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.

Mcor Technologies: 3D Printing with Paper

Conor MacCormack was born, bred, and still lives in Ardee in County Louth, Ireland. He has a primary degree in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in finite element analysis, which involved using computer models to simulate the stress within metal structures.

It was while studying for his doctorate that he gained a lot of exposure to the whole area of 3D printing and computer aided design.

As Conor says, “I had spent time when doing my PhD drawing things on a computer and getting them printed out in 3D, and realized it was a fantastic technology, but it was really niche and only the top universities and the top companies would have them.”

So, in very early 2003, Conor and his brother Fintan, who is a co-founder of Mcor Technologies, came up with the idea of building their own 3D printer.

They realized that apart from the capital cost of the machine, the running costs were the real barrier to entry, “The consumables that go into these machines would cost thousands and thousands every year.

“So we said if we could make an entry-level machine that was low cost to run, it would have a real future. It would accelerate the adoption of this technology.”

They asked themselves what would be the lowest cost material that could be used for 3D printing that could be bought off the shelf? They realized that paper was a perfect material. It’s very accurately made. It’s very precise in its thickness and the quality doesn’t vary much across the reams that can be bought.

As Conor says, “We thought that getting a 3D printer to work with A4 sheets of paper would be a brilliant idea.”

Conor and Fintan assumed that getting the machine to work and getting the software to enabling the slicing of the parts would be the most challenging aspect But the biggest challenge they had to overcome was trying to deposit an adhesive on to paper without the paper blistering.

It is not possible to make a 3D product with blistered paper so they had to develop their own adhesive dispenser, and the Mcor Technologies intellectual property is based around this device.

In October 2008, the team released some information on their product to some blogs that were discussing 3D printing and the issues that were surrounding it and there was an instant global response.

They received over 2 million hits in 10 days, and had to switch to a more capable web hosting service.

“From that point, we knew that we were onto something that people really wanted.”

Conor and Fintan have decided that Mcor Technologies need to have a foothold in the American market.

“What the ITLG Awards Ceremony means to us is that it gives us a chance to not only to meet some of the VCs in Silicon Valley and develop some potential leads for business. It also gives us the chance to tap into the expertise of the people at the Irish Innovation Center.”

A video of the printer in operation can be viewed at golem.de

The Silicon Valley 50

The 4th Annual ITLG Technology Awards will take place at Stanford University on April 5th and is being sponsored by the Irish Times and the Silicon Valley Bank.

The event will be hosted by Emily Chang, Bloomberg West Anchor and the keynote speaker will be Craig Barrett, ITLG Chairman and Retired CEO/Chairman of the Board, Intel Corporation.

Of especial interest this year will be the compilation of the Silicon Valley 50 – a list that gives recognition to the top 50 Irish American technology executives doing business in Silicon Valley.

A random sample of names from this list gives an idea of the extent of influence and depth of involvement that Irish Americans have had in shaping Silicon Valley into what it is to today – the gathering of the most creative minds in technology, marketing and management.

Many will have been aware of the massive changes that the economy of Ireland has undergone in recent years, from the heights of the Celtic Tiger to the depths of recession. These have been serious changes that have had and will continue to have an effect on economic growth for a little while more.

But all the gloomy news has hidden from sight one of the great success stories of the modern era – the incredible and remarkable story of the Irish tech sector.

According to ICT Ireland, (the voice of the Information and Communications Technology sector in Ireland), over 75,000 people are employed in the ICT area which is responsible for approximately 25% of Ireland’s total turnover and represents one third of Ireland’s exports by value.

Employment alone has grown by 6% in this area in 2010 and there is still the promise of more to come.

Any economy, anywhere in the world would crave for these sort of figures.

And the future looks better.

Three of the world’s leading research institutes are based in Ireland:

In a recent interview Barry O’Sullivan, Vice-President of Cisco’s global voice technology group, stated,

“Technology, by definition, is about the future – to the extent that you are in high tech then you are always in the next big thing.”

If one looks at what Ireland has been able to achieve in the harshest of economic climates then one can only begin to wonder at what can be achieved when the wind is set fair in the sails.

A major next step for many Irish companies is to take advantage of the world-renowned technological, marketing and management experience that resides in Silicon Valley.

The Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) was founded in 2007 by John Hartnett. He is a recent recipient of the prestigious Spirit of Ireland Award from the San Jose-Dublin Sister City program.

