Galway Tech Map: Version 2!


It’s been one year since the first version of our Galway Tech Map, so it’s time for an update!

Here is the second version of the Galway Tech Map that shows the growing ICT ecosystem in Galway, incorporating feedback from the community over the past year. As before, if your organisation isn’t on the map, you can download a copy and create your own version as we have released it under a CC By Attribution Share Alike license.

The Galway Tech Map is available in a variety of formats: PNG, PDF, PDF A4.

(Edit: SVG, EPS and AI versions are available here.)

Feel free to share via social media and use in your presentation decks. If you wish to make a suggestion for next year’s version, just send a tweet with the hashtag #upgalway or #gaillimhabú.

Galway City Innovation District: A Game Changer for Galway’s Startup Sector

This post originally appeared on Startup Ireland, and was written with Maurice O’Gorman from the Galway Chamber of Commerce.

Galway: Ireland’s fastest growing city and “Top Micro European City of the Future”; one of five global hubs in the medtech sector (with nine out of the world’s top 10 medtech companies on its doorstep); and home to a multitude of long established and early stage ICT companies. All that’s missing is a downtown innovation hub that can act as the first step towards our vision of a Galway City Innovation District.

Galway City was highlighted in 2014 by Financial Times’ FDI Magazine as the “Top Micro European City of the Future” (for populations under 100,000 people). It also featured in the Top 25 European Cities (of all sizes), and was ranked highly for economic potential, business friendliness and foreign direct investment strategy.

Galway has a fantastic array of large and small companies in various areas, primarily medical technologies and ICT. Biotech and medtech companies in Galway include Algae Health, Anecto, Apica, Boston Scientific, Cappella, Creganna, Crospon, Embo, Full Health, Lake Region, Medtronic, neoSurgical, Neuravi, Zimmer, Novate and Veryan, making the city a key part of what has recently been described by Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, as a global hub for the medtech sector.

On the ICT side, software/hardware/internet-focussed startups and indigenous companies like OnePageCRM, Ex Ordo, Element Wave, Netfort, BuilderEngine, Pocket Anatomy, Altocloud, SpamTitan, RealSim, Storm, SourceDogg, GAME GOLF, CGA, Instillo, Rivada, Tribal City Interactive and Alison are in close proximity to multinational operations from companies like Valeo, Cisco, HP, Avaya, SAP, IBM, APC, Arm (Duolog), Schneider, Oracle, Fidelity, SAP, Aspect, SmartBear and EA.

Galway also has highly skilled talent available through graduates from both NUI Galway and GMIT, and also through current and future PhDs from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, EVOSS at LERO, etc.

However, even in a small and vibrant city like Galway, there’s a lack of a downtown innovation hub or cluster that one can point to. It is fair to say that many in the city had high hopes for the Webworks Galway building that was located close to the Coach Station, but for various reasons that did not materialise into what it could have been.

A number of organisations, including the Galway Chamber of Commerce, Galway Harbour, Startup Galway, WestBIC and NUI Galway, have come together to kickstart a new innovation hub as part of a larger initiative called the “Galway City Innovation District”. The global trend and preference for tech companies is to locate in areas close to city centres. Employees tend to favour locations where they walk or cycle to work and can interact with one another in less formal surroundings such as food markets and cafes. We have seen this trend develop very successfully in Dublin.

The vision we have is for a downtown city innovation hub, attracting young technology companies with strong growth potential, including many of the superstars we have listed above. This would start with one building and then expand to a cluster of many more as part of a Galway City Innovation District.

So what is an Innovation District? Katz and Wagner have defined it in their “Rise of Innovation Districts” report for the Brookings Institute as follows: “Innovation districts constitute the ultimate mash up of entrepreneurs and educational institutions, start-ups and schools, mixed-use development and medical innovations, bike-sharing and bankable investments—all connected by transit, powered by clean energy, wired for digital technology, and fueled by caffeine.”

As part of these efforts, we are organising a one-day summit at NUI Galway on the 13 March. The title of this summit is “Innovating West”. The aim of this summit is two-fold:

  1. To showcase those who have successfully built world-class teams in the West of Ireland, from ICT and medtech to food and sports
  2. To kickstart discussions around what is required to create the aforementioned Galway City Innovation District, and to replicate such ecosystems throughout the West of Ireland

Speakers at the event include: Gerry Barry, founder of Fintrax, which produced one of the biggest deals in Gaeltacht history when it was sold for €170M; Dorothy Creaven, CEO of Element Wave, awarded best new startup in the 2013 InterTradeIreland Seedcorn competition; Padraig O Ceidigh, serial entrepreneur in aviation, publishing, and homecare; Willie Ruane, Pat Lam and Eric Elwood from the Connacht Rugby management team; Nicola Byrne, CEO and co-founder of Cloud90 and founder of 11890; and John Concannon, the creator of the Gathering and director of Ireland 2016.

