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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She opted for the Nissan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congregating in Cong

Reflecting on Congregation14 which took place last week in Cong on the Galway/Mayo border in the west of Ireland it was clear that social media can no long be considered a passing fad but now needs to be treated as an integral part of any public activity whether it be commercial or institutional.

Interestingly, social media’s amorphous ability to adapt to the various aspects and facets that are constituted in the different needs of different organisations preclude anybody from calling themselves a social media expert. There is just too much going on over too many time frames for any one person to claim omniscience.

Hence the need for something like Congregation 14, now in its second year and organised by Eoin Kennedy, @eoink. Admittance is by submission of a blog post which is later collated with other participant’s blogs into an e-book. The submitted blog can also constitute the thoughts of a talk that a participant may use to give a talk or they may talk on another subject entirely. You can, of course, choose not to give a talk but even the most taciturn amongst will find themselves engaged in the subsequent conversation.

Attendees gathered at the Crowe’s Nest and were assigned their huddles for the day. These huddles were small groups of four to eight people of which at least two people were to give a small talk.

The huddles take place in various locales around Cong which since it was Cong means there was a very short walk between any two places. My first huddle took place at Pat Cohan’s.

Eoin Mulvilhill, @eoinmulvihill, spoke about how Twitter, and social media in general, was both under-used and misused in Ireland’s last presidential election. Social media is all about engagement through conversation but all of the contestants had used it as if it was an old-fashioned uni-directional broadcasting service.

Roseanne Smith, @enormous then gave an informative talk about pimping up WordPress through the use of plug-ins. Technology Voice runs on Drupal but I have an old legacy online CV site that runs on WordPress that I rarely ever look at. Her talk gave me a couple of ideas which in turn has given me the impetus to go back and brush the cobwebs off the site and see what I can do with the presentation.

After a light lunch came the afternoon sessions. My new huddle location was Danagher’s hotel. Bernard Goldbach, @topgold, gave us a detailed rundown on how he handles his social media firehose. There is no standard management technique as tools have to address needs. While some of what he does is not applicable to my circumstances other parts were.

One unexpected insight from the day was a distinct sense that that the fortunes of the Irish economy might have turned. I heard a lot about how institutions such as An Garda Siochåna, @GardaTraffic, and other large companies interacted with the public. But I also heard about how companies, particularly those in the construction sector, were thinking of using social media to find qualified people for possible upcoming positions. It seems social media, particularly Linkedin, is invaluable in establishing who the right workers are, where they are and what they are doing.

Even having spent an entire day at Cong14 I had not been to all the huddle locations nor had I met all my fellow attendees. Still, there is always next year. If I do go I will definitely have a talk prepared. Like so much else the more you put into these things the more you (and hopefully others) get out of it.

Episode 14 – Dublin Web Summit & Entrepreneurship in Ireland

00:00 Intro Music “Alone But Not Lonely” by Stefan Ternemar
00:11 Intro by John Breslin @johnbreslin, Marie Boran @PixievVonDust, Jack Harty, Andrii Degeler @shlema, Tom Murphy @tom_murphy
00:01 Shout outs:
Irish Executive Mentoring Program http://www.iemp.org
FlirtFM http://flirtfm.ie
01:37 News Section:
01:45 Dublin Web Summit http://websummit.net
03:17 Jay Bregman on Drones @jaybregman Ireland well poised to be a leader in Drone tech – discussion.
06:44 Driverless Cars – piloted cars discussion.
08:44 Amendments to Article 8 and Article 39 of 1968 Convention on Road Traffic http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trans/doc/2014/wp1/ECE-TRANS-WP1-145e.pdf Annex Page 9.
09:44 Audi Pilotless cars Andreas Reich – Head of Electronic Predevelopment http://blog.websummit.net/audi-web-summit-2014/ discussion.
13:30 Wearable fitness devices are not used over the long term. http://fortune.com/2014/05/08/fitness-trackers-are-on-the-outs-but-wearables-are-not/
19:30 Walkmeter https://abvio.com/walkmeter/
20:25 Jawbone Up https://jawbone.com/up
20:32 Fitbit Flex http://www.fitbit.com/flex
20:44 StepTracker https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/steptracker-fitness-pedometer/id714439468?mt=8
21:05 FuelBand http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/nikeplus-fuelband
22:30 Propeller Health http://propellerhealth.com/solutions/
23:00 Tech Finance:
Jack Harty discusses the National Policy Statement on Entrepreneurship in Ireland http://www.enterprise.gov.ie/en/Publications/National%20Policy%20Statement%20on%20Entrepreneurship%20in%20Ireland.pdf
30:33 #DigiWomen http://digi-women.com
50:07 Cool Tech:
50;15 Microsoft Band http://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-band/en-us
56:11 Amazon Echo http://www.amazon.com/oc/echo/ref_=ods_dp_ae
57:25 i3 BMW Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwi10ZCXRrA&spfreload=10&channel=technologyvoice
57:34 Onyx Walkie Talkie by OnBeep http://www.onbeep.com/order/onyx
58:57 Wrap Up
59:25 End of speech portion.
Outro music “Alone But Not Lonely” by Stefan Ternemar
60:00 End

Video Review of the BMW i3 Electric Car

You can read more about John Breslin’s experiences of using an electric car on a daily basis at the Technology Voice website:

The Six Questions I’ve Been Most Frequently Asked About ecars and the BMW i3 http://tch.vc/1DtJrzh

From the 19th Century Electric Car to an Internet of Electric Vehicles http://tch.vc/1xPy6GC

The main video was shot entirely on an iPhone 5s in and around Galway City, Ireland.