He says there are three overwhelming reasons why Irish companies should establish a presence in Silicon Valley:

“One, you have access to the greatest collection of technology companies in the world. These companies are all over the world doing things with sales and operations. But you want to come to the heart of where they’re at, and that’s their headquarters.

“Number two, if you’re going to get investment, a smart investment from someone who is going to change your organization and make you a true winner, these VCs, these angel groups are sitting here, not in Ireland.

“The third piece is access to talent. You have the world’s talent sitting here – guys that invented Google, guys that are running companies like Facebook or Twitter – if you want to build your organization and build some key leadership where you might be weak.”

The ITLG have set up an innovation center right in the heart of Silicon Valley as a launch pad for Irish companies to set themselves up, and to make it easy for them to do the necessary networking and have the essential face-to-face meetings.

The ITLG is determined to create the most powerful Irish network in the world. The Irish Diaspora is estimated to consist of over 40 million people. If this huge and powerful potential resource could be harnessed, organized and focused, then the door opens for all sorts of great and marvelous possibilities to occur.

To help facilitate this the ITLG can draw upon its network of 1,500 Silicon Valley executives and industry leaders who are either Irish or of Irish descent. Many of these people have had great success in their professional lives and view their contributions to the ITLG as a means of payback for their own good fortune.

These contributions vary in nature but can consist of:

  • Mentoring new Irish businesses coming to Silicon Valley.
  • Providing vital contacts for business development through their personal networks that would be very difficult to obtain by any other means.
  • Providing facilities such as the Irish Innovation Center to provide Irish businesses with a solid base from which to work from.

The rapidly growing Irish tech sector can only continue to succeed if it can take its place in the global marketplace as quickly as possible. The center of the global market place for high tech is Silicon Valley and the ITLG is ideally placed to facilitate and further the growth of Irish technology businesses.

The Silicon Valley 50 will be recognized at the 4th Annual ITLG Technology Leaders Awards at Stanford University on April 5th. You can register here for tickets.

Airpos: Helping Vendors from the Cloud

Martin Neill began his working life as a music journalist for the New Musical Express and The Guardian newspaper. He called time on his journalism career when he found himself becoming more fascinated with websites and the potential of the Internet.

He started his own business in 2003 specializing in ecommerce and online selling. It became clear to him that retailers needed to integrate their website activity with their business processes.

The classic model for point-of-sale (POS) operations is that a hardware manufacturer would make the hardware. Then, there would be a software vendor who would piggyback on the hardware. On top of that, there would be a network of dealers that go out, sell and install the POS apparatus.

Martin realized that there had to be a better way of doing this, so he started AirPOS which began originally as a little side project and mushroomed from there.

Timing, as always, was very important. Cloud computing with its advantages of timely updates, real-time backup and freeing the end user from nearly all of the application maintenance chores, was becoming more prevalent and more accessible as a platform.

From day one AirPOS was built in the Cloud. Martin explains further, “What we set out to do was cut out all the middle points in the point-of-sale industry, although we utilize those if we need to.”

“We are creating a disruptive model: on the hardware that you currently have, in 90% of cases you would be able to install AirPOS directly. That is the software suppliers and the dealer network bypassed.”

“Therefore we can provide a very affordable point-of-sale solution to retailers with all the benefits of it being web-based.”

AirPOS is based in Belfast, Northern Ireland which Martin does not necessarily see as being a handicap, “Software as a service (SaaS) can be done anywhere. So being in Ireland, from that point of view, shouldn’t be an impediment when it comes to raising investment.

“When it comes to building something as quickly as possible and scaling as quickly as possible, then there are places where that might happen quicker, but things are getting better.”

He goes on to say that there are a few differences between how things are done in the US and how they are done in Ireland. “Americans are very accustomed to the risks involved when dealing with small software companies.”

“The people in Ireland aren’t so accustomed. They haven’t seen the big successes. But using Silicon Valley as a model for Irish entrepreneurs, it becomes simply a matter of ironing out the kinks and cultural disconnects.”

To help further iron out these kinks and develop better connections, Martin says, “Coming to the awards ceremony is a wonderful PR opportunity.”

“Every time we come across the people that are part of the ITLG (Irish Technology Leadership Group) and the technology leaders that are associated with it, we get rigorously challenged.”

“We certainly learn a lot from these people, even if we spend only two hours with them. You get a good going over in every aspect of the business.”

“For us, the PR opportunity is wonderful, but the feedback and direction from some of the leaders in Silicon Valley is invaluable.”