Smart Sandyford – strategies for successful innovation

On Wednesday, May 23, the Smart Sandyford meetup will address how firms can increase agility, accuracy and responsiveness to rapidly changing market trends.

Businesses have never had more opportunities to harness breakthrough innovation, but in parallel, the risks of failure have increased. As technology underpins significant changes across biotech, medtech, fintech and many other industries, how can organisations plot a path to successfully navigate the development path of new products and services to stay ahead of the curve? Register now. 

The panel

Hosted by Smart Sandyford’s ‘Skills & innovation champion’, Eoin Costello, the panel of experts includes:

  • Paul Farnan – Microsoft
  • Jamie Tallon – ICON
  • Florence Irwin – SNP Communications
  • Bartley Doyle – Accenture

Who should attend? 

The meetup is free to attend and will be of particular interest to:

  • Business owner/managers
  • Coders/developers
  • Project managers
  • Product development teams
  • Innovation managers
  • IT staff

Space at this free event is limited, please register now. 

May Smart Sandyford meetup


Sandyford Smart Innovation Taskforce (an initiative of Sandyford BID) is committed to strengthening the digital community in Sandyford, helping business upskill for the capabilities needed in the smart era and helping companies in traditional sectors in the district leverage the benefits of digital transformation and collaborative innovation.

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What does Donegal have to offer for businesses and startups and what business supports are available to entrepreneurs in this wonderful North West county? 


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Revenues of Irish tech firms to grow to €3.5bn

Lending to the Irish tech sector to increase as Bank of Ireland bolsters its technology sector team.
The Irish technology sector is one of the most dynamic areas of the economy. At a recent event hosted by Bank of Ireland and supported by Technology Ireland and Gartner, Adrian Mullett, head of the technology sector at Bank of Ireland said lending to the sector in 2017 grew by 150% supporting the growth of software and services companies, including, Propylon, vStream and Storm Technology.
“Projected revenues of indigenous tech firms are set to grow by 20% in 2018 to €3.5bn,” says Mullett.
A dedicated technology team
“Given this growth, we are expanding our dedicated technology team, with two key appointments, so we can continue to provide the right guidance to our customers,” says Mullett. “A larger technology team will help us to serve technology companies better and capitalise on the growth in lending we have delivered.”
The technology sector team in Bank of Ireland has a strong relationship with Gartner to glean deep regional and global insights into every significant business function of the market.
At the event, the keynote speaker Sandra Notardonato, research vice president with Gartner, gave a global market overview that included the paths for Irish firms that want to break into other markets.
“For the first time in nearly a decade we see worldwide end-user IT spending in the technology sector increasing,” says Notardonato.
“Our annual CIO survey shows an increase in IT budgets in 2018, of which 25% is dedicated to digital initiatives.”
The spend on IT services is showing healthy growth, especially in Europe with Ireland, Switzerland and Germany leading the way, followed by southern Europe where countries are playing catch up after years of underinvestment.
“Automation is the most meaningful change to the IT services business model since off-shoring,” explains Notardonato.
IT outsourcing is also showing

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‘My wedding gift idea became a business’

Painted Clans founder Brendan McCarey makes family Coat of Arms and hand painted Heraldic products in a contemporary style. His business began when he designed a wedding present for a friend. 

The start
I started my design company five years ago. At the time a good friend of mine was getting married. I wanted to create a wedding gift like a modern family coat of arms. He was moving to Australia, and I wanted to give him something that would remind him of home. I started searching but I couldn’t find it, so I began to design it myself.
I started by setting up a Facebook page with the top ten modern Irish family coats of arms, and suddenly orders started coming in. I saw that there was potential to make quite a bit of money.
What is a coat of arms?
It is a heraldic depiction of your family history. It started in medieval times. They came to Ireland with the English. Most people in Ireland have a family coat of arms. I focus on the symbol within the coat of arms and strip away all the extravagance. I redesign it and create a series of stencils and finally paint the symbols in different layers. 
How did you fund the business?
I did a Kickstarter campaign at the very beginning which was more of a marketing programme. The beauty of the business is that my initial outlay was just the frames. I came from a design background, so I had a lot of equipment and office space and was ready to go.

