First Regional Accelerator for Galway Announced: NDRC at PorterShed

A year-and-a-half in the planning, an accelerator at the PorterShed, to be delivered with our partners at the NDRC, was formally announced today. This is a fantastic opportunity for entrepreneurs in the West of Ireland, and is the culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of my volunteer colleagues at the Galway City Innovation District (GCID), a non-profit that is helping to foster a startup ecosystem in downtown Galway, NDRC, Ireland’s national accelerator, and the programme managers at Enterprise Ireland.

PorterShed Accelerator RFI_All_PagesBefore Enterprise Ireland announced their timely Regional Accelerator Development Scheme, we had issued a Request for Information to various national and international accelerator operators in late 2015, and this laid the groundwork for our successful proposal submitted to Enterprise Ireland in March 2016.

The NDRC at PorterShed Accelerator will support 30 companies who have a digital technology focus to their business, linking to Enterprise Ireland’s strategy to develop more HPSUs regionally and nationally. A HPSU (High-Potential Startup) is defined as one that will employ at least 10 people and be generating over €1 million in revenue within a three-year timeframe.

Three cohorts of 10 companies will be admitted to the NDRC at PorterShed Accelerator, with the first cohort of 10 to start at the end of this summer, and two more cohorts in 2018. As well as receiving an investment of €30,000 and three months of desk space for their team at the PorterShed, companies will avail of expert mentorship and training from the NDRC here in Galway in areas such as company financials, investor readiness, marketing/PR, and innovative business models.

Previous NDRC-supported ventures have secured over €125 million in follow-on investment, and this includes successes such as Logentries, Newswhip, Silver Cloud Health, Boxever, Nuritas, Soundwave and Clearsight Innovations.

The PorterShed is the first innovation hub run by the Galway City Innovation District, a non-profit that was established with the support of Galway Chamber in 2016. The directors are John Breslin (NUI Galway), Niamh Costello (Galway Technology Centre), Dave Cunningham (Privity Pay), Conor O’Dowd (KPMG), Johnny O’Dwyer (AIB) and Maurice O’Gorman (Consultant).

NCRC_According to Maurice O’Gorman, Chairman of the Galway City Innovation District: “GCID is excited to work with our partners to launch the NDRC at PorterShed Accelerator. The accelerator programme is an important addition to the vibrant startup ecosystem in Galway and the West of Ireland. GCID looks forward to welcoming the first companies, providing an environment where they can flourish.”

To apply for the NDRC at PorterShed Accelerator programme, visit where you can find out more information and see the criteria.

Official press release:

Galway Startup Ecosystem: What You Need To Know

by Donncha Hughes and John Breslin


Introduction to Galway

To set the scene for Galway’s vibrant startup ecosystem, one needs to appreciate Galway’s geographic, cultural and business landscape. Galway is located in the West of Ireland, approximately a two-hour drive (200 km) from the capital, Dublin. The population in the greater Galway hinterland exceeds 250,000 people, making it the island of Ireland’s fourth largest centre of population after Dublin, Belfast and Cork. For many Irish and international visitors, Galway is synonymous with the Galway Horse Races. For over 100 years, the Galway Races has gone from strength to strength with now in excess of 150,000 people attending the week-long festival every July. Recognised as the greatest midsummer festival in Ireland, the ‘Races’ is known for attracting people from all walks of life with a broad appeal beyond traditional race goers. Complemented by other cultural experiences such as the Galway International Arts Festival, it is indicative of the standards of excellence that Galway strives for – recognised recently with the city’s designation as the European Capital of Culture 2020.

Galway was named as the top microcity in Europe in 2014/2015 by the Financial Times fDi magazine (for cities less than 100,000 people), and the top microcity in Europe in 2016/2017 for both business friendliness and economic potential. We are also the world’s friendliest city according to Travel & Leisure Magazine.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has played a significant role in the development of Galway’s business landscape, as facilitated by IDA Ireland. Since the 1960s, companies in sectors such as medtech and life sciences, ICT, food and engineering to include: Boston Scientific, Medtronic, Fidelity Investments, SAP, Cisco, Avaya, Aviva, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Valeo Vision Systems and many more have operated successfully in Galway. The importance of this multinational base has also laid the foundations for the development of a vibrant indigenous sub-supply and logistics sector.

Galway is Ireland’s medtech capital, with a third of Ireland’s medtech workforce in one of Europe’s if not the world’s top medtech hubs, with a density of companies and medtech research institutes only rivalled by Minnesota. Just take a look at the Galway Tech Map and Galway Medtech Map and you’ll get a good overview of the companies based here.

Over the last decade, Ireland has attracted a new wave of global brands such as Facebook, Apple and Google to base key European operations here. Galway has also benefited from this trend. 100 jobs were recently announced by Australian hotel cloud giant SiteMinder, and 200 more by MetLife. Like Dublin and Cork, this has boosted the startup ecosystem as personnel emerge with key skills gained at these multinationals.

