SFI Prize Winners Gain Experience in Silicon Valley


Patricia McGowan and Jerry Reen at the Irish Innovation Center, San Jose

Patricia McGowan, from Roscommon, and Jerry Reen, from Kerry were joint winners of a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) competition specifically designed to encourage and enable post-doc researchers to commercialize their work.

The SFI, in conjunction with DCU Ryan Academy, recruited researchers to undertake an intensive course in business and marketing basics that lasted over two months. The course culminated in a demo day in which the participants pitched their projects to an especially convened panel.

The prize was a trip to Silicon Valley hosted by the Irish Technology Leadership Group based in the Irish Innovation Center in San Jose where this interview took place.

Patricia McGowan’s research is in the area of breast cancer therapeutics – looking for new targeted therapies for specific sub-types of breast cancer where there are currently no targeted therapies available for those patients suffering from the disease.


Patricia explains, “The SFI advertised for a course to bring SFI funded post docs on a course and open them up to entrepreneurship, technology startups; with lawyers, venture capitalists, people who had started their own companies and market researchers.

“Basically they showed us what what was out there. If you want to take and exploit your basic research – this is where you have got to go.”

Jerry Reen whose work focuses on cystic fibrosis pathogen – pseudomonas aeruginosa – the primary bacterium that kills those who have the disease.

“We are looking for strategies to stop that happening. We are also doing a lot of work with metagenomics which is a new area and is based on the idea that maybe we can see or work with only about 10% of bacteria that exists. The ocean has another 90% of bacteria that we cannot get our hands on.”

The metagenomic technique, “Allows us to get their genetic blueprint. We can’t grow them, we can’t see them but we can get their genetic information. That gives us access to new antibiotics, new signals, new chemicals that can control the bacteria that we want to target.

“Instead of going in there and trying to kill something like MRSA or E. coli you look for these new chemical messages, new antibiotics that would target those bacteria.”

Both Jerry and Patricia saw from their trip that there was a very real difference in the way a researcher regards their work to that of a person attempting to commercialize that research.

Jerry adds, “Yesterday we met with four startup companies at various levels of their progression. We met with the CEOs, the people who are heading up these companies. It was fantastic.

“A lot of this is about a mind change, having a different mind set. Basic research and commercializing basic research are two completely different mindsets.”

There is also the issue of pivoting. “A lot of the guys out here just want to know what our thing does. There are all these other applications that you may never even have thought of. So where you [go with it] is not where you thought. It’s worth its weight in gold to have access to that type of information.”

Another benefit from winning the prize was being able to plug into a whole new network of contacts; entrepreneurs, mentors and their associated networks.

According to Patricia, “If we want to take the next step we now have the connections ask questions, “Do I need to do this? Do I need to speak to a lawyer? Market research for the US – how do I do that?

“The idea is to think about our work and how we are going to commercialize it in the future and to have all our armoury in place early on.

“We are scientists by qualification. We don’t have a business background at all. We’ve been told all along not to go into this on our own so we would definitely get the right partners.”

While both Patricia and Jerry’s projects are still in their initial stages they have been given vital pointers in the right direction.

“At this point in time what we have is things that are not yet products.” Jerry says, “They are not yet ready to launch. What this is has done is that it has given us a roadmap. We’ve now got an insight into how do go from an idea to something that you can approach a company with.”

“The Irish are Coming” Southern California Chapter of the ITLG is Launched

Last night over 300 tech and entertainment executives and their guests gathered at Sony Picture Entertainment studios in Los Angeles, California. The event was to launch the Southern California Chapter of the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG). One guest, Dennis Donahue, Agriculturalist and Mayor of Salinas, believes very strongly the ITLG has, “Arguably, the best economic development program in the world. It is a very distinct market based approach with experienced executives, venture capital funds, terrific leadership and a network that can’t be beat.”

Guests of honor were First Minister Peter Robinson of Northern Ireland and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Considering their personal history and the centuries of conflict that Ireland has had to endure it was a wonderful testament to the desire for peace and progress to see both men on a platform together in front of some of the most powerful and successful Irish and Irish-American executives of the Diaspora.

A main theme of the evening was the enormous contribution that Irish led technology companies have made in the past, are making now and will to do so in the future to the entertainment industry.

John Hartnett, President and Founder of the ITLG credited JonMichael Bukosky and Kieran Hannon for presenting the case for having a Southern California Chapter. They clearly saw the potential in bringing together the ITLG’s extensive network of technology executives with significant figures in the entertainment business such as Bill Daly, Senior Vice President of Post Production at Warner Brothers and George Bailey, Sony’s Chief Transformation officer.

