for Itera Research, a full-stack web and mobile development firm in Ukraine that is focused on helping businesses grow. In spite of the ongoing war, the company remains in operation, and amazingly they are focused on keeping their clients satisfied.

Life in Ukraine is continuing for many – somehow. Like her father and her mother. Lana tells me that she regularly phones them to find out how they are. She speaks about her father who is in his 70s; their phone conversations focus on how he is taking care of his garden. Now and again, the sound of rockets will interrupt their conversation, but her father tells her not to worry.

“For sure, I am worried about it a lot, and I cried a lot for sure, but it is what it is, and now let’s continue doing something good in this world.”

Now, Lana lives in Ballinrobe, County Mayo, with her son, and she is keen to make the most of a new beginning. Lana is enjoying life in the west of Ireland. Her son has already made so many friends, and she has had the opportunity to go surfing in the sea during her down time.

Lana with her son

In her professional world, tech has been something Lana has always been profoundly interested in, and having run a successful light business for a time, she returned to that first love.

“I came back to IT because it was my passion, actually since childhood, because I started coding when I was around 12 – just for fun with my cousins. We played games with random numbers and I created code for these games to show people pictures, just for fun. I didn’t play games a lot, but I liked it for creating something, and that’s why I came back to this industry,” Lana explains.

She also says that she has been particularly focused on the digital transformation of companies throughout her career – helping organisations to embrace technology.

“I personally participated in the digital transformation of a factory – their processes. I also did this in the governmental sector which is a big challenge because they are very slow, they don’t want to change everything. They like to sign papers – keeping pen and paper – and they would do this for the next 20 years if they could, but we found a way, though it was not easy!”

Indeed, Lana is focused on how the tech industry can solve problems, not only through start-ups but through communities keen to harness the power of tech for broader, inclusive missions.

In Ukraine, Lana explains that this pursuit is becoming increasingly popular, through the likes of Unit City [] which gathers start-ups together to drive innovation, create a comprehensive mission, and build an environment that helps the community, the city, and the surrounding areas to solve broader problems that affect lots of people.

Lana points to the notion that it is too easy for people to concentrate on just the tech, without realising that the tech is simply a means to and end.

“The technology is just a tool. If you know how to use it, that’s great, and you can spend less money, using the money [you saved] to do something else, to support the business, and grow the business. The most important thing is to solve the problem, the main problem of the business.”

And Lana is keen to tackle one big challenge throughout her career in tech – how to make sure that we harness its power for good and not for bad.

“It can be a medicine, or a treatment, or a system, and it can be a weapon…our human challenge is to find a way to use it for good things,” she says.

“I feel supported” – Yurko Turskiy, Advisable Developer

This article was originally published on and has been republished here with permission.

Yurko Turskiy, a frontend developer working for Advisable sat down with Trevor Murray to talk about leaving his home country of Ukraine, starting a new life with his girlfriend on the west coast of Ireland, and what it means to have arrived in Galway in the midst of trouble in his homeland…

For Yurko, who originally hails from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, it was important that he got a job working with an international team where he could speak English – and Advisable gave him that opportunity, having helped him submit a work permit visa that allows him to live and work in Ireland. Yurko has a background in graphic design but ultimately decided to get involved in development. He also explains that he “loves” working for Advisable, and is keen to contribute everything he can to develop a seamless and attractive website for their users.

Advisable is a business that aims to help companies complete diverse tasks and projects. Led by their CEO Peter O’ Malley, they essentially make it easier for their clients to discover the talent and community base needed to complete all sorts of workstreams. They also facilitate the process whereby freelancers can get their work noticed by the right people. 

Currently based in the PorterShed where he works as part of a collaborative team, Yurko is now living with his girlfriend Kate in Galway. Kate herself is a PhD Chemistry student who is now doing her studies remotely, continuing to deliver lectures and work in the early hours of the morning. Kate is also studying Python and hopes to become a data scientist in the near future.

While Yurko and Kate have done their utmost to keep up some semblance of a normal life, doing so has certainly been an unprecedented challenge, to say the very least. In fact, Yurko arrived in Galway just a few days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalated. It had always been his plan to move to another country – but Ireland was an unexpected eventual destination.