Galway’s startup success stories

There are 16,381 enterprises in Galway. Over 250 employ over 50 people, with the majority, 14,900, employing less than 10 people. Established international businesses which were founded and are headquartered in Galway include: Chanelle, Aerogen, Supermacs, JFC, CF Energy, and SSL Logistics. Other companies such as financial services firm Fintrax (sold for €170 million, and subsequently valued at €0.5 billion), fleet management leader Celtrak, and medical devices manufacturers Creganna (acquired for €821 million) and Creagh Medical (acquired for €30 million) were established in Galway before their multi-million euro acquisitions. Current international growth focused startup businesses include: Channel Mechanics, Game Golf, Altocloud, Nua Naturals, Hillwalk Tours, Solaris Tea, Ex Ordo, PiP Payments, OnePageCRM, VT Networks (now based in DCU Alpha), DiaNia Technologies, and Bluedrop Medical.

Some of Galway’s award-winning businesses include:

  • Topform won the SFA National Small Business Award 2016. Topform has evolved from a traditional manufacturer of kitchen worktops. Established in 1976, the company now employs forty seven at its manufacturing facility in Gort, Co. Galway.
  • John Power – Aerogen – 2016 winner of the entrepreneur of the year at the RSM awards in Milan.
  • Aerogen – overall winner of the Irish Exporters Association Exporter of the Year Awards 2014.
  • EssentialSkillz, providers of online compliance training and risk assessment software to SMEs and enterprises worldwide, was ranked in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards for 2015. Established in Galway in 2001, EssentialSkillz has offices in the UK, USA and Ireland, and is recognised as a market leader for health and safety e-learning.
  • Pocket Anatomy won the 2014 Best Startup Award at The Next Web Europe Conference.
  • In 2013, Galway companies Westway Health and Element Software won the two top awards at InterTradeIreland’s Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition.

Galway’s strengths

A total of 20,997 new companies were formed in 2016 in Ireland according to the Business Barometer. Ireland is a good place to start and run a business. Galway was the third most popular startup county accounting for 4% of all companies registered during the year.

First and foremost, Galway is a great place to live for families young and old. It is a happening place with a wonderful social, tourism, community, multicultural and commercial vibe. Part of the magic is that Galway is a university city with two third-level institutions having strong academic and research and development traditions. There are 26,000 third-level students in the city, and 45% of the adult population have third-level education.

In terms of the city’s startup roadmap, 2014 saw the emergence of Startup Galway which serves as an umbrella network for all things startup-related in Galway. It is both a networking organisation and an agent for change. In 2015 and 2016, several new startup coworking and incubation facilities opened in the city centre (SuperPixel Labs, startlab, Workbench, and the PorterShed), with the emerging tech spaces in the Eyre Square area being dubbed “Silicon Square”.

A new angel syndicate was announced early in 2016 with €2m worth of capital set aside that year for startups on the western seaboard. HBAN’s ‘West by North West’ fund (WxNW) was set up to invest in sectors including tech, manufacturing, education, and tourism. A similar medtech angel syndicate is also facilitated by HBAN. WDC has an investment fund to support enterprises in the West (from Clare up to Donegal), and WestBIC has been providing advice and services for entrepreneurs planning or starting a new business in the West for nearly 20 years now.

A digital-focused accelerator programme will be launched in Galway in early 2017 based in the PorterShed. This is part of the vision for the Galway City Innovation District. The Yield Lab from St Louis also announced their intent to run an agtech accelerator in Galway.

“Galway may be considered small in relation to other medtech cities, however it has a big heart. The connections which exist across and between industry and academia and the willingness of talented individuals to lend a helping hand makes it an ideal location for a startup. DiaNia Technologies is an innovative materials science company focused on the development of advanced technologies to enhance the performance and functionality of medical devices. Our minimum viable product has the potential to reduce friction on the inside and outside surface of many catheter-based medical devices whilst increasing patient safety. For us, the ability to tap into the wealth of global medtech business knowledge and experience available in Galway helped mould our strategic direction. Selection of DiaNia Technologies by the European Commission for a Phase 1 Horizon 2020 award demonstrated that our technology has the ability to meet a huge market need within the medical device industry. The recent investment in DiaNia Technologies by experienced medtech professionals and Enterprise Ireland will enable us to commercialise a global solution to an unmet market need through the application of materials science.” — Sinead Kenny, CEO, DiaNia Technologies

Areas to be developed

Galway can be viewed as a microcosm of Ireland’s economy both historically and projecting into the future. Ireland is a small market on the global stage. This context must be fully embraced in the development of enterprise and startup policy. To develop the startup ecosystem in Galway requires challenges to be addressed at both national and regional level and at both large enterprise and startup level. It also requires Galway to part its full part within “Ireland Inc.”.

Enterprise Ireland has a vision for Irish enterprise to be a powerhouse of economic growth and job creation in Ireland. Galway buys into this vision. Five issues which Ireland Inc. needs to continually revisit are:

  1. Availability of information: This would include supports for nascent entrepreneurs and a streamlined process to avail of soft and financial supports for startups.
  2. Promotion of startup role models: These are of all types to include female, graduate, technology and social entrepreneurship to stimulate and foster continued interest in enterprise. The key is highlighting a robust startup process to include strict market testing and validation.
  3. Advanced infrastructure: Enterprise-grade infrastructure is required such as telecommunications, roads, rail and air access along with startup-specific infrastructure to include coworking, incubation, and graduation spaces for larger startups as they scale.
  4. Research commercialisation: We need to facilitate the leveraging of research outputs from our third-level institutions and research centres/institutes for spinouts and licensing to Irish-based businesses.
  5. Aiming to scale our startups: By international standards, Ireland could improve its performance in developing companies that reach beyond €10 million and then €100 million and €1 billion in annual revenue.

