Ireland’s Talented 38 Technology Women 2014

It’s that time of year again where we bring you our third annual list of 38 talented Irish and Ireland-based technology women, all of whom are driving the tech and/or startup scenes in Ireland, the US, and around the world. (See also our lists from 2013 and 2012.) Let’s get started!

Alana James

DoctoralNet

LinkedIn | Twitter @DoctoralNet

E. Alana James is the founder and CEO of DoctoralNet, a multimedia delivery system for PhD students that personalises the learning experience so that they can complete their research and dissertations. She was previously a consulting professor at the Colorado Technical University, and holds a Doctorate in Education (web-based technologies) from the Teachers College of Columbia University. Based in Cork, Alana is also the author of three books from Sage Publishing on action research and successful dissertation writing, and has received five faculty excellence awards from JIU.

Amber Brown

Upfront Analytics

LinkedIn

Amber Brown is the founder and product/strategy lead at Upfront Analytics, a company that delivers timely market intelligence by mining responses from specially designed game play in mobile apps. She has worked as a senior research scientist at Walt Disney, running a large research group for the company that leveraged technology to positively affect consumer behaviour (and the bottom line). Upfront Analytics is based in Dublin, and Amber also holds qualifications in Music and Maths, Organisational Behaviour and Development, City and Regional Planning, and Experimental Psychology.

Andreea Wade

Brandalism

LinkedIn | Twitter @brandalisms

Andreea Wade is the founder of Brandalism, a startup strategy and product development agency, and also the founder of AskATon, a series of female-friendly events focused on entrepreneurship. She lectured on digital product management at Digital Skills Academy, mentored for NDRC, Wayra and New Frontiers, organised major concerts and festivals, and founded a national music magazine. Andreea is an organiser of the Dublin Startup Weekend, co-organiser of the Creative Mornings Dublin breakfast series, and a member of the Women in Technology and Science (WITS) executive team.

Ann O’Dea

Silicon Republic

LinkedIn | Twitter @AnnODeaSR

Ann O’Dea is the CEO, co-founder and editor-at-large of Silicon Republic, Ireland’s top online tech publisher, and creator of their Women Invent campaign that promotes the role of women in STEM. With interests in leadership, management and entrepreneurship, she was co-founder and director of Business and Leadership Ltd. and editor-in-chief of the Irish Director magazine they published. Ann is a member of the Institute of Directors in Ireland as well as a fellow of the Marketing Institute of Ireland, and holds a both a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Arts from University College Dublin.

Anna Scally

KPMG

LinkedIn | Twitter @annascally_kpmg

Anna Scally is a tax partner and head of KPMG’s Technology, Media and Telecoms practice, and she also leads their Centre of Excellence for Emerging Technology Companies and Innovative Startups. She has worked for KPMG since 2000, and has served as a member of the Innovation Taskforce (and its implementation group) and on the board for the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland. Anna has spoken and participated at many tech events including F.ounders, the Web Summit and START San Francisco, and has a BComm in Commerce and Accounting from University College Dublin.

Brenda O’Connell

Twitter

LinkedIn | Twitter @BrendaOConnell

Brenda O’Connell is the director and head of business development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at microblogging giant Twitter, where she has worked since the beginning of 2014. Previously, she was the director of partnerships and head of business development for Jolicloud, an OS oriented at users of cloud-based services, and was the director of music product dev at Orange. Brenda has also brought the Coder Dojo movement to Paris, as founder of the group there, and has both a Masters and Bachelors in European Studies from the College of Europe and UL respectively.

Carolan Lennon

Eircom

LinkedIn

Carolan Lennon is the managing director of eircom’s wholesale segment, in charge of the division that provides and supports other telecommunications operators with access to the eircom network. She was previously the chief commercial officer for eircom’s consumer and small business segment for nearly three years, and has worked at Vodafone as consumer director and marketing director. Carolan is on the boards of the Irish Management Institute and Idiro Tech, and has an MBA from Trinity College Dublin as well as a degree in Information Technology from University College Dublin.

Caroline Dowling

Flextronics

LinkedIn

Caroline Dowling is the president of integrated network solutions at Flextronics, a large electronics design, fabrication, assembly, and test company with more than 200,000 employees worldwide. She has worked in various president-level roles at Flextronics since 2000, including their NOVO, retail and services divisions, and was previously a vice president at Dii Group (acquired by Flextronics). Based in San Jose and Cork, Caroline is also co-inventor and patent holder for a supply chain management system that aggregates global enterprise data and displays KPIs in a dashboard manager.

Catherine Egan

FanFootage

LinkedIn | Twitter @teabags18

Catherine Egan is head of operations at FanFootage, a crowdsourced concert footage system that replaces fan-recorded audio with high-quality audio to create better fan videos of live music concerts. She was previously PR and social media manager for entertainment.ie, and has worked at Magnum Events, Daft, the St. Patrick’s Festival, the Theatre Forum, and the National Campaign for the Arts. Catherine holds both a Masters in Public Relations from the Dublin Institute of Technology and a BA in English, Political Science and Sociology from the National University of Ireland Galway.

Deirdre O’Leary

IDME

LinkedIn | Twitter @IDMEwristbands

Deirdre O’Leary is founder of IDME, an ID wristband for kids who are separated from their parents/guardians, which recently won a Nimbus Centre prize to connect IDME with the Internet of Things. She has received a US business development award from the Cork Foundation and a bursary from the Cork Chamber of Commerce for IDME, and also appeared as a contestant on RTÉ’s Dragons’ Den. Based at Cork Institute of Technology’s Rubicon Centre, Deirdre has over 20 years’ experience working in the sales and recruitment industry, and studied Mathematics and Computer Science at CIT.

Elaine Coughlan

Atlantic Bridge Capital

LinkedIn | Twitter @coughlanelaine

Elaine Coughlan is co-founder and general partner at Atlantic Bridge Capital, a $450M growth equity fund focused on technology investments with offices in Dublin, London, Silicon Valley and China. She was previously co-founder of GloNav, sold to NXP for $110 million, CFO for Parthus, VP of finance and group controller for Iona Technologies, and a senior audit manager for Ernst and Young. Elaine is on the board of Enterprise Ireland, is a director of and investor in FieldAware, Swrve and Sophia, and has qualifications in Corporate Governance, Company Direction, and Accountancy.

Elaine Reynolds

Simteractive

LinkedIn | Twitter @Elaine_Reynolds

Elaine Reynolds is CEO and founder of Simteractive, a developer of casual, free-to-play games for tablets and smartphones that allow players to design, create and manage their own simulated worlds. She was previously a game designer at Lionhead Studios, working on titles such as Fable: The Journey, Fable 3, Milo and Kate, and also developed games for Traveller’s Tales and Star Cave Studios. A past participant on Enterprise Ireland’s iGAP programme, Elaine has an MSc in Computer Games Tech from Abertay Dundee, a HDip in Computer Science from UCD, and a BA in Psychology from TCD.