Yurko Turskiy, frontend developer with Advisable, pictured working in the PorterShed

“Eventually, I arrived here on the 13th of February, and 11 days later the full-scale war started with Russia. I’m saying full-scale war because we were in the war for eight years – that was a slow war, but now we have a full-scale war,” Yurko explained.

Uprooting to begin again has been a decision millions of people have made throughout history for a myriad of reasons, and Yurko now counts himself as one of those people. The opportunity provided by Advisable was a big enticement to come to Ireland for a new adventure, but the outbreak of a full war made Yurko’s relocation more problematic – and dramatic. Moving was not a decision Yurko took lightly either. Yurko’s girlfriend Kate was still in Ukraine at the time his work permit came through, moving briefly to Poland for temporary shelter because of the war. Initially, Kate’s plan was to move to the States, but they decided that being together in Ireland was the best idea. Yurko had to wait for his other half to join, and the wait for both was an anxious one.

“The whole situation was horrible. The feeling of war was in the air. It was very scary, to be honest.

“It was really stressful. For the first week, the muscles in my neck were in tension. I had headaches, though headaches are not [usually] my problem. I wasn’t able to eat. I had to force myself to eat once per day. I lost some weight even though I’m skinny. It was hard to smile and communicate with people – especially with Irish people because they are all the time friendly and they smile!”

Yurko had to force himself to learn how to adjust to leaving behind the life he had before and jump into the new one he is now creating. After weeks of intolerable anxiety and worry, he’s now socializing, smiling, and getting to know the people around Galway. Indeed, the safety net of his new home has helped and Yurko’s impression of Galway – and Ireland – is a positive one. 

“It’s an amazing place. I like it.

“For me it was a sign that the western world understands those risks. The whole world understands. That we got the full support of everyone, it was really amazing. On the first day of the full-scale invasion, I found news that Ireland waived visas, and it was really impressive that Ireland were aware of what they needed to do and how to support.

“I feel supported a lot,” he says, adding that Kate feels the same way owing to the many Ukrainians they see being helped in Ireland.

Back home, Yurko still has family, friends, and loved ones that he regularly stays in touch with, and although he has moved to Galway, he remains tethered to his homeland.

“I call them on Telegram.

“Most of my family are in Kyiv – my mom, my brother, my sister, my sister’s husband. My sister has three small kids. They decided to stay there because they were not sure if it was safe to go west.

“My grandma is living between Kyiv region and Zhytomyr region; it was really dangerous there, so I was really worrying about the situation with her, but she’s fine now.”

For Yurko, the current situation in Ukraine is something he is looking to alleviate as much as he can from his base in Ireland. He’s sending as much support and aid as he can to comfort those back home – and he’s constantly in touch with them when he’s not working. And while the present is unfortunately negative beyond much compare, Yurko tells me that he believes Ukraine will come through this dark time – and his people will return.

“When Ukraine wins, hopefully, I could come back to visit my family and friends,” he says.

After all, Yurko knows that there is so much more that he can achieve for his country from Ireland.

“I had a really big desire to go there in the first days. I was almost ready to drop everything and fly back, but my relatives and my family they told me not to do that, because I am completely useless there!

“My possibilities here are much bigger, and I can do much more being here than there.”

Speaking with Gordon Mullins, Mindful IVF Founder

This article was originally published on and has been republished here with permission.

“I’ve a saying about entrepreneurship – being an entrepreneur and being self-employed is like being a gladiator in a ring with a skipping rope…everyone else has swords and shields,” Mindful IVF’s CEO Gordon Mullins says.

Reflecting on winning the ‘Most Potential’ award at February’s Founder Weekend, he says:

“We had no electricity on the Friday because down in Kenmare, we had lost electricity all day. So, I had two candles to the side and I had a powerbank with my laptop.

“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, I have to admit.”

Mindful IVF took home the prize thanks to an impressive three-minute pitch by Gordon that captured the judging panel’s attention, but the far-from-ideal circumstances leading into the weekend didn’t deter Gordon in the slightest. 

What started out as an idea for an IVF tracking app ultimately transformed into the Mindful IVF app that many users know and love today. As their website explains, Mindful IVF provides an easy and user-friendly way to ‘leverage the science of meditation to improve fertility mental fitness, and help people achieve a healthy, happy IVF’. However, it took a couple of years before Gordon knew what the finalized idea and actual end-product were ultimately going to look and feel like. 