Significant work has been undertaken by various bodies to identify how Galway’s startup ecosystem can grow and succeed. For further reading, consult:

Details of events, networks, accelerators and change agents

“Galway has proven itself to be one of the best places in Ireland in which to start and grow an enterprise. Over the past few years there have been welcome additions and enhancements to the local startup scene in Galway including more space for startups, more money for startups, more events and initiatives for startups, and more recognition for startups and the benefits, vibrancy and prosperity they bring. Startups and young companies are recognised for the significant contribution they bring to job creation and Galway is punching above its weight with the growth rate of company formations double that of Dublin’s. One of the great strengths of the startup ecosystem in Galway is the genuine level of collaboration between the ever expanding number of participants. It’s fun, it’s innovative, it’s happening in Galway right now.” — Barry Egan, Regional Director – West Region, Enterprise Ireland

Innovation centres and startup programmes

Startup promoters and teams have access to several innovation, incubation and coworking spaces in the greater Galway area.

Innovation Hub, GMIT

  • This on-campus Innovation Hub (iHub) provides a supportive environment for startups on their journey from concept to commercial success. In addition to office space, the Innovation Hub provides access to research, coaching and networking.
  • Key contact: George McCourt
  • Twitter: @GMITihubs

Ignite Business Innovation Centre, NUI Galway

Galway Technology Centre (GTC)

  • Galway Technology Centre provides serviced office space in a prime location in Galway to meet the needs of companies in the ICT, digital media and other knowledge- and service-based sectors. GTC also provides a range of business startup and virtual office services.
  • Key contact: Niamh Costello
  • Twitter: @GalwayTech

SCCUL Enterprise Centre

The PorterShed, backed by AIB

  • The PorterShed is Galway’s newest innovation hub in the heart of the city, and incorporates a coworking space housing 20 innovative companies and up to 70 people in total, and an open space for events and workshops.
  • Key contact: Mary Rodgers
  • Twitter: @PorterShed

Other centres based outside Galway include The Hub in Headford and The Burren Enterprise Centre in Kinvara which both provide affordable professional office space.

There are two excellent pre-accelerator startup programmes to assist entrepreneurial teams to bring their business from concept to funding-ready status.

New Frontiers, GMIT

  • New Frontiers is a national programme managed by Enterprise Ireland, delivered in Galway by GMIT. Phase II of the programme is six months. It provides leading edge training, mentoring and introductions to early-stage capital investment networks. It includes a €15,000 payment to participant entrepreneurs.
  • Key contact: Tony O’Kelly

startlab, powered by Bank of Ireland

  • startlab is an incubator programme built from the ground up to educate, connect and scale tech startups. Each program runs for a six-month period where startups meet with key speakers, coaches and mentors to help grow and scale their company.
  • Key contact: Tracy Keogh
  • Twitter: @Tracy_Keogh

BioInnovate Ireland

  • BioInnovate Ireland is a medtech-focused entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship programme, training successful medical device innovators for over five years now.
  • Key contact: Paul Anglim
  • Twitter: @BioInnovate_Ire

Blackstone LaunchPad, NUI Galway

  • Blackstone LaunchPad is the go-to place for budding entrepreneurs at NUI Galway, both students (past, present) and staff, and was established in 2016 with funding from the Blackstone Foundation and GUF. Blackstone offers mentorship and a wide range of resources, as well as running regular entrepreneurship events.
  • Key contact: Mary Carty
  • Twitter: @LaunchPadNUIG

TechInnovate, NUI Galway

  • TechInnovate is developing entrepreneurial skills in two target groups: professionals who undergo a career change and undertake a 10-month entrepreneurship fellowship to become startup founders, and employees in indigenous or multinational companies who want to learn and apply similar entrepreneurial skills to develop innovative products or services within their organisations, through what is called intrapreneurship, and taught over a series of 10 workshops.
  • Key contact: John Breslin
  • Twitter: @Tech_Innovate

The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Galway also provide a range of leading startup training and management development programmes. Keep up-to-date with LEO Galway via Twitter.

Publications and media

Traditional and online media in Galway (Galway Advertiser, Galway Independent, Connacht Tribune Newspaper Group) and in Ireland (Silicon Republic, RTÉ, Irish Times, INM, Sunday Business Post) generally are very positive towards startups. This means that the profile and regard for startup entrepreneurs has never been higher – as reflected in results from Ireland’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). This is facilitated and supported by proactive and progressive personnel working within our state enterprise agencies – led by Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office Galway – offering national supports delivered locally.

A weekly column about startup activity in Galway was published in the Galway Advertiser from 2015 to 2016, written by Bank of Ireland startlab’s Tracy Keogh.

Technology Voice publishes stories about technology developments and events in Galway (and Ireland), on an irregular basis.

Finally, the NoiseyGenXYZ ezine and podcast promotes awareness of how extraordinary people with extraordinary ideas from generations X, Y and Z are impacting on and shaping the future entrepreneurial landscape in Galway.

Major events

The AtlanTec Festival, organised annually by the Information Technology Association of Galway (ITAG), brings in world-class speakers and practitioners and connects them with the most exciting innovative companies in the West of Ireland. The goal of AtlanTec is to unite and empower the different technology communities by facilitating the spread of information within the tech sectors in the West of Ireland.