What are your growth plans?
The business has been running three years. I am still trying to focus on America for growth. There are millions of Irish people in America. If we could get one percent of America, it would be amazing.
How many people work in

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Voinext helps online firms talk to customers

Brendan Farrell, the chairman of the board at Voinext, discusses the changing face on online customer service, growing a global business from Gorey and the importance of starting lean. 
My background
I come from a design and innovation background but have been involved in building new businesses for the last 35 years.
The idea and the service
Voinext CEO Jim Tracey came up with the original concept for Voinext. A simple way for online customers to connect to a ‘real salesperson’ who could make sure you got the right advice, the right product, the right deal and then close the sale.
So the rules for Jim were simple. Firstly contacting your online supplier should be for free. When you go to their store, they should be able to tell if you are a new or existing customer and serve you better. It all about the customer experience. Unlike the impersonal world of internet shopping that exists today. Jim wanted his online business to be customer-centric.
“The service allows your online customers call you for free, directly from your website to your phone.”
The value proposition 
We seem to have hit on a service that fits with just about any business with an online presence. Hotels, car hire, software, manufacturing, plant hire, property and finance companies, the list is endless and growing fast.
I suppose that it proves that, globally businesses still need to talk with their customers, and even in an online world voice is still the best for customer experiences for closing a sale.
“Who would have imagined that a Gorey based SaaS Company with its software team based in Minsk would be supplying free call service to a premier restaurant in Bali?”
The toughest part of starting a business
You need a ‘launch’ product. Any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you that the most important thing is to prove that your

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How young farmers can grow their farms

We are entering an era where real farm expansion can be secured without the need to buy land. This is good news for young farmers. 

The upcoming review of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will, almost certainly, bring changes to the supports available to farmers across the European Union. More support will be given to farmers who are actively producing food.
This will give Irish farmers real business development opportunities. Adding to this, are the recent tax changes to facilitate the development of long-term, land leasing opportunities in Ireland.
“Young farmers may be particularly drawn to the possibility of forging a joint venture agreement with an older landowner.”
As a result, we are now entering an era where real expansion can be secured at individual farm level without the need to actually buy land.
The business options to make this happen are extremely diverse. Young farmers, for example, may be particularly drawn to the possibility of forging a joint venture agreement with an older landowner.
Proper planning is everything and the potential for new and flexible farm development programmes will be encouraged. 
A good farm adviser can work with a farmer to help them come up with the development opportunities that best suit their individual needs.
Having a viable business idea is one thing – actually putting into operation is something else entirely. So if you are committed to growing your own farm business, why not contact your local Bank of Ireland branch and let them help convert your plan into a profitable reality?

Related Resource

Need to expand, invest in new equipment or simply need development funding for your farm? 

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Finalists named for One2Watch competition

FutureScope has announced its four finalists for this years One2Watch competition. 
FutureScope, Ireland’s only tech event dedicated to promoting collaboration and new business opportunities between start-ups, multinationals, innovative businesses and the research community, has announced the four finalists for One2Watch 2018.
The One2Watch competition seeks to find Ireland’s most scalable business idea and award the winning company with €2,000 and a platform to support its growth.
The finalists
CroíValve, an early stage medical device company, that has developed a device to treat a common heart valve disorder – tricuspid regurgitation (TR), without the need for surgery. With surgery performed in only 0.5% of cases, there is no current suitable treatment option for patients with TR, which significantly impacts survival and quality of life. CroíValve’s innovative device offers a simple, safe and effective solution to a common and serious health disorder.
Electrical Analytics has developed a novel power quality monitoring system, backed by a cloud-based data analysis platform that enables power grid operators to have complete visibility over their entire distribution network. The system can help network operators to plan upgrades, protect equipment from poor power quality, and develop usage analytics. Electrical Analytics Technology Ltd. is a spinout from the Applied Physics Research Group based in Trinity College Dublin.
BeSpoke Choice is an innovative sales platform that helps venues to increase their annual number of wedding bookings and the average revenue per wedding. Designed and built by wedding planning professionals, the application enables couples to build a unique package via an interactive journey of the services the venue has to offer. Once booked the software uses AI to maximise upsell revenue for the venue while also ensuring couples have the best wedding they can afford.
BuyMedia provides SMEs with a unique platform that enables them to better plan, purchase, manage and monitor their advertising across all

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Stori Creative – authentic brand storytelling

The foundations for Stori Creative were laid back in 2016, when Grainne Dwyer, former CEO of Skibbereen’s ‘Ludgate Hub’, saw a niche in the market for a creative production company with a focus on brand storytelling. Grainne’s cousin and co-founder, Fiona Dwyer takes up the story.