Currently, the Mindful IVF app has 4,500 monthly active users and approximately 1,000 users using the app on a daily basis. Great figures for a start-up, and the positive signs are continuing as they are also experiencing a healthy number of users signing up to use the app every day. However, it wasn’t always plain sailing.

For Gordon, very early on he realized that one of the most important aspects to help the product take off was to factor in that human element. The algorithms proved difficult to get a handle on, and the last thing Gordon wanted was to create a fertility tracking app that would provide misinformation and confuse users.

“So, one night, I said to the guys – we’re cutting this 90 percent, and we’re just going to do the meditation side of things. Everyone got really upset and were like ‘no, we spent 18 months doing this’. So, we cut it and within like three days we had taken it from what we had to the meditation side of things. We literally launched a couple of days later. Almost immediately we got traction.

“I was like, ‘I can’t believe we’re getting traction on this’. Within the first month, we had 200 users, within the second, third, and fourth month, we were up to 500 users.”

Since then, it has been a constant push to increase the number of users, and Gordon has continually deployed new ways to get traction and drive the involvement of new users.  Equally important in Mindful IVF’s journey has been Gordon’s desire to bring money in and understand the psychology of why people do – and don’t – spend money. 

Gordon can see the potential that Mindful IVF has, and he touches on the fact that the start-up has developed entirely through organic growth, – having never spent a penny on advertising at all. He explains one factor that has driven the company’s growth has been what he terms “superfans”.

“If you manage to keep people on your app for 21 days, you can create a superfan,” Gordon says.

“For me, a superfan is where you work with them on things that don’t scale – because we’re all focused on ‘scale, scale, scale’, but if you get one superfan, they can do an amazing job of promoting you in forums very well,” he explains.

He provides the example of providing quick and straightforward technical support through email and using those wins as ways to nudge customers towards promoting your brand, idea, or product. Gordon can already see the rewards of it through user engagement.

“I would average one email a week from someone that says that I am their second husband in bed at nighttime! The thing about meditation is that all we’re trying to do is provide people with 10 minutes of a break. They’re not going to become zen-balanced buddhists or monks up the side of a mountain; this is 10 minutes to pause, to breathe and to just say ‘this feels great’.”

Gordon has certainly put a great deal of work into his start-up, and there has been a lot of analysis and effort to understand users’ behaviour, but Gordon is aware that one of the best strategies for Mindful IVF is – “don’t try to convert the unconvertible”.  It seems to be working, too, because the operation has already experienced a great deal of growth, and things are starting to take off for them now, so what does the future hold for the app, and what milestones does Gordon as CEO have in his sights?

Gordon is aiming to have approximately 2,500 subscribers by December, which would put the company in a great position to apply for capital funding. He holds the likes of Hertility – founded by a number of Cork ladies – and Exceed as a standout example of why femtech/health tech has so much potential to deliver huge numbers – and MindfulIVF could be the next big success story in this space.

“There’s a huge future in this space,” Gordon says.

Exclusive Interview: Real Engineering’s Brian McManus

This article was originally published on and has been republished here with permission.

Brian McManus sat down with the PorterShed to discuss his journey from an engineer to a successful YouTuber with over 3.5 million subscribers on Real Engineering – and why he feels the content creation field is one that is only just taking off.

Brian’s Real Engineering channel launched in 2016 after Brian decided to leave his 9-5 engineering job. Since then, the channel has witnessed enormous success, been followed on by a sister channel, and Brian has also co-founded Nebula, the smart streaming service. Whereas once, Brian was being inspired by people making content that interested him, now he is the one leading the way, making in-depth, one-of-a-kind content that is consistently viewed millions of times around the world. 

When Brian started, there were very few outlets producing the type of content that Brian wanted to make and share with a large audience, which meant that he had to write his own playbook as he went. Today, there are hundreds of channels in the same category, but Brian is at the forefront of it all, producing, scripting, and editing detailed videos on space, energy, engineering, materials, and so much more.

Weaving intriguing narratives into each production, he’s been able to hook readers with captivating content. 

Staying on top of his game

“There’s an army of 15-year-olds that want our job, so you have to be continually improving your craft and making yours the best possible,” he says when asked how he plans to remain one step ahead of the competition.