Fidelma Healy

Gilt

LinkedIn

Fidelma Healy is the COO at the international headquarters of Gilt Groupe in Dublin, one of the leading online fashion and travel retailers in the US which was established just seven years ago. She has worked for a variety of financial, software and ICT firms in director roles, including Postbank Ireland, Standard Life, Cognotec, Novell Ireland Software, Friends First, and System Dynamics. Fidelma also holds both a HDip in Education and a BA in Psychology and Irish from University College Dublin, but retrained in computing and HR after discovering a scarcity in teaching positions.

Fidelma Russo

EMC

LinkedIn | Twitter @FidelmaRusso

Fidelma Russo is a senior vice president in the Enterprise Storage Division at EMC, enabling businesses and service providers to transform their operations and deliver IT as a service through the cloud. She has held a series of senior leadership roles, including COO of Sepaton, SVP and general manager for network storage and software at Sun Microsystems, and before that again she was a VP at EMC. A board member of the US National Center for Women and Information Technology, Fidelma holds a Masters in Computer Science from Boston University and a BE in Electrical Engineering from UCC.

Fionnuala Healy

Gotcha Ninjas

LinkedIn | Twitter @fionnualahealy

Fionnuala Healy is the co-founder and CTO of Gotcha Ninjas, a cloud-based social learning rewards platform that encourages positive behaviour, motivates students, and engages parents. She is also the managing director of Garavogue Consulting, a boutique IT and telecoms consultancy, and has worked in technical roles for Capgemini, Hutchinson Whampoa, Ericsson and Sun. She is a Privacy by Design Ambassador for the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, a member of the IEEE, IET and ICS, and holds an MBA, Masters in IT and BE in Telecommunications.

Jenny Brennan

Virtual Office Worx

LinkedIn | Twitter @VOfficeworx

Jenny Brennan is the founder of Virtual Office Worx, providing social media marketing management, bookkeeping, and virtual assistant services to many companies since its inception in 2011. She worked as a social media manager with Team BDS, was event coordinator for the Irish Executives Summit, and held positions at companies including Canada Life, Finavera Renewables and Eventive. Jenny is a past winner of the JCI Mayo outstanding young businessperson award and of the Network Mayo Business Woman of the Year, and she also holds a BA in Tourism and Business from the DBS.

Jill Holtz

Clear Bookings

LinkedIn | Twitter @jill_holtz

Jill Holtz is the founder of ClearBookings, an online private-labeled event ticketing service, and of Mykidstime.ie, an online site for parents in Ireland where they can find and book local kids events. She has consulted and lectured in strategy at the National University of Ireland Galway, and held positions as an analyst with Metis Solutions, Quadstone, RBS Advanta, Oscar Faber TPA and British Gas. She received the Diageo / IMI Sir Charles Harvey Award for outstanding academic achievement while doing her MBA at NUI Galway, and holds an MSc in Operational Research and a BSc in Mathematics.

Julie Cullen

Neelie Kroes Young Advisor

LinkedIn | Twitter @cullej29

Julie Cullen is one of EU Vice President Neelie Kroes’ young advisors, where 24 young people from around Europe were selected to advise the Commissioner on all things digital and technology-related. She also serves as the Irish ambassador for EU Code Week, and is an English, German and European Studies teacher in Drogheda where she is also regularly involved in CoderDojo Drogheda events. Julie holds an MSc in Education/Elearning and Management from Dublin City University, and a BA in English, German and Philosophy from University College Dublin (Erasmus at the University of Trier).

Kathleen McMahon

SoundHound

LinkedIn | Twitter @KatieMc___

Kathleen McMahon is vice president and general manager at SoundHound, a music search and discovery service that allows users to hum, sing or play a track, and that now has over 200 million users. Prior to SoundHound, she was VP for business development at Shazam, was founder and CEO of Westport, worked for Japan Communications Inc., and also for Hibernia Capital Partners in Dublin. She is on the board of directors for wireless charging company uBeam and the board of trustees for Lawrenceville School, and has a BA in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia.

Kathryn O’Donoghue

Google

LinkedIn

Kathryn O’Donoghue is the director of ads policy operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa with Google, where she has previously worked as a director for insights and senior manager for ads. She has held positions including CIO for GE Money South West Europe, having worked at GE from 1997 to 2008, and as a senior manager in IT consulting at both Ernst and Young and PWC. Kathryn was listed by the Women Executive’s Network (WXN) as one of Ireland’s top 25 most powerful women in 2013, and she holds a BA in Economics and Sociology from Trinity College Dublin.

Lynsey Duncan

Freelance

LinkedIn | Twitter @Lynsey_Duncan

Lynsey Duncan is a senior user experience (UX) and service design consultant based in Dublin, whose specialities include workshop facilitation, design research, usability and service design. She worked as lead UX designer at web services company iQ Content for almost four years, and prior to that held usability analyst and insights designer positions at Orange and live|work respectively. Also a speaker at IxDA Dublin events, Lynsey holds an MSc in Business Development and Innovation from the University of Ulster, and a BSc in Innovative Product Design from the University of Dundee.

Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill

Accretive Solutions

LinkedIn

Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill is senior vice president for national business outsourcing at Accretive Solutions, where she works with venture-backed startup companies in a consulting CFO capacity. She has consulted with Asana, Airtime, Big Switch Networks, Causes, Path, Quora and Facebook, and is a board member for the Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network and the Cleantech Open accelerator. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mairtini holds a Fellow Chartered Certified Accountant qualification from the ACCA and graduated from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Business Studies.

Margaret Molloy

Siegel+Gale

LinkedIn | Twitter @MargaretMolloy

Margaret Molloy is CMO for Siegel+Gale, a leading strategic branding firm, where she heads up global marketing, sales and business development using a combination of analytical and creative skills. She has been listed by Forbes as one of the top five most influential CMOs on Twitter and as a must-follow marketing mind, and has been recognised by Irish America magazine in their top 100. An advisory board member for Sightsavers International and a board member for the IIBN, Margaret also holds an MBA from Harvard and a BA in Business and Spanish from the University of Ulster.

Niamh Bushnell

Dublin Commissioner for Startups

LinkedIn | Twitter @NiamhBushnell

Niamh Bushnell is the Dublin Commissioner for Startups, a new position which has been privately funded though the Ryan Family and Dublin City University’s Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs. She recently worked as an entrepreneur in residence at Talent Tech Labs in Manhattan, is CEO and co-founder of the IDIRUS mentor-matching solution, and was also co-founder of TechResources.us. An angel investor at the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, as well as a member of the strategic advisory board for Rising Tide Capital, Niamh also has an International Business Degree from UL.