Many more speakers are being announced each week, and we hope you can join us for this event as we endeavour to create a roadmap for innovation ecosystems in the West. You can register now at

Startup Weekend Galway 2014

Startup Weekend is a non-profit organisation based in Seattle, which has been holding weekend long business creation events since 2007 in cities all around the world. Last weekend it was Galway’s turn to host the event.

Participants gathered on Friday evening. Some had come to pitch ideas and others had come to offer their services as developers, designers or biz dev people. They were given colour-coded t-shirts at registration to make it easy to identify the various roles.

There were 30 one minute pitches made to an audience of 67 people. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time but it turns out that 60 seconds was a perfectly adequate amount of time to introduce oneself, give a brief headline of the idea and to make a request for the sort of people and skills the pitcher required to work with him or her on their project.

Ideas varied greatly, some grand in scale and some niche specific. People wanted to create career management tools, price comparison web sites, listing guides and one person even proposed a treehouse and swing business.

The pitches were then posted on separate sheets of paper around the walls in a large room kindly provided by the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway. Attendees then indicated their preferences for the ideas put forward by attaching sticky coloured notes.

The top 12 ideas were selected by the organizing team and the originators of those ideas then stood roughly equidistant around the room and gave a brief recap of their idea in turn. This was then the opportunity for the developers, designers and biz dev people to gather around the pitchers of the ideas that they most wanted to work on and in this way the teams were formed.

But four hours had passed and now before them lay another 50 hours of the weekend to get produce a minimum viable product (MVP), a working user interface, and a plan for creating customers and for handling the relevant financial issues that go along with starting a business.

On the Saturday morning it was remarkable how quickly the teams settled down to work. I had somehow expected there to be a getting to know you period where team roles and bonds would be established but people got stuck right in.

One of the good decisions of the weekend was to have all 12 teams in one large room. It wasn’t at all disruptive and there was a nice, continuous buzz of productivity that helped to keep everyone’s energy up through the entire weekend.

In the afternoon the mentors arrived. They came from all aspects of the Galway business community and in turn were able to offer the nascent startups a complete range of advice from legal to sales and all stops in between.

Among those giving up a valuable Saturday to share their experience and knowledge were Ian Knight from Flynn O’ Driscoll – Commercial Law and Investments, Mark Campbell – Pocket Anatomy, Dorothy Creaven – Element Wave mobile technology, Alan Burke – Annertech and Mark Quick – Entrepreneur and Engineer.

(Picture: Mike Conroy (r) – Cisco Galway mentoring at #swgalway)

A free massage was available on site throughout the weekend from Michael Klusak of Mobile Massage Galway. In the late afternoon a rather delightful yoga session was led by David Cunningham from The Yoga Shala.

In a break shortly after supper teams were asked to give a quick rundown to the other teams about where they were on their project. Interestingly, when the time came for them to make a request for additional help, it was suggested by the facilitator, Adam Haun, that the teams should reach out beyond the resources immediately in front of them. They should try to utilise the network effect already present to find a wider community of people to obtain information and feedback.

The participants also took the opportunity to watch an item about themselves on the local news.

Then it was down to work right through until 10pm. At least one team was going to carry on coding some place else afterwards. Dedication.

It was a foggy start to Sunday morning but the energy in the room burned on undimmed. It was a constant surprise to see how much work had actually been done. Information garnered from the market research done on Google Docs, Twitter and Facebook had been utilised into shaping numerous MVPs.

One team had a couple of its members go into town to talk to real live business owners. Initiative.

Shortly before lunch I spoke to one of the organisers, Paul Killoran of Ex Ordo. I asked him about the aims of the weekend.

“We have had people who have never met each other before arrive into a venue and get up and pitch their ideas. As an organiser you just sit back and watch this Petri dish of energy come together. It’s incredible that these people didn’t know each other a few days ago and by the end of this weekend twelve startup companies will have been created.

“The reality is that most of these startups won’t last until next weekend – one or two of them might. For me the most important part is founder education and networking.

“If we want to create startups in the West of Ireland, in Galway, what we really need to do is educate people about what it is you have to do to create a startup.”

One of the mentors, Greg Osborne – I Speak English Graphic Design Solutions, also spoke about the wider effect the weekend’s activities may have.

“It’s about the journey as well as any of the services or products they may create.”

After lunch the teams were reminded of the essential elements of their projects that they were expected to show the judges that evening.

Customers – Validation

  • Is this a real problem that needs to be solved?
  • Have you identified a specific market?
  • Did you talk to customers?
  • SHOW the validation in your presentation.

Product – Execution and Design

  • Do you have an MVP or prototype?
  • Can you show a demonstration of your MVP or prototype?
  • DESIGN MATTERS! How easy and user friendly is your product?