“Because anyone can upload on YouTube and there’s a lot of talented people who now see the value in it, that it is a potential career option. You have to stay on top of your game.”

Indeed, Brian has been striving hard to help ensure that what he’s doing is cutting edge. Having invested a lot of time and energy into his craft and production values, he is certainly blazing a trail – especially when it comes to his video animation.

“Our animations are quite high-quality now. There were one or two news stations that took our footage from the Perseverance Rover and I assume they just thought it was NASA animation because they looked fairly similar to the quality that NASA were making,” Brian explains.

One animation even included an easter egg of Grogu (more widely – if incorrectly – known as Baby Yoda) getting abducted in the background. The perks of being a content creator mean that Brian gets to have fun with even this side of his job, underlining just how passionate he is about making material that is playful, engages his audience, and stands out from the crowd.

Irish economy

Indeed, while most of Brian’s audience is based in the United States, he does cultivate his content to be as appealing, as educational, as informative, and as inclusive of diverse regions as possible. This drive to create the best content is certainly a key factor behind his continued success – and a couple of recent studies, one from Google and another from Oxford, boldly underlines just how the likes of Brian and his fellow Irish YouTubers are having a directly positive impact on the economy. The former of these studies indicated that YouTube contributes to 1,600 Irish jobs, contributing €30m to GDP, but is there more to those figures?

“For what it’s worth, I don’t think those numbers are right – I think it’s much higher,” Brian explains.

“People like Jacksepticeye, alone, is making more than €30m a year, but he lives in Britain so I’m not sure exactly how they’re measuring all of that.”

It’s a testament to the growth of the Irish content creation scene, where entrepreneurially minded professionals are making viral content that appears in many guises. And does Brian believe that Irish Youtube content creators can reach even loftier heights?

“I think if more Irish people were willing to put themselves out there, we could be, because we’ve historically punched above their weight in cultural stuff – I don’t even know if [the Google study] is counting musicians like Hozier in their calculations, I’m not sure. I think Irish people have a stigma against looking for attention online, but there are ways to do it in non-cringey ways.”

Next chapter?

Brian’s Real Engineering channel was the first one he launched, and it gained traction pretty quickly, ensuring that Brian didn’t need to return to the 9-5 circuit. The next channel launched – Real Science – has become enormously popular, too, with over 747,000 subscribers already. Many of their videos, including their ‘The Insane Biology of’ series, garner over a million views apiece, and since Jun 2019, the channel has attracted almost 44 million views in total. Stephanie Sammann is the host, narrator, editor, and producer of this channel, and she has certainly made light work of attracting a dedicated audience.

And that’s not all. Plans are afoot to add another channel to the ‘Real’ family, as Brian explains.

“We are looking to start another channel in the next year or two, and it’s just a case of finding producers capable of handling it because scaling is difficult because there’s no college course for making YouTube videos. You kind of look towards the film industry; there are very few people who can do everything, like film, animate, write, and all that – and we need all of that. Every single one of our shows is handled by someone who can do everything, so that’s difficult – the writing, in particular, is difficult. 

“We’re just figuring out what the next thing is going to be.”

Improvements and developments are an everyday part of the Real Engineering and Real Science stories, and the same can be said of the smart streaming service, Nebula, that Brian helped co-found together with dozens of fellow creators and Dave Wiskus. Already, the platform has 435,000 paying subscribers.

And while lots of positive change and growth is a positive for Brian and his audience, one thing that remains a constant is the draw of Galway. Although based in Texas – which is quickly becoming the new playground for tech experts to experiment and have fun – for Brian, there is always time for the City of Tribes, especially at the PorterShed.

“For me, the community here has always been really nice, even though I’m pretty quiet and keep to myself for the most part. I have a co-working space in Austin, Texas, and the co-working space there is completely different; very segregated, no-one really talks to each other, whereas [the PorterShed] offers a nice way to come in and separate my work and life,” he says.

Undoubtedly, Brian is the definition of an entrepreneur. Having struck out on his own, he has now built a legacy that continues to grow today, and he has made new strides with Nebula, too. A testament to what can be achieved when you reach for your goals, Brian has also been diligent in his efforts to succeed by creating high-quality content that filled a gap in the market – and the real results speak for themselves.