Niamh Shaw

To Space

LinkedIn | Twitter @niamhiepoos

Niamh Shaw is an artist in residence at Cork Institute of Technology and Blackrock Castle Observatory where she is focused on making a new lecture performance piece about space for SFI and ESERO. She regularly contributes to popular science and technology-related topics on national media, and has spoken at TEDxUCD, the Space Expo in TCD, and the Festival of Curiosity with Dara Ó Briain. A member of Engineers Ireland and one of their STEPS/Smart Futures volunteers, Niamh holds a PhD in Food Science, and a Masters and BE in Biosystems Engineering from University College Dublin.

Rosheen McGuckian

NTR

LinkedIn

Rosheen McGuckian is the chief executive officer of NTR, a leading investor in renewable wind/solar energy internationally, that began life by developing and operating road infrastructure in Ireland. She has worked as group director at NTR, as CEO of Greenstar, as CEO of GE Money Ireland, as director of communications for GE Consumer Finance Europe, and as head of strategic change at the ESB. Rosheen received a PhD in change management from Dublin City University in 2000, holds a Masters from the same university, and graduated with a Bachelors in Science from Trinity College Dublin.

Sadhbh McCarthy

Centre for Irish and European Security

LinkedIn

Sadhbh McCarthy is director of the Centre for Irish and European Security, which carries out EU- and private-funded research into the implications and societal impact of security policy and technology. She is a strong advocate of women in technology, was chairperson of Women in Technology and Science (WITS), and has also been involved in the European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS). Sadhbh worked as a consultant in the public services and infrastructure domain for five years, also worked for IBM as a project manager for four years, and is a graduate of University College Dublin.

Sandra Maguire

EduBills

LinkedIn | Twitter @SandraMaguire

Sandra Maguire is the managing director of EduBills, an online payment and ordering system that allows parents to pay school bills (directly into school’s accounts) and order school supplies securely. She is founder and organiser of CoderDojo Dun Laoghaire, and worked as an administrator with NCB Stockbrokers, Davy Stockbrokers, US Trust (on Wall Street), and Ulster Bank Dublin Trust Company. Sandra was a participant in DIT’s Hothouse, where she also completed a Postgraduate Diploma in New Business Development, and she has a qualification in cyberpsychology from Dun Laoghaire IADT.

Sarah Bourke

Skytek

Twitter @Skytek11

Sarah Bourke is the chief executive of Skytek, creator of several software applications that assist astronauts in controlling and managing emergency situations on board the International Space Station. In 2014, Skytek announced that it was launching a new weather division to monitor solar storms, and has also developed tools for aircraft maintenance, security and emergency response industries. Sarah founded Skytek with CTO Paul Kiernan in 1997, and supported by Enterprise Ireland they developed technology that was part of an ISS payload in the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-114 mission.

Shannon Duffy

Facebook

LinkedIn | Twitter @sullytoduffy

Shannon Duffy is the head of marketing for direct response products at Facebook, where her specialities include marketing strategy, corporate communications, lead generation and nurturing. She was previously VP for global marketing at Salesforce.com, having worked as director of marketing at Jigsaw (later Data.com, bought by Salesforce.com) and as director of marketing at SourceForge. Shannon was recognised as a Salesforce.com Marketing MVP in the fourth quarter of the 2013 FY, has a Salesforce.com PR certification, and holds a BA in Communications from Boston College.

Sinead O’Sullivan

Georgia Tech

LinkedIn | Twitter @SineadOS1

Sinead O’Sullivan is an aerospace engineer at the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory of Georgia Institute of Technology, where she is also a project manager at NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center. She also serves as co-lead on Space Technologies for Disaster Management for the Space Generation Advisory Council, and has worked at Danske Bank in Ireland and at Morgan Stanley in New York. Sinead studied internet access provision and environmental monitoring via microsatellites at the International Space University, and graduated in Aerospace Engineering from Queen’s University Belfast.

Susan Gallagher

One Fab Day

LinkedIn | Twitter @susangallagher

Susan Gallagher is co-founder of One Fab Day, a leading wedding media brand in Ireland, and is an entrepreneur and web technologies expert with ten years of multinational and startup experience. She previously spent five years as a software engineer with IBM, developing cutting-edge web tools for their Rational, WebSphere and Lotus Workspace brands, with a strong focus on user experience. Susan received the highest academic achievement award for her BA in Design and Interior Architecture from Griffith College Dublin, and has a first class honours BSc in Computer Science from DCU.

Susan McKenna-Lawlor

Space Technology Ireland

LinkedIn

Susan McKenna-Lawlor is founder and managing director of Space Technology Ireland Ltd., an Irish-based provider of instrumentation systems for space experiments by the ESA, NASA and Russia. She developed instruments to monitor the Martian solar wind on the ESA’s Mars Express mission, and is also an emeritus professor in the Department of Experimental Physics at Maynooth University. She received an honorary Doctor of Science (DSc) degree for her significant contribution to astrophysics from the University of Ulster, and was also elected to the International Academy of Astronautics.

Sylvia Leatham

Engineers Ireland

LinkedIn | Twitter @SylviaLeatham

Sylvia Leatham is coordinator of STEPS at Engineers Ireland, a non-profit programme that promotes science, engineering technology and maths (STEM) careers to primary and second-level students. A co-founder of popular Irish science podcast Scibernia, she was previously editor and director of operations at ElectricNews.net, and was also a content editor and writer for Intrade and Rondomondo. An avid fan of online and social media as well as a science journalist with extensive writing, editing and marketing expertise, Sylvia also holds an honours BA degree from University College Dublin.

Tara Dalrymple

Mission Possible

LinkedIn | Twitter @Missionpossirl

Tara Dalrymple is the founder of Mission Possible, a reward and recognition SAAS platform which works with companies to improve and enhance their health and wellness offering to employees. She is also founder of Busy Lizzie, providing pay-as-you-go secretarial services, virtual personal assistants, appointment management and digital marketing to small businesses with lesser resources. She has worked with Marks and Spencer, Lepus, Financial Dynamics, Dorling Kindersley and Staniforth PR, and holds a BA in Human Geography and Business IT from the University of Gloucestershire.

Triona O’Connell

Science is Delicious

LinkedIn | Twitter @triploidtree

Triona O’Connell is a PhD researcher in bioanalytical methodology and technology at Dublin City University, and also writes the Science is Delicious blog (where science meets cooking and baking). She is an active member of the TOG hackerspace in Dublin (teaching LaTeX, squishy circuits, and more) and the Irish Linux User Group (acting as chairperson in 2013), and is a contributor to Scibernia. Triona has a MSc in Biomedical Diagnostics from DCU and a BSc in Biomedical Science from DIT and CIT, and interned during her courses at Arrow Generics, Medipure and Cork University Hospital.