Business $$ – Business Model

  • What is the value proposition?
  • How do you plan on making this a successful business?
  • Go to market strategy: How are you going to launch?

So, no pressure then.

Soon enough it was time for the teams to show the judges what they had created in the previous 54 hours. The very experienced panel consisted of Barry O’Sullivan – Altocloud, Aideen Bergin – Bank of Ireland, Oliver Daniels – The Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Breda Fox – Galway Local Enterprise Office, Paul Gilson – Veryan Medical and Maurice O’Gorman – Galway Chamber of Commerce.

Each team had five minutes to pitch their idea, immediately followed by a three minute question and answer period with the judges. NB: Each of the pitches was recorded and will be posted separately on the Technology Voice YouTube Channel over the next week or so. So look out for them.

While the judges were in deliberation a popular vote amongst the teams themselves was held for the best business idea. That was won by Hours and their application to make shift management easier for small and mid-size businesses. Also an out of competition honorary mention was made to Random Acts of Karma (pictured above) and their social enterprise project.

Finally the judges returned and the winners were announced in reverse order:

3rd Place – Arrow – Arrow is an In-Airport application that guides users to their boarding gates, taking the hassle out of airport travel. It adds value by providing all relevant information about the specific airport and the users trip (Dylan Commons, Gavin Ward, Patricia Organ, Patrick Breslin and Michael O’Meara)

2nd Place- What Paws Around – What Paws Around is an online platform that allows dog owners to find dog related services close to their location (boarding, trainers, groomers, sitters) and access to a wide variety of educational information in one click. Every service is peer reviewed, to help customers choose what is best for their furry friends. Dog related services have the opportunity to advertise their businesses and to connect with a new customer base. (Caterina Lodo, Anthea Middleton, Gavin Donohue and Gianmassimo Vigazzola)

The Winner – FriendShip – FriendShip makes it easy to share the shipping fees when you buy online. Partner with your friends to place your order and share the fees. (Gofran Shukair and Emir Muñoz)

(Pictures: Snaphappystudios, Ireland)

Finally a shout out to the organisers and volunteers. Events like this don’t magically happen by themselves so here is a look at just a few of the people behind the scenes who helped to make Startup Weekend Galway happen.

L-R Paul Killoran, Tara Dalrymple, John Breslin, Laura O’Connor, Ciara Deane, Michelle Clarke, Darren Kearney and Noëmie Martin-Pascual (Picture: Snaphappystudios, Ireland) Those not pictured are Michael Campion, Ciara Loughnane, Emily Mannix, Jane O’Connor, Rose Barrett, Tom Murphy, and Paul Mulhern.

If you are interested in hosting your own event in your locale check out the main Startup Weekend site to find out details on how to participate.

Disclaimer: John Breslin is the publisher of Technology Voice and I am a regular contributor. One of Technology Voice’s aims is to promote Irish technology and its associated businesses both large and small. Any bias you may detect in this article is of the flag-waving sort and we are quite happy to put our hands up to that fact.

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.

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.”

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 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.

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

Huffington Post CEO Talks About Online Video

In this audio transcription of an interview that took place at the 2013 Dublin Web Summit in Dublin, Fergal Gallagher speaks to the CEO of The Huffington Post, Jimmy Maymann, about the increasing importance of online video. The original recording can be found at the bottom of the page.

(Please note that the DWS was a very crowded event and parts of the original audio interview were subsumed by the noise of background activity.)

Fergal Gallagher: What are the trends emerging in digital media [and] with the Huffington Post in particular?

Jimmy Maymann: …One of the things, obviously, that we have invested in is online video. I sold my online video business to AOL and I am obviously still a big believer in that. But at the same time online video is still in its infancy which means that there is a lot of money that will come into video from the advertiser[s] in the coming years. The reason for that is that right now if you look at the overall media consumption, a lot of that media consumption is, actually, online video. And from the same lens if you look at online advertising spend there’s a big gap.

So, the advertisers right now are not spending. The gap is almost 15%… We always know with new formats is that you want to spend where the eyeballs are. So, I think video is at an inflection point where there will be some catch-up on [the] spending side. At the same time what’s also interesting with video is that video is starting to get the scale that advertisers… wanted for a long time. Because for a long time you weren’t able to buy a big enough audience on video and now you are starting to have that scale. Which means, that slowly, you’ll also see TV budgets moving into online. And in the past, really you’ve only seen that… the investment in online video came from the digital marketing budget. So, TV budgets are obviously much bigger. It’s a different game. So, as soon as you start to see those inflections TV buyers want to buy video at scale and that’s gonna be very exciting for the people that have inventory…

FG: You can see it nearly flipping the way it is now where you’ve more eyeballs on internet video than TV and therefore the money will follow.