Innovating West is another annual conference which brings together changemakers and innovators in the West of Ireland. Set up in 2015, it initially focused on highlighting key innovators who have established successful businesses along the west coast of Ireland, giving local entrepreneurs and businesspeople the chance to learn from them and their successes. In 2016, it expanded its remit, bringing in international entrepreneurs, investors and other guest speakers from Europe and the US. A sister event, Venture West, brought all of Ireland’s VCs together for a public conference and meeting in Galway in late 2015.

MeetWest, held each year towards November, is the largest business networking event in the West of Ireland, and brings all of the business sectors together to connect and collaborate. The event includes a conference and networking dinner, but also facilitates matchmade one-on-one meetings as well as ad-hoc opportunities to network and do business.

An entrepreneurial locally based financial institution – St Columba’s Credit Union Ltd (SCCUL) – has for the past six years created Galway’s largest entrepreneur competition called the SCCUL Awards. In 2015, 160 early stage businesses entered the awards which has a prize fund of €50,000. The awards event has expanded in recent years with all entrants and local entrepreneur ecosystem participants exhibiting in a business expo and showcase at the local University campus.

The PorterShed has become a nexus for startup events in Galway. Between its opening in May 2016 and the time or writing, 100 events had been held in the PorterShed, attracting about 2,000 people into the space. For example, Startup Galway held three fireside chats with investors (from Hyde Park Angels, Founders Fund and Qualcomm Ventures) during the summer/autumn of 2016.

Further information

The good news is that there are plenty of online resources available with further information for a deeper look at Galway’s events, networks, accelerators and change agents. The starting reference is the Galway Startup Guide – here is an excerpt:

“From A to Z (well, from B to Y actually), this guide lists all kinds of startup resources including:

  • The best recurring and one-off startup-related events,
  • Galway’s tech hubs including coworking spaces and startup offices for those looking for a place to launch,
  • key organisations helping startups to get started and scale up, and

networking groups and tech meetups where you can hear from experts, leaders and founders, because it’s good to talk, but even better to talk, listen and learn.

For each resource, the following is provided: a short description, key contacts, their webpage, and Twitter handles where available. Galway has many small tech tribes, but they’re all part of a big Galway startup community!”


While Galway may be viewed by many as a small ecosystem, it can contribute in a big way to Ireland’s startup ecosystem as a whole if given the right resources, including: better transit/transport infrastructure, increased access to finance, new skills programmes for entrepreneurs and innovators (e.g. commercialising research), improved ICT connectivity, and many more downtown working and living spaces.

Credit and acknowledgements

Donncha Hughes is a startup mentor and business trainer. He co-curates Galway’s StartupDigest – the news and events calendar for startups. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of, a pro-bono business network in Galway managed by SCCUL Enterprises which recently announced plans to expand its service to Roscommon and Mayo.

John Breslin is a senior lecturer in electronics at NUI Galway, where he is director of the TechInnovate entrepreneurship programme and lead researcher at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. He is co-founder of,, Startup Galway, and the Galway City Innovation District / PorterShed.

The image of the Long Walk by Tom Murphy is used under a Creative Commons license from,_Galway.jpg

The original version of this article was published on

A Great Year for Galway, But We Need More of This Sort of Thing

As we come to the end of the year, it’s a good time to remember some of the remarkable accolades our city has received during 2016. Galway was awarded the 2020 European Capital of Culture, as well as the EU’s prestigious European Green Leaf Environmental Award, and was designated European Region of Gastronomy for 2018. The Financial Times FDI magazine ranked Galway City as the number 1 Micro European City of the Future for both the Economic Potential and Business Friendliness categories in 2016/2017: this is a full level or two higher than our rankings in both categories in 2014/2015. Also, NUI Galway has moved up to number 249 in the QS world university rankings. To put that in perspective, the University has risen 235 places over the past nine years from when it was at number 484. NUI Galway is also 48th out of 1,336 educational institutions in Europe in terms of Horizon 2020 funding received, and second overall in Ireland.


On the jobs and startups front, Galway and our region do face significant challenges. You may have seen the Irish Independent article by Dan O’Brien in May this year, based on CSO data, which said that the Galway-Mayo-Roscommon region has had 0% job growth since the crash, with job destruction continuing to outpace job creation in the region. All other regions had between 7% and 15% growth. As of the first quarter in 2016, employment in the region was said to have hit yet another low, being at the same level as it was in 2003.


According to Eurostat, Ireland ranks second lowest in terms of startup creation, across the entire EU-28. The number of enterprises in our region, and with it the Western region’s share of enterprises in the state, has declined each year between 2008 and 2014: in 2014 it was 9% below the number in 2008. In contrast, in the rest of the state it was just 1% lower. While this figure is for all enterprises, it is an indicator of the region’s level of entrepreneurship.

The population of Connacht is still less than it was in 1926. County Galway has more people in the 35+ age bracket than the national average, resulting in an increasing rate of age dependency, while the age group that has experienced the largest decline in population terms in recent years is between 15 and 29.

The above statistics are quite worrying. Giving all those who wish to live and work in the region the opportunity to do so, decreasing emigration, and encouraging workers and their families to stay and settle in the region, must be our highest priority. If the trend of depopulation continues, many of the businesses in our region will feel the effects. For these reasons and others, we need to keep doing what we are doing in terms of strategies and investment towards stimulating entrepreneurship and innovation in the region – both in new enterprises and existing ones – but much more of it.