Vanessa Liston

CiviQ

LinkedIn | Twitter @listonv

Vanessa Liston is co-founder of CiviQ, a startup focusing on providing opinion knowledge and conflict management tools to local governments, the public sector, social organisations and industry. She has worked in a variety of research and development roles at Trinity College Dublin, General Electric Global eXchange Services, Cambridge Technology Partners, Accenture, and GOAL Ireland. With interests in democratic theory, the Social Web and emerging technologies for enabling innovations in political systems, Vanessa has a PhD, MSc (Multimedia Systems) and BSc (Music) from TCD.

Vicky Twomey-Lee

EventGeekie

LinkedIn | Twitter @whykay

Vicky Twomey-Lee is the founder of EventGeekie, advocating community spirit and diversity in tech by running workshops and events, and providing event management services for tech groups. She is also co-organiser of PyCon Ireland, PyLadies Dublin, Python Ireland, the GameCraft Foundation, Coding Grace, and is a board member of the EuroPython Society and Python Software Foundation. She has worked as a researcher at the Science Gallery, an engineer at Propylon, a senior engineer at Sun Microsystems, and has an MSc in Multimedia from DCU and a BSc in Computer Systems from UL.

You can also view our previous lists of Ireland’s Talented 38 Technology Women from 2013 and 2012.

Review: Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

Steve Blank and Eric Ries have done great work in providing engineers with a way to test their product ideas in the real world with real people. They have provided processes and systems with built in, all-important, feedback loops.

They made widespread the concept of the minimum viable product (MVP.) They formulated a process where a product in its most basic workable is shown to the world at large and note is made of the response. These notes can either or endorse or refute the product creator’s work and vision and suitable action is taken. The the product loops back to the MVP state again and the process. It is a methodical and useful way to ensure that a business creates a product that people want.

While the Lean Startup movement has provided a core set of practical tools to the startup there still remains a plethora of questions that also need answering. The most important being, what constitutes a good idea for a product or service that is worth pursuing for profit?

A good place to start looking, if not for a direct answer but an intelligent way to think about the subject, is in Peter Thiel’s newly published book written in conjunction with Blake Masters, “Zero to One.” It refers to the idea that, “Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.”

He goes on to say a page or so later, “…by creating new technologies, we rewrite the plan of the world.” And then declares in the next paragraph, “Zero to One is about how to build companies to create new things.”

While a lot of Steve Blank’s work is formulaic, and usefully so, Peter Thiel prefers to think about business from the aspect of first principles. The future that we create is grounded in the work of today. To make that future a peaceful and prosperous one we need new technology which in turn requires new approaches. Peter Thiel’s aim is to provide an, “..exercise in thinking. Because that is what a startup has to do: question received ideas and rethink business from scratch.”

That is an ambitious goal in itself. Thinking is hard and thinking originally is very hard. In fact we only have to look around us to see that thinking is so hard that most people avoid it at all costs.

To set the scene he describes the factors that led to the Dot-Com bubble of the late nineties. As CEO of PayPal during that period he had a ringside seat as the drama unfolded. He says that there were four major lessons that entrepreneurs seem to have derived from the experiences of those dramatic times.

1.) Make incremental advances
2.) Stay lean and flexible
3.) Improve on competition
4.) Focus on product, not sales

All of these ideas seem highly sensible and lie at the heart of many a startup’s strategy for going to market. However, Peter Thiel overturns these assumptions. He replaces these four general points of business strategy with some of his own somewhat contrarian ones:

1.) It is better to risk boldness than triviality
2.) A bad plan is better than no plan
3.) Competitive markets destroy profits
4.) Sales matters just as much as product.

In rejecting the lessons learned from history, the same lessons that have built in Silicon Valley one of the most powerful centres of wealth creation the world has ever known, he puts forward a very coherent, consistent and challenging alternative idea. He is adamant that, “To build the next generation of companies, we must abandon the dogmas created after the crash.”

So what is wrong with most of the companies being started or built today? Lack of differentiation caused by lack of original thought is his answer.

Commodity businesses have always had it hard. You set a price and a competitor with the same or similar product can undercut you. If your product is not differentiated enough then you have no choice but to undercut them in turn. It soon becomes a race to the bottom where profits are foregone for the sake of market share. The deciding factors in such a scenario are deeper pockets and greater business efficiency. The result is invariably a mediocre, at best, product.

Traditionally, economists regard the ideal market place is at its most efficient when governed by the forces of perfect competition. Peter Thiel points out that this is a fallacy and that a company that operates in a market that is in perfect competition is a market where no one makes any money at all.

The solution, therefore, is not to copy anyone else but to think for yourself and have faith in the originality of your own ideas. Use your uniqueness to your advantage. Create your own market and become a monopoly.

Peter Thiel’s assertion that the only way to make real money is to have a monopoly of a given market is a challenging idea. We have laws against monopolies and no customer likes to have only one choice of a service provider. However, if you want to make money being in effect the dominant provider of a given service or product is the only tenable and financially worthwhile way of operating.

If you take his point that real change and real growth comes from original thinking made manifest in new technologies then that original thinking constitutes the creation of a natural monopoly. At least for a certain amount of time. Which brings us to the idea of durability.

In what may be an interesting explanation as to why companies like Amazon are barely profitable The authors write that, “For a company to be valuable it must grow and endure.” And that while growth is easy to measure, durability isn’t. They are not fans of, “measurement mania,” and they believe that management time and energy should be focused on building a monopoly by wise use of brand, scale, network effect and technology.

To do this a company must start small and “dominate a large share of its market.” A company then grows by sequencing its growth to grabbing bigger shares of larger markets. Contrast this line of thinking to the current belief in startup circles that a that the ability to scale quickly is somehow a precursor for success.

They go on to be quite specific in that, “The perfect market for a startup is a small group of particular people concentrated together and served by few or no competitors.” The huge advantage is that once you have found the business whose customers meets that criteria then you have the opportunity to create your own future, right or wrong. You can avoid being taken down by competitors undercutting you or being dictated to by the bigger players stomping around in the sandpit you share with them.

A little after halfway through the book we come to, “‘Thiel’s Law’; a startup messed up at its foundation cannot be fixed.” As a founder of
Founder’s Fund
, Peter Thiel has had the opportunity to review many startups from an investment perspective. When he studies the teams, (he is not an advocate of sole proprietorship because it limits what kind of company you can build,) he looks for how well the founders know each other and how well they work together. He places great value on how easily complementary skills and personalities mesh.

He then goes on to discuss the legal and financial aspects of a startup to which an entrepreneur should pay special attention. For example, “Recruiting is a core competency for any company, It should never be outsourced.” A particularly valuable rule that he had at PayPal was that he made every employee responsible for just one thing. It had two benefits. It made it easy for him to evaluate an employees performance and that, “…defining roles reduced conflict.”

The authors then go on to argue that humans and computers are separate categories and are not interchangeable. They ask us to change the question surrounding this problem, how can we use computers to replace people with the much more practical question, “How can computers help humans solve hard problems?”

This is a book that is all about questions. But the answers are only something that you, as an individual, can provide. The questions are a tool to give you access to thinking more clearly about a problem as opposed to providing the certitude of a right or wrong answer.