JM: That’s a very good way of summarising. It needs to be very easy for a TV buyer to compare. “OK, if I buy some TV it’s going to cost me X, and I can have the same audience on online video and it’s actually cheaper or broader reach or gives me something else so it adds to the TV campaign.” Those are the things that will move the needle in online video.

FG: When you are talking about that online video you might associate The Huffington Post with articles. In recent times we have seen a lot of new digital media. Just last week it [was] announced that Glen Greenwald is partnered up with a founder of eBay. Buzzfeed is getting huge… Who are you competing with? Is it TV? Is it other online newspapers?

JM: The way I look at The Huffington Post is that it is an online media platform. We deliver news in many different ways. But it’s always been about creating a community, starting conversations, having bloggers contribute, really bringing everyone together around topics. The same thing that we do in video… You say many people think about HuffPost as a news site which is another reason on the video side we just last year invested heavily in video. We hired a hundred people. They are just doing HuffPost Live which is 12 hours a day, 5 days a week — an online video streaming experience.

So, we are definitely doubling down on this. It’s a huge area for us. And now we are starting to see that it’s really working at scale. Last month we had 80 million video streams and we are now looking at how we can take that into more traditional media. So, we have just done a deal with iHeart radio where we will actually have our own radio channel…

I don’t see the players you are talking about as competitors. What I and we want to do is try to build the next-generation CNN. We want to be a global media company and to do that you need to have more than in the old days… You need to be able to offer digital services across platforms.

FG: Are those new platforms today more monetizable?

JM: I think video is one of the platforms that [is] more monetizable. I think one of the challenges that you have with traditional online is… over the last five, ten years, banner advertising has only gone one way and that’s down and the click-through rates are very low and the CPMs are low. So, we need new formats and video is one of them. Mobile is another format that is popping up. As mobile becomes more and more important the whole buzz in the US is about native advertising. It’s becoming an important revenue stream also.

FG: So this is digital advertising where there is an advertorial in the digital content.

JM: It’s really taking the old-school advertorial and moving it into a digital environment… And, obviously,the thing you can do in a digital environment is that it is not a one-off, it is an ongoing experience, it’s evolving over time, it’s story-telling at scale. And then with an advertiser bringing it to you right there, they are actually paying for that experience and I think that is also a very interesting way. We are seeing that it is different to the content that we are creating. We are seeing that the readers… enjoy that much more than they enjoy traditional advertising. There’s an added value, it’s not just a product sell. It’s actually stories that are relevant to whatever section they are in.

FG: Have you enjoyed the Web Summit so far?

JM: It’s an amazing event. I remember two, three, four years ago when it was only five hundred people — it’s now ten thousand people. The quality of the speakers, the line-up is impressive. So I have to say… is also the reason why I decided I had to stop in Dublin because it is really a European event that has put Dublin on the map, I think, from a tech and media perspective and startup scene it’s great for Dublin and I think it’s a great event.

De-Risking for Startups

It is widely known that starting a business is a risky undertaking and carries a high risk of failure. So it is worthwhile considering why this is the case. Studies have shown that many mistakes made at the early development stage were avoidable.

The trouble with startups is that they cannot afford this “learn-as-we-go” approach, so the question is how to avoid costly mistakes? Starting a business unprepared is a fairly chaotic affair and the better option to chaos is structure. One approach is to follow a structured business startup process that will develop the business from the initial idea through each step until it is ready for customers and investors (as we do at New Frontiers).

So where to start? Perhaps you have an idea for a business or you have already started but need to get it more established. The first step must be to see if there is a business in your idea. There are five fundamentals that should be at the heart of your business:

  1. What issue or unmet need have you identified?
  2. What solution you intend to provide?
  3. Who and how many have the issue and will pay you for your solution?
  4. What business model will deliver optimal profitability?
  5. What skills are needed to lead, manage and drive forward the new business?

To test the idea and figure out if there is a market for the product or service, we use “market-led innovation” – the concept of getting the eventual customer engaged very early in the startup process, by involving them in the development of the product or service from the very beginning. This approach enables entrepreneurs to build their market intelligence and learn:

  1. Optimal product/service design
  2. Value and pricing
  3. Customer profile and target market
  4. Route to market
  5. Competitive advantage
  6. Marketing collateral
  7. Sales process and execution

This happens before the first product or service is designed. This approach process de-risks many aspects of the business and ensures there will be a demand when the entrepreneur goes
to market with the first offering. The next step is the creation of a prototype or the Minimum Viable Product – a first version which will address the customer’s problem, with secondary features coming later.

Tony O’Kelly is programme manager for New Frontiers, based at the GMIT Innovation Centre in Galway. Over €54 million has been invested in companies developed through the GMIT Innovation Centres in Galway and Mayo. This has led to the creation of 260 jobs in the region. These companies continue to grow and compete on an international scale.