It has been a busy year for us on the space front. Less than a year ago, on New Year’s Eve 2015, Forbes published an article about our efforts to establish the PorterShed innovation space, and I was unexpectedly photographed during the interview by the journalist on his mobile phone wearing my bright blue jumper. I had to buy a couple more blue jumpers afterwards so people would be able to recognise me!


The PorterShed was set up to address a number of needs. I’ve been part of the meet-and-greet team for a number of FDI visits to Galway, and a recurring theme was the lack of a downtown innovation hub for incoming but also indigenous startups – with all the expected features: red brick walls, wooden beams, fibre internet, and of course, super coffee. Two years ago, a group of us had our first meeting about downtown spaces for rent, and I subsequently worked with some fantastic people and the Galway Chamber to make the first step in what we called the “Galway City Innovation District” a reality. In September last year, we started renovating a former Guinness storehouse, the PorterShed, backed by AIB, which opened its doors to startup companies in April this year, and officially opened in May.

The PorterShed is a showcase for Galway’s tech startup scene, and incorporates a coworking space housing 20 innovative companies and up to 70 people in total, and an open space for events and workshops. In the first half of 2017, we will also launch a digital tech-focussed accelerator, which will add 20 startups to our economy per year.

The PorterShed has become a tour stop for visitors – business, technology and otherwise – centrally located on CIÉ land. For example, during Galway 2020, we hosted the European judging team as part of their final onsite visit, where they met members of the business, tourism and tech/medtech communities. We also hosted the Mayor of Menlo Park, Rich Cline, who officially opened our PorterShed conference room, also called the Menlo Park.

As well as future expansion beyond the PorterShed into a cluster of nearby complementary hubs – perhaps for creative media, food and agri-innovation, medtech, marine and more – another stated aim of the Galway City Innovation District is to develop the role of Galway Innovation Commissioner, loosely modeled on the Dublin Commissioner for Startups, and requiring support from key local organisations. This influencer and networker would promote “Why Galway”, surfacing Galway innovations that are under the radar, and representing us nationally and internationally.

The PorterShed requires the support of local companies and multinationals to continue with its remit as Galway’s downtown innovation hub. We’ve had great support from AIB, our title sponsor, Enterprise Ireland, KPMG, IBM, FOD, Collins McNicholas, LEO Galway, and the Galway County and City Councils. As a non-profit company, we are continuously looking for new sponsors, to complement those companies and organisations already involved.


Spaces for entrepreneurs need to be complemented by the skills to succeed as a startup founder – so that people know how to progress their idea, technology or passion through to a successful startup, or to produce a new innovation within existing companies. The PorterShed Accelerator is assisting in this respect from the startup side – providing a structured programme, seed funding, and desk space for teams who want to transform from a strong idea into a commercially-viable startup. The PorterShed Accelerator will run every six months, attracting regional, national and international entrepreneurs into Galway for a three-and-a-half month programme delivered in the PorterShed. We are also looking for more individuals and organisations who are interested in supporting the PorterShed Accelerator.


NUI Galway is also playing an important role. In September, I took on the role of programme director for a new technology innovation programme, called TechInnovate. TechInnovate is based on the successful BioInnovate programme, which has been producing medtech innovators and innovations in startups and corporates for five years now. Again, this initiative, TechInnovate, is developing entrepreneurial skills but amongst different cohorts.

There are two target groups of people for TechInnovate: professionals who undergo a career change and undertake our 10-month entrepreneurship fellowship to become startup founders, and employees in indigenous or multinational companies who want to learn and apply similar entrepreneurial skills to develop innovative products or services within their organisations, through what is called intrapreneurship, and taught over a series of 10 workshops.

For the first cohort, TechInnovate skills up interdisciplinary teams of entrepreneurial fellows who are embedded in various non-health domains – this year, agriculture and defence – and who identify key needs to be solved in those domains through their combined skills. Each team consists of a businessperson, engineer and designer, and after a bootcamp in the “Disciplined Entrepreneurship” process which underpins the programme, they spend 6-8 weeks in the immersion phase, finding around 200 needs in their domain of interest. They then apply the TechInnovate process to filter down these needs to the one with the most commercial opportunity, and develop a product plan around the solution to that need.

The second targeted cohort – employees in our existing companies – is addressing the fact that many of our local companies are now in an increasingly challenging, noisy and competitive marketplace, with millennial job hopping becoming more common. In a recent survey in the US, it was found that 71% of millennials were disengaged at work, with many pursuing what they termed “side hustles”. As mentioned earlier, retaining talent in the West has become a core focus. Employees can be skilled, creative and innovative intrapreneurs, which becomes not only a “nice to do”, but essential to the bottom line. TechInnovate trains up a team of three from each company in the entrepreneurial principles and processes for creating innovation-driven enterprises, delivering skilled and engaged employees who can pursue new ideas that support the mission and vision of that company, and thereby supporting the company to launch new products and services or pursue new markets.

Our first TechInnovate sponsors are Bank of Ireland, EY, and the WDC, with support from NUI Galway and the Galway University Foundation, and we are actively looking for more partners who share our common vision: to seed a new set of skilled entrepreneurs in the local startup scene and skilled intrapreneurs in our larger companies.