Peter and Blake have posed seven questions that every business must answer. I suggest that the opportunity to understand the thinking behind the formulation of these questions and the opportunity to answer them yourself is reason enough for you purchase the book.

1.) The Engineering Question
2.) The Timing Question
3.) The Monopoly Question
4.) The People Question
5.) The Distribution Question
6.) The Durability Question
7.) The Secret Question

There is much more to read and learn in this book. It is fairly short but unlike most business books it is dense with useful ways to think about business and startups in particular. Staying true to his promise at the beginning, he uses questions to help us access his ideas and in doing so having us think for ourselves.

I would recommend this book to anyone thinking of going out on their own. The questions that the authors pose are challenging but they are designed to elicit answers that are uniquely yours. They help provide a path that leads to the building of uniquely differentiated products and understandings of what constitutes a successful enterprise.

Hacking Hotel Automation Systems and Targeting Country Infrastructures at Black Hat 2014

In the second of a two-part report on the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, Alan Byrne gives us an overview of some more of the interesting talks he attended during the event.

Safeguarding Against Cyberattacks by Dan Geer

Dan Geer’s keynote was both highly praised and critiqued over the two days of the conference.

In this talk, Geer introduced some proposals to safeguard the future of the Internet as a safe place. For example, he suggested a system for mandatory reporting of security breaches, similar to the mandatory reporting of accidents by airlines and aircraft manufacturers. This could lead to greater sharing of information on cyberattacks and a joined-up effort to increase resilience to these attacks.

Geer made a total of nine proposals to the cybersecurity industry and I highly recommend watching the video recording of his keynote speech or reading the transcript.

How to Control Every Room at a Luxury Hotel

A Black Hat researcher recently stayed at the St. Regis Shenzhen, a gorgeous luxury hotel occupying the top 28 floors of a 100-story skyscraper. This hotel offers guests a unique feature: a room remote control in the form of an iPad 2. The iPad 2 controls the lighting, temperature, music, do not disturb light, TV, even the blinds and other miscellaneous room actions.

However, the deployment of the home automation protocol contained several fatal flaws that allow an arbitrary attacker to control virtually every appliance in the hotel remotely. This Black Hat researcher discovered these flaws and as a result, was able to create the ultimate remote control: controlling every room in this hotel! The attacker does not even need to be at the hotel – he or she could be in another country.

This talk provided a detailed discussion of the anatomy of the attack: an explanation of reverse engineering of the KNX/IP home automation protocol; a description of the deployment flaws; blueprints on how to create an iPad trojan to send commands outside the hotel; and, of course, solutions to avoid all these pitfalls in future deployments.

The attack has important implications for large-scale home automation applications, as several hotels around the world are beginning to offer this room amenity. The severity of these types of security flaws cannot be understated – from creating a chaotic atmosphere to raising room temperatures at night with fatal consequences – hoteliers need to understand the risks and liabilities they are exposed to by faulty security deployments.

Governments as Malware Authors

Mikko Hypponen’s talk titled “Governments as Malware Authors” revealed the extent to which governments across the globe are investing in malware for espionage, law enforcement and military uses. In the earliest days of the World Wide Web, governments initially saw no use in it. But since people have started to use the Internet extensively to share data, seek opinions, etc., and as people started to rely on the Internet, governments took notice and now they actively try to control it.

The resources these governments have are vast, and we know that their malware authors are highly skilled. Hypponen pointed to current job advertisements on US webpages seeking engineers for “exploit detection in mobile devices”. It appears that governments are using malware in a similar way to the nuclear arms race during the Cold War era. According to Hypponen, governments such as the USA and Russia are stockpiling software vulnerabilities and writing malware that can target specific physical infrastructures in certain countries.

There are companies that are quite openly selling malware and spying tools to unstable governments such as those in Egypt and Syria. The difficulty in fighting this malware is part of the reason that people need to start implementing security into all tech products from the earliest stage in their design and development, not as an afterthought.

The presentation slides are available here.

My Conclusions

Attending the Black Hat conference was a real eye-opener for me – the take home lesson was that software security needs to be at the core of the software design process, and must be an integral part of the software development lifecycle.

Since the Edward Snowden revelations and numerous large security breaches at companies such as Target in the USA, board members, policy makers and educators are finally starting to realise the importance of cybersecurity. It is no longer “an IT issue” that is left to a small, under-resourced team in a large organisation: it has become one of the most talked-about issues in the boardroom and is finally under the spotlight.

Companies cannot afford the bad publicity and loss of trust that a security breach brings, and because attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated and more common, there has been a huge surge in demand for cybersecurity professionals and proper policies to ensure security is “baked in” to tech products and services from the very beginning.

However, as it stands in Ireland, there is no undergraduate course in any of the universities offering a degree in computer science or engineering with cybersecurity. In this respect, we are behind the times. The recruiters I spoke to at Black Hat were crying out for skilled professionals with cybersecurity knowledge or experience. They ranged from traditional tech companies such as IBM and Intel, to consultancy firms such as Accuvant, to apparel manufacturers such as Nike – all eager to hire. In Ireland, some of the relevant companies are TrendMicro, Trustev and McAfee in Cork, and FireEye in Dublin.

With every device we use now having Internet access and full autonomy, we need to have security at the core of the development lifecycle. At one talk which I was unable to attend, a Black Hat researcher showed how smart cars are simply rolling PCs waiting to be hacked. With London approving the use of driverless cars from January 2015, this is a huge cause for concern.

The importance of security for SMEs/SMBs and not just the big multinationals was also obvious at Black Hat with a number of exploits demonstrated on Point of Sale terminals, and attacks which leveraged unsecured networks as part of a larger botnet to target other victims. SMEs should be taking basic measures such as encrypting disks, managing user accounts and using strong passwords. It is important for SMEs to make regular backups and keep software up to date (upgrade from your Windows XP!).

In Ireland, there is insufficient emphasis placed on security in the small business sector. Every business must realise that eventually they may have a security breach, if they aren’t already compromised. The important thing is knowing if they are compromised… For how long have they been compromised? By whom? And what can they do about it next?

The first part of this story was published last week.

Touchstore – App to help Pharmacists from Limerick Company

In his latest book “To Sell is Human” Daniel Pink claims that, jointly in the United States, the educational and medical sectors (he refers to them as ed-med) have created more “new jobs in the last decade than all the other sectors combined.” Reflecting this trend in Ireland is Limerick based Touchstore.

It started off in 2000 by giving retail chemists reports on what their best selling items were as well as other valuable items of information. By 2006 the service was in over 200 pharmacies in Ireland. In 2010, through the purchase of another company which then became known as Touchstore Rx, they expanded into the dispensary management area.

According to Marketing Manager, John Cassidy, Touchstore is one of the fastest growing companies in its product area in Ireland and they are hoping to enhance and expand their activities with the launch of their new iPad app which is currently in development.