John Breslin is a senior lecturer and researcher at NUI Galway, and co-founder of boards.ie, Ireland’s largest online community. @johnbreslin

Podcast – Episode 13

00:00 Music Intro: “Alone But Not Lonely” by Stefan Ternemar
00:12 Introductions by John Breslin @johnbreslin, Tom Murphy @tom_murphy, Jack Harty Linkedin ie.linkedin.com/pub/jack-harty/15/92b/1b9, Fergal Gallagher @gallagherfergal, Tara Dalrymple @missionpossirl
01:05 Acknowldgements
01:10 Clearbookings.com Events booking service.
01:20 http://www.ispeakenglish.me I Speak English: Graphic Design Solutions
02:00 Flirtfm.ie The kind providers of our studio time.
02:17 Technology News:
Internet of Things to Grow to $8BN – http://www.businessinsider.com/the-internet-of-everything-2014-slide-deck-sai-2014-2?op=1
07:40 Alibaba – World’s Biggest IPO http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/22/us-alibaba-ipo-value-idUSKCN0HH0A620140922
13:25 Apple’s Irish Tax Dealings http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/30/us-apple-ireland-tax-idUSKCN0HP0QT20140930
18:04 Trend of VCs Having Design Directors http://www.fastcodesign.com/3029639/innovation-by-design/why-vc-firms-are-snapping-up-designers
21:47 Peter Thiel Review of “Zero to One”http://zerotoonebook.com
32:15 Tara Dalrymple – Mission Possible http://www.mission-possible.busylizzie.ie/MissionPossible/
35:14 Tech Finance with Jack Harty – Apple and All Their Money http://biz.yahoo.com/e/131030/aapl10-k.html
38:38 Interview: Fergal Gallagher talks to Stephen Mullan VP Emerging Business, East Coast, US, IDA Ireland https://www.linkedin.com/pub/stephen-mullan/29/43b/6b6
44:32 Cool Tech:
Nixie – Wearable Camera http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/nixie-wearable-flies-wrist
46:22 Nymie – Heart Rate ID http://www.digitaltrends.com/wearables/bionym-wearable-uses-heart-rate-for-id/
47:43 Outro
48:22 End Speech
52:05 End Music: “Alone But Not Lonely” by Stefan Ternemar

Episode 12 – Online with Taxis, Bricks and Mortar

00:00 Start
00:10 Intro Show Topics
00:48 Intro Participants John Breslin @johnbreslin, Fergal Gallagher @gallagherfergal, Andrii Degeler @schlema, Jack Harty ie.linkedin.com/pub/jack-harty/15/92b/1b9
01:13 Acknowledgement FlirtFM
01:40 News Section
02:00 Internet of Things Gartner Hype Cycle http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819918
04:03 Nest https://nest.com
04:42 SmartThings http://www.smartthings.com
05:05 Acquired by Samsung http://www.forbes.com/sites/aarontilley/2014/08/14/samsung-smartthings-acquisition-2/
08:40 The “Hill” from Gartner http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819918
11:30 colaboratory https://colaboratory.jupyter.org/welcome/
12:27 Aylien http://aylien.com
16:48 NVivo http://www.qsrinternational.com
18:33 Uber https://www.uber.com versus Lyft https://www.lyft.com
25:32 Snapchat valued at $10BN http://techcrunch.com/2014/08/26/snapchat-raising-a-new-round-at-a-10b-valuation/
29:28 Amazon buys Twitch http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/recent-amazon-acquisition-twitch-boasts-audience-rivaling-primetime-television/
30:00 Twitch TV http://www.twitch.tv
32:40 comsCore report http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Presentations-and-Whitepapers/2014/The-US-Mobile-App-Report
37:48 Intro for Jack Harty
38:40 Tech Finance
39-20 Amazon SEC reports http://finance.yahoo.com/q/sec?s=amzn+SEC+Filings
54:25 Lessons for Irish firms
56:20 Kenny’s Bookshop – Galway http://www.kennys.ie
59:25 Parcel Motel http://www.parcelmotel.com
01:02:32 Cool Tech
01:02:42 PressForward http://pressforward.org
01:04:34 COOLEST Cooler https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ryangrepper/coolest-cooler-21st-century-cooler-thats-actually
01:07:07 Lytro Illum https://www.lytro.com
01:08:20 HTC Evo 3D http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/15/htc-evo-3d-review/
01:10:34 Upcoming Events
01:10:40 Hardware Hackathon Dublin September 12th to 14th http://hwhackathon.com
01:12:06 End