As well as creating space and developing skills, we also run various events to instill the spirit of being an entrepreneur. In 2013 we set up Startup Galway, inspired by Brad Feld’s book “Startup Communities”, which describes how the startup ecosystem in Boulder, Colorado was established. Startup Galway runs a series of fireside chats with successful entrepreneurs, and our most recent guest in November was Jerry Kennelly of Tweak, whose previous company, Stockbyte, was acquired by Getty Images for 135 million dollars.


The number of startup-related events being run in Galway has dramatically increased over the past two to three years – from Innovating West to Startup Weekends (the next one is in March) to pitching practice sessions to technology workshops – which is very encouraging. The PorterShed alone has hosted over 100 events in the past six or seven months.

When I think of the likes of Tipperary’s John Ryan, creator of Macrovision, who studied at NUI Galway; Donegal’s Kathleen McNulty of the ENIAC team, one of the world’s first computer programmers; former NUI Galway Professor George Johnstone Stoney, who named the electron; Galway’s Alice Perry, the first woman in Ireland or Great Britain to graduate with a degree in engineering; and Galway natives Oliver and McGlynn who founded Menlo Park in California, we have a lot of entrepreneurial spirit and tech heritage to be proud of in the West.

We also have a great ecosystem of award-winning startups and internationally recognised companies, and when you combine this with the talented graduate and postgraduate workforce from our world class research centres and higher education institutions, with the second highest number of PhDs in the state after Dublin, we do have a density and quality of ecosystem that can draw the creators, innovators and entrepreneurs in to Galway. We also have some fantastic organisations and efforts making stuff happen, including the Atlantic Centre for Entrepreneurship (ACE), BioInnovate, Blackstone LaunchPad, Enterprise Ireland, Galway Chamber, GMIT, GTC, IBEC, IDA, Insight, ITAG, JAI, JCI, LEO, New Frontiers, NUI Galway, OMiG, Regional Skills Forum, SCCUL, startlab, Údarás na Gaeltachta, WDC and WestBIC.

Given the challenges our region faces, we need to do more. If you share my desire for our young people to have the opportunity to live and work in our region, I would ask all of you in the Galway community to support the various initiatives aimed at promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in the Western region, including TechInnovate, the PorterShed, and other efforts being led by the aforementioned acronym soup.

Let’s continue to make Galway the best small city in Ireland, Europe, and I believe, the world.

Photos of the PorterShed, TechInnovate and Innovating West by David Ruffles, Aengus McMahon and Peter Harkin respectively. This article was published in today’s Galway Advertiser, and is based on a recent speech I gave to the Galway Chamber of Commerce. Thanks to Maurice O’Gorman for his input and advice.

TechInnovate Holds Open Evening on “Intrapreneurship” Training for West of Ireland Corporates


TechInnovate, the entrepreneurship initiative from NUI Galway, is hosting an open evening on November 22nd at partner Bank of Ireland’s startlab location on Eyre Square for local corporates who are interested in openings on the team-based “intrapreneurship” training programme for industry. Intrapreneurship is the application of entrepreneurship and innovation principles within larger companies and corporates.

At the open evening, attendees can find out more about the TechInnovate Intrapreneurship Training programme for industry, commencing January 2017. The event will be led by TechInnovate director Dr John Breslin and Bank of Ireland startlab’s Tracy Keogh, along with NUI Galway’s current cohort of TechInnovate entrepreneurial Fellows who will be mentoring industry participants through a series of hands-on workshops delivered over 20 weeks.

“As proud sponsors of TechInnovate, Bank of Ireland are delighted to host this evening on November 22nd at 7 PM in startlab, Eyre Square,” said Tracy Keogh. “TechInnovate’s big hairy audacious goal, or BHAG, is to have many more skilled entrepreneurs in startups and intrapreneurs in corporates in the West of Ireland. This event will give attendees the chance to hear from current Fellows of the programme and opportunities for openings in the industry programme beginning in January.”

“We have more people founding and interested in founding startups here than ever before. The spirit of entrepreneurship is particularly strong right now,” said John Breslin. “However, in parallel, there is a need for more initiatives that are developing innovation skills for companies, to give structures and processes to those who want to set up innovation-driven enterprises or innovative projects and products within existing corporates.”


24steps5bTechInnovate follows a “disciplined intrapreneurship” team-based approach, working through topics including needs finding, market analysis, technology viability assessment, competitive positioning, interdisciplinary team building, product life-cycle planning, marketing strategy, sales channel analysis, and with a strong emphasis on the entrepreneur/intrapreneur as a salesperson.

Ian McMorrough, director at Bank of Ireland, said: “Bank of Ireland are thrilled to host the upcoming TechInnovate open evening, we need more people thinking entrepreneurially and intrapreneurially, and TechInnovate will provide an injection of these people into the tech ecosystem in the region.”

The TechInnovate training workshops have been developed to address the growing demand for innovation training in the sector and are delivered by a combination of TechInnovate Fellows, academics, domain and industry experts. These workshops afford participants the opportunity to work in multidisciplinary teams to progress an unmet domain need through the TechInnovate process to a product plan for a technology innovation.