After dinner there followed a panel discussion hosted very effectively by Norah Zimmett of Bloomberg Television who were a media partner to the event. The theme of the discussion was ‘technology and entertainment.’ It was interesting to hear the different opinions from Fred Amoroso of Rovi, Robert Nashak, Executive Vice President of Digital Entertainment BBC Worldwide, Jay Roewe SVP of West Coast Production for HBO and Richard Moran, Venture Capitalist, CEO of Accretive Solutions and regular contributor to Technology Voice.

There was much discussion on how new innovations can affect and enhance the production process while possibly reducing costs. It was clear by the end that the panel was united in the view that Silicon Valley technologies would have a continuing and significant effect on the entertainment industry.

To ensure momentum and that the gains from the evening are not lost, JonMichael Bukosky said in a post event interview, that meetings between the technology executives of Silicon Valley and their Hollywood counterparts will continue, facilitated by the Southern Californian Chapter of the ITLG, on a bi-monthly basis with the next one taking place in November.

As Craig Barrett, Chairman of the ITLG and ex-CEO of Intel, announced in his opening remarks which were relayed by video due to previous commitments, “The Irish are coming.”

ITLG: ‘Innovation in Entertainment’

The Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) is opening its Southern California Chapter in the heart of the entertainment business today. Entitled ‘Innovation in Entertainment’ the event which will take place at Sony Pictures Studios, in Los Angeles, marks the impact of technology on entertainment and recognize the major advances made by Irish entrepreneurs and technologists.

“Without question, technology advancements are radically impacting the process of Innovation in Entertainment,” says Nora Zimmett from Bloomberg Television — media partner for the night. “With the launch of ITLG’s Southern California Chapter comes validation from Silicon Valley that Hollywood is fast becoming an influential center of technology advancement.”

Top entertainment executives speakers will take the stage on the night to explain how innovation will shape the future of their industry and will include Sony’s Chief Transformation Officer, George Bailey, Warner Bros SVP Post Production, Bill Daly and Rovi’s CEO, Fred Amoroso.

Included in the 300 attending are top leaders, founders, producers, presidents and CEOs from leading companies including Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Studios, Intel, Motorola, Bloomberg, Dreamworks, HBO, Google, AT&T, NBC Universal, Paramount Studios, Nokia, and The Jim Henson Company.

The event’s technology showcase and media lounge will be featuring the latest innovation in film/TV, music, video games, mobile applications, social media and 3D Printing.

“The theme of Innovation in Entertainment rose out of the recognition that there is growing convergence between all areas of technology and entertainment and massive race to own the consumer’s screen.

“With so much relevant technology coming out of Ireland and Northern Ireland, there is no doubt that we have the resources and talent to make a demonstrable impact in the global entertainment and technology industries. We just need the public and private sector to continue a forward-thinking policy of strategic investment,” says John Hartnett, ITLG President and Founder.

The event is sold out but we will have a reporter on the ground so you can expect regular updates via our Twitter account, @technologyvoice.

Irish Technology Leadership Group Wins PR Award

<img src="http://wordpress.technologyvoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Cian with Prize.jpg"

L-R: Eilish Joyce, Cian Hughes, Brendan Murphy

The Irish Technology Leadership Group has been recognised by the Public Relations Consultants Association of Ireland in their Awards for Excellence in Public Relations 2011 for generating positive international publicity for Ireland during the depths of the negative media coverage surrounding the EU/IMF bailout last November.

The Silicon Valley based grouping of Irish and Irish American technology leaders, which aims to connect young Irish technology companies with influential Silicon Valley figures, and to advance the cause of the Irish technology industry, won the award for their campaign in November 2010 which resulted in a positive Irish story gaining national and international coverage even as details of Ireland’s bank bailout emerged.

The award, shared with PR firm Financial Dynamics (FD), was in the category of Best Corporate Communication Campaign to Protect, Promote & Enhance the Reputation or Profile of a Corporate Entity, for the ITLG’s publicity campaign surrounding their “Silicon Valley Comes to Ireland” event.

Cian Hughes Head of Operations of the Irish Technology Leadership Group, says that the organisation was, “very pleased to have won the award”.

“We’re absolutely delighted because we were up against tough opposition from Bord Gais, Cisco, Ecclesiastical Insurance, and Keane PR.”