However a working prototype of the app, which has been designed and built by Touchstore’s own team of software engineers, will be launched at the IPU National Pharmacy Conference which takes place this weekend, commencing on 26 April.

The app is designed for the pharmacy owner to keep track of the activities of their store and its day to day operations — e.g., prescriptions going out, plus sales and analysis of other key factors.

“You should have an app if there is the possibility of having an app.” John says, “Every tech company needs an app to complement their offering. It’s something investors look for and it is an age where we are all using smartphones and we need to take advantage of that.

“We want to have more communication with our customers, make it more engaging. Listen to our customers and to give potential customers a good insight into what we are doing and what we are about.”

John is keenly aware of the value that the judicious use of technology can bring to a business. For almost two years he worked as a marketing communications manager in Silicon Valley — the current centre of the universe for technological innovation.

His position required that John had to get both his company and its message known to a wider audience. One activity he found that was of key importance was networking.

John points out that,“Networking is a journey.” And there are a number of stages when thinking of engaging with new people at an event. “There is pre-networking where you find out who is going to be there and you target who is going to be beneficial to your company. When you get there, you make a point of meeting them.”

“What I learned was that the most important part of networking was post-networking — getting in contact, meeting up with them again. At an event people want to mingle. They don’t necessarily want to focus in on one person. Post-event networking was the most important part.”

John also found that, in almost all aspects, Irish people are welcomed in the United States. On his first St. Patrick’s Day in San Jose, he remembers looking out the window seeing Hispanic guys seemingly having taken the day off work and wearing all green. “Everyone is Irish for that day.” 



John argues that beyond the widespread celebration of the day, St. Patrick’s Day is a massive marketing vehicle for Ireland. It has to the potential to be Ireland’s “biggest profit-making machine”, not only in terms of the event itself and but as a billboard for attracting more investment to Ireland.

He believes that most companies in Ireland should have international ambition and he hopes and expects that Touchstore will expand beyond the shores of the Island and become a competitor on the global stage. Obviously, progress has to be made one step at a time but as he says, “You have to dream big.”

Nest Thermostat Hacking and Google Glass Password Spying at Black Hat 2014


Image from Wikimedia Commons.

This month saw the Black Hat security conference return to Las Vegas for its 17th instalment. Alan Byrne was on hand to give us an overview of some of the most interesting talks he attended during the two-day event. Part one of his report is below.

Nest, a Smart Spy in Your Home

The Nest is a smart thermostat device manufactured by Google [following their $3B acquisition of the Nest company in January 2014]. The programmable thermostat learns what temperatures you like at certain times of the day, and automatically turns on and off your heating to your subconscious satisfaction. It is connected to your home Wi-Fi network allowing you to configure your heating system over the Internet. However, researchers at Black Hat 2014 demonstrated that, should a malicious person get USB access to the Nest device, it can be turned into a much more sinister, spying tool.

When the Nest’s physical button is held down for 10 seconds, the device reboots. But for a split second, it is available to receive new instructions on how to boot. The team created a custom tool that, when directly connected to the Nest, reworked the Nest’s software giving them total, remote control. Although physical access is required for this attack, it is not difficult to think of a number of scenarios in which this could occur. Once a Nest has been compromised, it could, for example, “phone home” to let the attacker know what times you are out of the house at work. Or, when you are away on an extended vacation.

Furthermore, the researchers explained how they could use the Nest as a network “sniffer” to tunnel all the user’s internet traffic through the Nest. This means that the attacker could read a user’s login details, credit card numbers, etc. Even without any exploit, the researchers noted the excessive data logging and communication that the Nest does, raising concerns over user privacy. Does a thermostat really need to contact Google (an advertising company) that much? Nest users are unable to opt out of this data collection.

The full paper is available here.

The State of Incident Response by Bruce Schneier

Bruce Schneier gave a very interesting talk in which he outlined some current trends in cybersecurity, theories from economics and psychology that affect cybersecurity, and he explained a systems theory from the US Air Force that can be used for effective incident response.

Bruce highlighted that with the rise of cloud computing, users have less and less control over their data. It is the vendor that has all the control: this includes devices and operating systems we use to access our data which are locked down, for example iOS.

He warned that cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated. The skill of attackers is getting higher, and their focus is getting stronger.

Finally, Bruce noted the increased cyber-investment from governments and what this might spell for the future of the cybersecurity industry. Will businesses be forced by law to implement cybersecurity measures? Will we see government-managed defence in the future to secure the likes of water reservoirs and electricity power plants? Bruce foretold that the days of letting the industry take care of incident response may soon come to an end as government requirements for data safety are coming.

My Google Glass Can See Your Passwords

Almost every “smart” consumer device today includes a camera – from smart watches to smart TVs, glasses, phones and MP3 players. Researchers at Black Hat demonstrated how these cameras can spy on people tapping and inputting credentials such as passcodes or passwords into phone and tablet keyboards.

By tracking fingertip movements, it was possible to identify the touched points on the victim’s screen and map its location to a reference image of the soft keyboard for that phone. The researchers have had a 90% success rate, up to 9 feet from a victim with this method.

What can be done about this? Well, Apple’s fingerprint technology makes this exploit redundant. But, for the majority of device users out there, combatting this attack will mean installing a keyboard app that does not use a fixed “qwerty” layout, but varies they location of the keys on every unlock attempt.

The full paper is available here.

We will publish part two of Alan Byrne’s report from the Black Hat 2014 conference next week.

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to Facebook anymore!


Image inspired by Peter Finch in Network.

There have been a number of things about Facebook’s treatment of its users that have irked me over the years, from its cavalier attitude towards privacy to its attempts to “use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising”. However, the latest debacle over its experimental manipulation of what a person sees in order to determine the effect on a user’s behaviour has pushed me to consider my future as a Facebook user, or rather, my future as a non-user of Facebook.

I can only imagine the furore that would have ensued amongst users if I had decided to control the posts being displayed on the popular After Hours forum on boards.ie in my admin heyday by applying sentiment analysis or emotion detection algorithms and then hiding or promoting some posts to certain users, while measuring the resulting changes in subsequent posts. As an academic, I am sure I could have produced an interesting and possibly highly-cited research paper on this, but I could not know in advance that my tinkering wouldn’t have a drastic effect on the real-world behaviours of individual users exposed to the more negative posts.

(My colleagues at DERI, now Insight at NUI Galway, have created a system to examine the health of online communities, providing observations at a macro and micro level. Along with tools like the Text Analysis API from Irish-based AYLIEN, these insights into clusters, user roles, topics and content could be used to help administrators direct the future development of a community, but in a transparent manner and not after the fact).