Attend the TechInnovate Industry Open Day to find out more by registering at:

New Entrepreneurship Programme to Target Agriculture and Defence


  • First TechInnovate Fellows announced by NUI Galway
  • Teams will develop innovative technology solutions for pressing needs

“Through the immersion phase, the Fellows get direct experience of the needs of a farmer or soldier in the field”

Dr John Breslin

Innovations in technology for the agricultural and defence sectors are being explored by the newly announced TechInnovate Fellows at NUI Galway. The names of the entrepreneurial individuals who have been accepted onto the Fellowship Programme have been released.

Taking cues from the successful BioInnovate programme for the medtech sector, TechInnovate’s aim is to enable technology innovators and innovations in new sectors, initially agriculture and defence.

The first cohort of six Fellows have been split into two teams, who will immerse themselves within the sectors. Over the course of the 10-month programme, the Fellowship teams will carry out a thorough needs analysis with end users, identify a pressing technological need, and then develop a solution.

The programme is being led by NUI Galway academic Dr John Breslin, who is himself an entrepreneur as co-founder of,, and more recently the start-up hub PorterShed. Dr Breslin says: “Understand your users, that’s the key’ is a saying from serial entrepreneur and investor, Paul Graham. It captures the essence of what this programme is about, because through the immersion phase, the Fellows get direct experience of the needs of a farmer or soldier in the field. They then go on to filter and prioritise these needs and develop a solution wherein the key market opportunity lies.”

Each team consists of an interdisciplinary grouping of engineer, businessperson and designer. All members are industry professionals with extensive expertise from different sectors.

The defence team is made up of Ronan Boyle, an electronic engineer with significant industry experience in the medical devices industry, Greg Payne, with expertise in financial services, compliance and sales with a background in sports science, and Leon Butler, an accomplished visual narrative designer who recently completed a residency in LA.

On the agriculture team are Niamh Lynch, an expert in quality and risk management for the medtech and pharma industries, Ciara Shields, a results-focused marketing and international business development executive with a passion for startups, and Paul Flynn, design thinking and learning environments specialist with an education and engineering background.

Dr John Breslin explains the origins of TechInnovate: “The impetus for the development of this Fellowship Programme emerged from the Government’s Innovation Taskforce Report. It made recommendations on how to embed product design teaching and research in Ireland’s engineering schools and how to shift design education in Ireland to a model where creativity and innovation in product design are encouraged. The BioInnovate Ireland Fellowship Programme was created as a result of these recommendations, which in turn inspired the development of TechInnovate.”

TechInnovate also has an experienced team of advisors with entrepreneurial and investment backgrounds, including: Gerard Barry, Galway-based investor and entrepreneur, founder of Privity Pay and formerly Fintrax; Patrick Dawson, investor and adtech entrepreneur (ex-MediaMath, Adobe) who has built businesses in Asia, Europe and the US; Dr Helen McBreen, Investment Director with Atlantic Bridge Ventures and formerly of NDRC and Celtrak; Barry O’Sullivan, Silicon Valley-based investor, entrepreneur, CEO of Altocloud, former SVP at Cisco, and dragon on RTÉ’s Dragons’ Den; and Dr Gareth Keane, Senior Investment Manager at Qualcomm Ventures in California.

The programme is supported by NUI Galway and the Galway University Foundation, and is sponsored by Bank of Ireland and the Western Development Commission. A Continuing Professional Development series of workshops in the TechInnovate process is also being offered to supporting companies, and new sectors and immersion opportunities for teams are also being sought for future years.

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.”

TechInnovate Presents: The Galway Startup Guide

You probably know that the startup ecosystem in Galway has evolved and grown rapidly over the past two to three years, but it’s only when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together that you realise how much stuff is actually going on. As part of an effort to collate these resources, and under the auspices of TechInnovate, a new technology entrepreneurship fellowship from NUI Galway, we’ve published the first Galway Startup Guide.

From A to Z (well, from B to Y actually), we list all kinds of startup resources including:

  • The best recurring and one-off startup-related events,
  • Galway’s tech hubs including coworking spaces and startup offices for those looking for a place to launch,
  • key organisations helping startups to get started and scale up, and
  • networking groups and tech meetups where you can hear from experts, leaders and founders, because it’s good to talk, but even better to talk, listen and learn.

For each resource, we provide a short description, key contacts, their webpage, and Twitter handles where available. We have many small tech tribes, but they’re all part of a big Galway startup community!

You can download the Galway Startup Guide for 2016 in either single page format or as a double page spread.

TechInnovate is a 10-month stipend-supported Fellowship from NUI Galway that aims to create interdisciplinary teams of technology entrepreneurs (techpreneurs) who are embedded in a particular domain for 6-8 weeks to identify real needs, following which they invent, implement and iterate solutions. For more information, visit

Let’s Shine a Light on Galway’s Greatness

Picture of Black Head Lighthouse on Galway Bay (Allgau, Wikimedia Commons). My grandfather was the first lighthouse keeper here, having helped build it from 1935 to 1936 with the Galway Harbour and Irish Lights Commissioners (this Clare lighthouse was requested by the community of transatlantic liner captains and freighter masters using Galway Bay).

Galway has so much to be proud of that often remains under the radar. Sometimes we tend to be a bit “Irish” about the great stuff going on here, hiding our lights under bushels. So I wanted to make a plea to everyone in the West to shine a light on the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship of Galway, the capital city of the West, whether it be through social media, word of mouth, or promotional material you may be creating for your organisation.