“We had a very strong group of people who came over from the states. Some very well-known names, and some great technology leaders, so that captured the imagination”, explained Mr. Hughes.

Mr Hughes was quick to acknowledge the role of Financial Dynamics in organising the media campaign, and highlighted the work of Brendan Murphy and Eilish Joyce in particular.

“For us, obviously, it creates awareness, but also I think it to some extent rewards some of the hard work that was put in by FD”

As part of the event, a number of notable Silicon Valley figures, including former Intel chairman Mr. Craig Barrett, travelled to Ireland and participated at event in venues such as NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of Limerick.

Despite the negativity in the international press regarding Ireland, and in the Irish press itself widespread media coverage was garnered for the visit of the Silicon Valley delegates, including RTÉ television and radio, TV3, and most notably, an eight minute interview with Mr. Barrett on Bloomberg’s “In Business” programme, a slot which has been valued as worth between €300-400,000.

Speaking of the Bloomberg piece, the station’s first ever broadcast from Limerick, Mr. Hughes said, “that was probably the highlight”, although the sustained media campaign also received coverage in The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, Newstalk radio, and Reuters.

The ITLG now plans to double the size of the event next year, largely due to the profile built up by last year’s campaign.

San Jose Declares June 30 Social Media Day

Originally Technology Voice was called socialmedia.net. We changed the title because we discovered that as we were writing about the wider tech scene we felt that the title was no longer a fair reflection of our subject matter.

However, we have always felt, and still do, that the growth of social networks and their effect on us as individuals and as a society has had the single biggest effect on how we socialize and do business since the first electrical power plants were built.

Social media has become so much a part of our culture that a given individual can now become conspicuous by their absence from at least one of the networks. We have reached a point now where there can be negative consequences for not engaging with social media.

For a professional person not to have a Linkedin profile would raise a red flag with any potential future employer, or at the very least raise an eyebrow. Similarly, not having a Facebook profile or a Twitter account, while possibly reflecting a naivety about how social networks work or some sort of perverse rejection of modern mores, would have the same net effect — self-exclusion from a global conversation.

Isolating oneself as an individual is fine. There is no doubt that there are many people who wish to keep themselves to themselves and don’t wish to participate in an ever changing online social environment and that should be respected. However, for a business not to engage in with the phenomenon of social media is to put it bluntly, plain stupid.

Every business needs customers and the social networks such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and so on are where the customers are. Almost 700 million of them are on Facebook alone.

Recognising the deep importance of the role that social media and social networks play in our lives the City of San Jose has just announced that June 30, 2011 is officially Social Media Day.

San Jose is a designated Global City because of the important role it plays in the world economy. It is known as Capital city of Silicon Valley which reflects its proximity to the headquarters and major operation centres of most of technological titans of our era.

The recent billion dollar refurbishment and upgrading of its airport to being one of the most technically advanced in the world is direct reflection of San Jose’s City council determination to be the gateway to Silicon Valley as well.

This purpose is to highlight the incredible importance of social media in our daily lives.

The Irish Technology Leadership Group, a network of over 1500 tech executives who are either Irish or of Irish descent, has in turn agreed to host a special event to mark the day.

Some of the leading figures in Silicon Valley have been gathered together in a special panel to discuss the significance of social media and its ramifications for business and the world around us.

What makes this special is that through the power of social media you will be able to partake in this event, engage with the panelists and ask them questions.

Social media is not a passive broadcasting service. What makes it so phenomenally effective is the extent to which it allows you to interact, share and exchange ideas and access people and resources that would never have been otherwise possible.

The panelists have been chosen to provide as broad a view of the area as possible.

Tom McEnery, ex-Mayor of San Jose and Rich Moran, venture capitalist and author, plus Charles Orlando have years of wisdom and experience to share and are all able commentators and observers of life in Silicon Valley.

Fergus Hurley of Clixtr, Philo Northrup of enVie Interactive and Kevin Spier of Bunchball are there to tell us how it is from the frontlines of innovation and product development.

All these people will have valuable insights to share.

Social media has, in just a few short years, become an indispensable part of the fabric of our lives. One question I would certainly put to this panel would be, “How do we prevent ourselves from becoming complacent about the possibilities that social media has to offer all of us and not take it for granted?”

One answer would be to keep taking the opportunity to engage with the opportunities that the technologies of social media and social networking afford us whenever they arise.

One such opportunity is the event taking place at the Irish Innovation Center on June 30 at 4pm.