My background is in account management and marketing, and after spending two years working in New York, I returned home seeking a new challenge. I was barely off the plane when my cousin Grainne asked me to help out at National Digital Week – the aim of which is to develop entrepreneurship, by making digital tools accessible for all. Starting a business was never something I would have considered up until that point. It was my first time being exposed to the entrepreneurial community that co-existed along-side the Ludgate Hub. At the time it helped open my eyes to the supports, networks and opportunities that exist within the community here in West Cork.
The next week we both sat down together to discuss what was the beginnings of Stori Creative. Our initial interest in video production stemmed from making short videos with our friends when we were growing up. I suppose our passion for creativity was always there – we just never had imagined it could provide a living for us. So we said, ‘why not us’?
Our service 
We focus on authentic brand storytelling. There has been a huge shift in the way consumers purchase these days. People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it – and so we seek to extract those authentic, engaging stories from each brand we work with, to engage their audience. We not only produce compelling brand stories, we then deliver these stories on all of the brand’s social media platforms. This is to ensure that their

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Mattress Mick – ‘I never gave up’

Despite many setbacks, Mattress Mick says he never thought of giving up. He spoke to Stephen Larkin about his highs and lows in business.

Across Ireland, Michael Flynn, aka Mattress Mick, has become a household name thnaks to his unique business style. However, despite his bubbly character, his career has been a constant battle which resulted in some “serious failures” along the way.

Having started out working as a banker, Mick opted to take over the family business in Pearse Street, Dublin, following the death of his father. He made the premises a place of “real wheeling and dealing” as he sold everything from furniture, to clothes, and even curtains.

With money coming in from the success of his business, Mick decided to expand and at one point owned eight premises, which he feels led to his downfall. “I was young and I started spending my money very stupidly. I really took my eye off the ball. I knew I needed to make a change and I held on to them for far too long when I look back on it now. Eventually, I made the decision to close up and I sold those properties to clear my debts, but I still kept the original furniture business in Pearse Street.”

This recession in 2008 led to the birth of Mattress Mick. “When I looked at my businesses, I noticed bedroom furniture were the best selling products, so with very little money left, I decided on using a gorilla marketing strategy to get me going again. I was out on the streets doing the gorilla marketing and putting up signs everywhere without any permission, which resulted in things beginning to blossom again.”

“Not once! I had some bad days alright, but I never thought of giving up. I think it’s part of who I am to not give up.”

Famous for his quirky YouTube videos, Mattress Mick saw his popularity rise to the point where he was getting asked for photos on the street, doing meet and greet events, and even receiving wedding invitations. Mick puts his likeability down to his failure in the past. “The fact I’m just an ordinary guy, and I’m not afraid to admit that I have made mistakes, I think people can relate to that. I think it gives people motivation because failure is normal and to be successful you must overcome some sort of failure along the way.”

When asked was giving up ever an option, Mick’s entrepreneurial spirit awakes. “Not once! I had some bad days alright, but I never thought of giving up. I think it’s part of who I am to not give up.”

“Failure is normal and to be successful you must overcome some sort of failure along the way.”

Mick says this to be the most important characteristic for any aspiring entrepreneur to possess. “You need to believe in yourself above all else. Believe in the plan you set out and go execute it. Don’t get distracted by anything. It’s so important to do everything honestly because you’ll get far by being honest with people.”

Mick looks back on his career in business, which started in the 1960s with great fondness. However, he has one or two minor regrets about his adventures. “I think if I could go back I’d look to adopt technology earlier because back then I didn’t realise the power it could have on business. I also got ahead of myself and had too many shops at the one time. I should’ve just had two or three and really concentrated on them, definitely not eight.”

Despite having no plans to retire anytime soon, Mick wishes he was, “20 years younger to develop the brand”, and so he “plans to establish an exit strategy because I have to be realistic with my age”.

Related Resource

How to innovate to remain successful. 



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Turning the great outdoors into a virtual classroom

Vicky O’Donnell is the founder of Wilder Wander, an astonishing mobile game that gets children out into Nature to explore the wonders of the world.
I grew up on a farm in the Wicklow Mountains, loved the great outdoors and from an early age I always wanted to work with animals, so when I left school I studied zoology and animal behaviour in TCD. I am sure I asked David Attenborough for a job at one stage and I managed to get some work with the wildlife filmmaker Éamon de Buitléar, finding pine martens for him to film in the West of Ireland.
But jobs in nature are scarce on the ground so I went back to college to study geo-informatics and spent the next thirteen years working in maritime research in UCC. I worked with data at all stages and, although the job was technical, the work was very applied so it was easy to see the value of data in decision making and the importance of data as currency.
While working at UCC in 2000, I saw an article in The Irish Times advertising jobs with Irish Aid’s Rapid Response Corps which sends experts to work in the initial stages of an emergency. All of the data/information skills that I was using in maritime research were directly relevant to working on the ground during an emergency so I decided to pack my bags and I worked with UNOCHA, UNICEF and UNHCR in the Middle East, Africa and Asia until 2015. Since then I have worked with the UN developing emergency toolkits and training courses for those deploying to humanitarian disasters.
“Our first game uses thousands of biological datasets which were collected over the last decade.”
The idea
In the summer of 2017, we started a family tourism business and were in the planning stages

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