While I couldn’t say that I am a power user of Facebook (most of my content is propagated from Twitter), I have made a significant investment in the platform, both in terms of time and money. I bought my username from a namesake, have run various targeted ad campaigns, and I’ve acquired a diverse 600-plus-strong network made up of a mixture of family, friends, colleagues and peers. I’ve been a member since the end of June 2007, so breaking up after seven years is hard to do… I also know a bunch of people who work at Facebook, both here in Ireland and in the US – they’re nice people, not evil corporate drones. However, it doesn’t change the fact that at times the company has displayed really poor judgement, and it has alienated a lot of people this week to the point of leaving the website.

Quitting from Facebook isn’t straightforward. There are two options: delete (permanently) and deactivate (temporarily, for as long as you want). You can find the deactivate option fairly easily through the Settings menu, but they deliberately make it difficult for users to actually go through with it, either by applying psychological pressure around supposed soon-to-be abandoned friends or because of a user’s administrative ties to created pages or applications.

For me, they failed in the former, because by showing me photos of a bunch of influential users in my network with captions like “X will miss you”, they probably chose the people least likely to worry about my insignificant ramblings. Will Pat Phelan, Patrick Collison or Donncha Ó Caoimh really miss (or even remember) my posts about Lego or how Galway is the best place to be for tech? No, Facebook, they probably won’t: they’re too busy rolling out fantastic products of their own to millions of users.

They tripped me up somewhat in the latter. I was the only admin for three out of my 10-15 Facebook pages, so I had to manually add some backup admins for those before I could deactivate. When it came to the nine or ten Facebook applications I had created, it told me that I had to add a new owner to each or delete the application before I deactivated. To be honest, I suspected that many of them were unused but I bailed out at this step as I didn’t have the willpower (or perhaps the courage) to delete them.

Before I started the deactivation process, I realised that the primary reason that I wanted to hold on to my Facebook account at all was so that I could administer various official or community pages when necessary. Deactivating my account would make it difficult to do this any more, without creating a dummy account in its place. So what was the alternative?

I decided that I could still choose to not make any new posts, to turn off access to future posts, to not allow others to post to my timeline, and to restrict new friend requests so that my account would be all but dormant. I also turned off the Facebook Platform, which disables third-party apps (like Twitter integration) and stops them from auto-posting content or doing other stuff to your account. You can also turn off access to all historical posts, but the system warns you that access can only be turned back on again on a post-by-post basis (a bit time consuming if you change your mind!). Facebook only lets you go so far with some of the privacy or access limits: some can be changed to “Only Me”, but many are at the “Friends of Friends” or “Friends” level.

It isn’t easy to port your content to another platform: Facebook does have a facility to download your content, which is straightforward and emails you a link to download a HTML dump that can be easily browsed offline. It doesn’t conform to data portability or interoperability standards, but a ScraperWiki script or something similar could achieve that pretty quickly. You can also add a trusted contact who can assist you with access to your account if you lose it, but you need to add at least three people, and I could only think of one.

On the plus side, by keeping my account active but dormant, I can still use my profile image and cover photo to make a statement. “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to Facebook anymore!”, “Follow me instead at http://twitter.com/johnbreslin”, or “Go use Google+/Diaspora*/[insert platform name here] instead…”

I haven’t done that just yet, but I have effectively disconnected from Facebook, removed the app from my home screen, changed my password to something that I can’t easily remember, and logged out all of my active Facebook sessions on other devices. How long will I last, and how long do you think you could last? Do you want to make tomorrow, July 4th, your “Independence from Facebook Day”?

You can listen to us discuss the Facebook news feed experiment in the latest Technology Voice Show.

Innovating China

China is moving from an export processing model, in which foreign companies have played a key role in the past 30 years or so, particularly in the high technology areas, to a new growth model more focused on domestic consumption. However, despite the significant growth in the numbers of patents in China in recent years, it would be premature to say that global R&D power will migrate to China “probably within a decade”.

In making the transition from being a key assembly location in the global production networks of major foreign technology companies, in which companies such as Foxconn play a major role as contract manufacturers, to becoming a major global hub for R&D activity, China faces considerable challenges.

There is little doubt that the overall profile of manufacturing activity in China has been moving up the value chain in recent years as foreign companies have begun to focus more on the local market, and to some extent Chinese companies have improved their technological and management capabilities. But the extent of upgrading among local companies to date has been relatively modest, as foreign companies seek to maintain their control over intellectual property and innovation.

While speaking about a major shift in R&D activity toward China in the next 10 years or so, it is important to acknowledge that the record to date suggests that even though the volume of activity in China may increase because of the attractions of the local market, the ownership of the intellectual property and much of the innovation associated with its creation is very likely to remain in the control of foreign technology companies, and the most significant parts of the R&D activity may very well not be located in China.

It should also be acknowledged that a small number of Chinese companies such as Huawei have been hugely successful in challenging foreign competitors in recent years, but to some extent their success has been based on establishing R&D activity outside China. R&D, together with innovation, is global in nature and depends on exploiting key knowledge hubs in different countries.

Despite the significant growth in foreign R&D investment in China in recent years, much of this investment remains quite tentative, and there is very little evidence to date of significant innovations taking place within China, despite the huge efforts and investment by the Chinese government. A major issue for foreign companies in China is gaining access to the growing local market, and to some extent these companies are prepared to locate some R&D activity in China and to try to fulfill what the Chinese government expects from them under its “indigenous innovation policy”, which insists that innovation must take place in China in order to gain access to the market.

While many companies appreciate that there must be some level of give and take in their relationship with the Chinese state, there is a widespread fear of the loss of intellectual property to local competitors in the Chinese market. This factor is likely to constrain most companies from locating their most significant R&D activity in China.

The significant growth in the numbers of patents may be impressive on one level, but detailed analysis of patent quality shows that the majority of patents being developed in China are quite basic, involving incremental innovation, with most of the high-quality patents being developed by foreign companies.

Apart from the policy obstacles which foreign multinationals may face in gaining access to the local market, many companies are prepared to make significant investment in R&D in China partly because it makes sense to locate R&D close to where manufacturing is being carried on. In some niche areas such as clean energy, where there is considerable scope for growth in the Chinese market, it will also make sense to locate R&D within that market. But these investments must be balanced with the challenge to retain control over intellectual property. Companies will adopt different strategies to accomplish this, but as long as there is a serious threat to the loss of intellectual property, the likelihood of China becoming a major hub for global R&D will be constrained.

Galway is the San Francisco to Dublin’s Silicon Valley


Galway Tech Map. Click here for a larger 1280×720 version. Background is from OpenStreetMap and some logos are from Wikipedia.

Barry O’Sullivan, CEO of Altocloud and investor on RTÉ’s Dragon’s Den, remarked to me recently that if Dublin is becoming the new Silicon Valley of Ireland and Europe, then Galway is our San Francisco. At Technology Voice, we’ve long held the opinion that Galway is a mini San Francisco, and recently the Financial Times’ FDi Magazine ranked Galway as the top microcity for investment in Europe.