Here are some tidbits that many of you may have heard before, and some others that you may not have encountered thus far:

Barry O’Sullivan wrote an article in the Irish Times on Friday about various initiatives centred around what he dubbed “Silicon Square” in Eyre Square, including the Galway City Innovation District’s PorterShed, StartLab, and other projects that are aiming to raise the game in terms of innovation density in downtown Galway. The final line of his article summed it all up very nicely: “The folks in the west have a vision of Galway as a birthplace of ambition, so that our kids will have a choice to have amazing careers in the west, and not have to pack their bags for Dublin or San Francisco or even Lisbon.

Galway has a great reputation for quality of life and culture, but to attract the creators, innovators and entrepreneurs (and keep our own kids here) we should be telling them first and foremost about our ecosystem of internationally-renowned and award-winning tech and medtech companies, as well as the skilled and talented graduates and postgraduates from our respected educational institutions (NUI Galway, GMIT) and research centres (Insight, Cúram, GMedTech, CiSET, Marine Institute), because it is this density of ecosystem that will primarily draw them in.

The literary, arts, music and food events plus other outdoor activities to do around Ireland’s cultural heart and most multicultural city are a huge feature and added benefit, as it could be the Derroura mountain bike trail outside Oughterard, Ireland’s only Computer and Communications Museum, or the Food on the Edge extravaganza in Galway that further resonates with the CEO of a high-potential startup or multinational who is already considering Galway as a location. Few others can boast having Galway Bay, Connemara, the Corrib, the Twelve Bens, the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands on their wild Atlantic doorstep, not to mention the Galway Races, Arts and Oyster Festivals held here every year. Christopher Columbus even paid us a visit in 1477.

But we also need to appeal to those businesspeople who are just visiting Galway as a tourist destination (1.13 million visitors came to Galway in 2014) and who have no idea of the fact that there is a tech and medtech hub right under their noses. Real-time social media searches often unearth such people: I remember a few years ago, one of the heads of a large internet organisation was on holidays in Galway and I felt that we had missed out on an opportunity. It would be great to instantly make these people aware of the ecosystem here in case they choose to combine work with pleasure and have a tour of what’s going on.

I also do a daily search for the word “galway” along with “innovation”, “tech”, “technology” or “startup” on Twitter, Google News, etc., and as part of my routine I share out the interesting things I come across on social media. You too may have seen a fascinating story about a Galway innovator or innovation in the newspaper or elsewhere: we can all be ambassadors, so I am calling on you to share these good news stories (online, verbally, hand-written, whatever!) with your peers, colleagues and friends.

Let’s shine a light on the treasure that is Galway, the best small city in Ireland, Europe, and I believe, the world.

AIB Announce Five Year Partnership with Galway City Innovation District

AIB has announced a five year partnership with Galway City Innovation District (GCID), a new initiative supporting startups and business innovation in Galway City and the West of Ireland. The initiative brings together Galway Chamber of Commerce, Galway City Council, NUI Galway and GMIT to form the GCID.

Initially AIB is sponsoring the PorterShed, the first building to be opened as part of the GCID initiative, which is located close to Eyre Square. The PorterShed will house an accelerator program, high potential startups and entrepreneurs, as well as providing coworking space and an open area for workshops and seminars. It is expected to open early next year.

Additional buildings are due to open over time, and it is envisaged that this innovation district could eventually support up to 20,000 workers. The innovation district is expected to be similar to Dublin’s so-called ‘Silicon Docks’ area where companies such as Google and Facebook are based.

The PorterShed was once used as a Guinness storehouse, and is located on CIE land at the back of Ceannt Station. It will have capacity for 85 workers, and it is also hoped it will encourage more multinationals to establish a base in Galway.

Announcing this key partnership for AIB at the Venture West Conference, AIB CEO Bernard Byrne, said: “Developing an innovation district in the heart of Galway can serve as a catalyst for high growth companies, and is a model that worked in other cities such as Boston. This will help address the economic imbalance between the West of Ireland and the East coast.

“The Galway City Innovation District is the first part of an ambitious plan to support the growth and development of innovative companies across the West of Ireland. AIB is delighted to be involved in the development of this new innovation district for Galway and the West of Ireland.”

According to the President of Galway Chamber, Frank Greene, the Galway City Innovation District will be a driver of new enterprise and commercial activity in Galway City and ultimately in the county and region.

“This cluster of entrepreneurs, startups, accelerators and incubators will nurture collaboration and knowledge sharing. Galway Chamber, with our partners, is proud to be an initiator of the GCID which, by creating jobs, will also increase the need for services and in turn, further increase employment,” he said.

Maurice O’Gorman, council member of Galway Chamber and board member of the Galway City Innovation District said: “Commencement of work on the PorterShed is a significant milestone in the implementation of our vision for a downtown city innovation hub, which will attract young technology companies with strong growth potential, including many of our existing superstars.”

Dr John Breslin, senior lecturer at NUI Galway and also a board member of GCID added: “We also want to provide a place where incoming tech companies and investors visiting Galway can have a visitor’s seat and can network with some of the best companies that the West has to offer. This is an ideal location for attracting visiting companies and for giving them a feel for what it would be like to be based here: close to transport, cafés and restaurants, and everything else that downtown Galway has to offer.”