Galway is becoming a global tech hub with a focus around the ICT (software/hardware/Internet) and biotech segments. Tech startups like OnePageCRM, Ex Ordo, Element Wave, Duolog, Netfort, BuilderEngine, Pocket Anatomy (winner of The Next Web top startup award), Altocloud, SpamTitan, RealSim, Tribal City Interactive and Alison.com are in close proximity to larger companies like DigitalOptics Corporation, Cisco, HP, Avaya, SAP, IBM and EA.

At Technology Voice, and inspired by Dublin Tech Town, we’re delighted to bring you the first version of our Galway Tech Map that shows at least part of the vibrant tech ecosystem in Galway. And if your organisation isn’t on the map, you can download a copy and create your own version as we have released it under the Creative Commons By Attribution Share Alike license. [Available in SVG, PNG, PDF, PDF A4, EPS and AI formats.]

Galway is also home to a range of biotech and medtech companies including Algae Health, Anecto, Apica, Boston Scientific, Cappella Medical, Creganna, Crospon, Full Health Medical, Lake Region Medical, Medtronic, neoSurgical, Neuravi, Novate Medical and Veryan Medical. (We are hoping that someone will take our map and make a new version highlighting the impressive biomedical/health/devices sector in Galway.)

Galway is a small city; there are at last count around 76,000 residents in the urban area. It is small enough that you can get your mind around the whole place but big enough to be interesting. The National University of Ireland Galway is located right in the middle of town, and the 19,000 students, faculty, and staff comprise about 25 percent of the population of Galway. Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology accounts for an additional 7,500 students in the city.

The presence of several national research labs, including the Insight Centre for Data Analytics (formerly DERI) and the Irish Marine Institute, adds nicely to the number of PhDs and researchers around.

Essentially, Galway is a college town, full of smart, independently-minded and intellectually-curious people.

Galway, Ireland-Based Pocket Anatomy wins Boost Startup Competition at TNW Conference


All photos by Julia de Boer for The Next Web.

Pocket Anatomy has won the “Boost” startup competition at The Next Web (TNW) Conference in Amsterdam. The event is one of Europe’s top tech gatherings and was attended by over 2,500 influential web, technology and business leaders from all over the world. Nearly a hundred startups were selected for Boost, out of which 10 (including Pocket Anatomy) were shortlisted to pitch on stage yesterday.

Pocket Anatomy are the creators of a suite of medical education software applications that are used by medical students, healthcare professionals, and the general public for visualising the complexities of the human body. The software has been downloaded over a quarter of a million times on iOS devices, and has been used by students and staff in dozens of educational institutions in the US. The company is based in the Ignite Business Innovation Centre at NUI Galway.

“We would like to thank everyone for all their support; we are thrilled!” said Mark Campbell, CEO and Founder of Pocket Anatomy after winning the award which includes €15,000 media value from sponsor WeTransfer. “We also got great feedback from the panel after we pitched on stage.”

Pocket Anatomy currently has three applications in the iOS App Store: Pocket Anatomy, Pocket Brain and Pocket Heart. The company also soft-launched a Mac OS version of Pocket Anatomy at yesterday’s TNW Conference.

The other finalists in the Boost startup competition included: Usertalk (a voice support button for embedding in websites); Crate (a zero-admin scalable data store); Via (a building and energy management system); Discovered (a customer-artisan marketplace aimed at selling products from emerging markets); UseClark (a digital document summarisation tool); 30MHz (a notification and warning service for monitoring systems); Agrivi (an intelligent farm management service targeting global food issues); Docido (a tool to search one’s cloud-based services and storage); and Cubic.fm (a music discovery tool that connects to a range of services).

According to Jon Russell from The Next Web, “We whittled down the 99 startups selected for the Boost event at TNW Europe 2014 to 10 earlier this month, and each of the companies took to the stage to pitch our judging committee. Pocket Anatomy, an Ireland-based startup that developed an app that allows patients to understand more about healthcare, won the competition.”

TNW is one of the most influential technology publishers online, and is ranked in the top 10 tech news sites by Techmeme. The news site was originally launched as a spin-off from the events division of TNW. TNW Conference in Europe is one of three yearly events, the other two being held in São Paulo and New York later this year.

Pocket Anatomy also recently became just the third European company to join the prestigious New York-based StartUp Health Academy. The founders of health and wellness portfolio companies selected for the StartUp Health Academy are supported over a three-year period through a series of intensive workshops and mentoring sessions to help them grow into sustainable businesses and sell into the US healthcare market.

Win a Trip to Pitch to VCs in San Francisco – StartApp Competition

Tech startups face numerous challenges on the journey from a great idea to a great product. While Irish startups face the same obstacles as comparable entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley there is no question that the lack of direct access to venture capital can, with all other things being equal, be a project killer. Bootstrapping can only take an idea so far.

Best estimates suggest that $8-10bn has become available every year for the last few years for Silicon Valley VCs to invest in the tech industry. But getting access to the deal-makers is exceedingly difficult. San Francisco can be very hard on the pocket and there is only so much couch-surfing that anyone can stand.

Phil McNamara, VP of Sales North America for Voxpro, understands the situation very well having, on occasion, provided his own sofa for Irish entrepreneurs who were passing through attempting to seek funding.

Out of his experience and observations he had an idea that was twofold in nature: Bring investors to Ireland to meet the talent that exists here. Then take the most promising projects back to San Francisco for meetings with VCs and other investors.

So the StartApp Competition came into being.

On June 3 in Belfast and June 4 in Dublin, investors from the West Coast will advise, mentor and judge contestants from all across the Irish ICT sector. The prize for the winners in each city is:

Being flown to San Francisco
Placed in “one of the best” startup incubators in the city
Being paired up with mentors and advisors
Zipcar membership for mobility
Having meetings setup with Silicon Valley VCs

Despite having App in the title anyone from the Irish ICT sector can enter. Also, it is not necessary to already have a startup in operation. You may just be thinking about the possibility.

According to Suzanne Jordan, one of the event organisers, “Even if it is an idea. It doesn’t have to be something that is up and running and they need the next leg up. It can be an idea they have that they can pitch to this team of judges. And if the judges like this idea then they will surround them with the required help and advice.”

There is an upper limit in that the value of a startup should be under or around €650,000.

The final date for entries is May 12.

Suzanne says the response has been very good so far, “I am absolutely blown away be the talent in Ireland and I really think it should be promoted because Ireland has come through a very difficult time and you’re only led to believe that the talent has left the country. Absolutely not, the talent is in the country and this is a competition to say, “We want to keep the jobs in Ireland. We want to get the investors into Ireland and look what we can do.”

“Ireland is very well located to Europe. It’s not a huge sell to get these guys to come over. Ireland has a lot to offer. We have a lot of very well-educated ICT people in the country. There’s great skill here.

“We may be a small island but we are a very strong one.”

More details: StartApp Competition