Ireland’s software leading lights have impacted the industry, inspired the next generation, made incredible gains around the world and even taken their ideas to space.
Tonight (20 November), the Irish Software Association’s annual awards ceremony will celebrate the best of this sector in Dublin’s city centre.
Each year, companies that have achieved exceptional success and developed innovative technologies and partnerships are awarded in front of an audience of over more than leading influencers and decision-makers from the industry.
And, in case you were in any doubt about Ireland’s remarkable software pedigree, just check out some of the accomplishments of those below.
1. Eamon Leonard
Epitomising the kind of success that can be enjoyed through a career in software, entrepreneur and software developer Eamon Leonard sold his company Orchestra to Engine Yard for an undisclosed sum in 2011.
Generous with his time, Leonard is something of a community standard-bearer for start-ups and coders and has provided meet-up space for communities focused on software languages ranging from Node.js and PHP to Python and Ruby on Rails. Leonard also set up the popular Pub Standard event in Dublin and somehow still makes time available to host coffee meet-ups with entrepreneurs.
2. Claire McHugh
Hard-working and determined, Claire McHugh is one of the leading female CEOs in the indigenous software industry and her TV software company Axonista has signed key deals with broadcasters including QVC in the US and TV3 in Ireland.
The Dublin-based company has developed a SaaS-based platform that enables TV broadcasters and online video services to add interactivity to video for viewers intent on enjoying the ‘lean forward’ tablet experience.
3. Mike Hinchey
Based at University of Limerick, Lero is Ireland’s national software engineering research centre and it has been led by Mike Hinchey since 2008.
Previous to his work at Lero, Hinchey worked at NASA, where he rose to the position of director of NASA’s software engineering lab.
Hinchey helped make NASA missions self-managing and able to proceed to terrains that were previously inaccessible. He also helped develop significant advances in survivability, resulting in less likelihood of mission failure.
His work was so useful to NASA in terms of existing and future space missions – including landing swarms of robots on Mars at some future stage – that, after four years, a vote in Congress had to be called to extend his contract.
4. Sarah Bourke
While the shiny new crafts boldly going where few humans have gone before usually get the headlines, Sarah Bourke and her company Skytek are the ones ensuring that those vehicles stay in the air and the depths of space.
One of the pieces of software that Bourke and Skytek developed was the International Procedural Viewer, which has been operating aboard the International Space Station since 2005.
“It has all the information they need,” Bourke said in an interview with Siliconrepublic.com last year. “Our system assists them as they do their work onboard – if they have a scientific experiment the system walks them through the process, or if they need to do a spacewalk it tells them the procedures that should be followed.”
5. Annrai O’Toole
Annrai O’Toole was a co-founder of Iona Technologies, the second Irish company ever to go public on the NASDAQ, way back in 1997. A software High King of the country, O’Toole saw his company reach a peak value of $1.75bn at the turn of the millennium, before it was sold later in the decade.
Elsewhere, O’Toole created another successful start-up, Cape Clear, which was acquired by Workday in 2008, the same year that Iona Technologies changed hands. Cape Clear’s expertise is exemplified by the fact that its entire workforce remains in Workday today, a full seven years later.
6. Barry Downes
With many efforts being made to make Ireland one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to developing internet of things (IoT) technology, one of the largest R&D centres is TSSG (Telecommunications Software and Systems Group) at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).
At its helm is Barry Downes, who is also founder of the mobile software company FeedHenry, which was snapped up by Red Hat last year for a cool €63.5m in cash.
With the addition of a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in the Internet of Things at WIT, Downes is currently facilitating many of the next generation of software developers and IoT technologies, building on the success he had with FeedHenry.
7. Brian Caulfield
As well as being a partner with the $9bn Draper Fisher Jurvetson venture capital syndicate and chair of the IVCA, Brian Caulfield is an accomplished tech entrepreneur in his own right.
Caulfield worked in a number of indigenous financial technology companies, including Peregrine Systems and Trintech. He sold Exceptis Technologies, an electronic payments company, to Baltimore Technologies in November 2000 for $26m. Six years later, he sold Similarity Systems, a data quality company, to IT giant Informatica Corporation for $55m in cash.
Caulfield also served as interim CEO of Belfast mobile cloud firm Aepona, and Intel acquired that company for $120m in 2013.
8. Edel Creely
The former chair of the Irish Software Association (and current executive council member), Edel Creely heads up Trilogy Technologies, which, following its acquisition of b2Lateral last year, now has a dominant presence on both sides of the Irish sea.
With more than 20 years of experience in IT, Creely was previously MD of Datapac and is highly regarded across the industry. She has served on many industry groups, including the Microsoft and VMware Partner Councils, as well as joining the board at IBEC.
9. Karl Flannery
Karl Flannery, CEO of Storm Technology, is a sterling example of the best of Ireland’s software influencers.
A software engineer when he first started out in the industry back in the eighties, Flannery rose through the ranks to claim the top spot at Storm – a company with software and technology at its core – and, from 2011 to 2013, the chairperson’s position at the Irish Software Association.
Throughout the years, Flannery has made, and continues to make, innumerable contributions to the Irish software sector, from supporting up-and-comers within the industry to bringing in highly-qualified talent from overseas.
10. Justin Keatinge
CEO at Version 1, Justin Keatinge has a storied involvement in the Irish software sector.
Keatinge co-founded Version 1 in 1996, and the tech company has gone from strength to strength since, acquiring software companies left and right and opening offices in Belfast and London.
Encouraging development within the software industry is at the forefront of what Keatinge does. In addition to creating numerous opportunities for graduates in order to narrow the Irish skills gap, Keatinge ensures that a diversity of projects is always on the go at Version 1.
11-12. Hugh Reynolds and Steven Collins
You simply couldn’t have a list of Irish software influencers without one or other of this duo and, thanks to their tandem achievements, we couldn’t even separate them.
Back in 1997, when the PlayStation reigned supreme, Hugh Reynolds and Steven Collins were computer science researchers at Trinity College Dublin who decided to begin a project that would allow them to recreate crystal glass. Through one way or another, this led to the forming of the gaming software company Havok.
All these years later, many of the major gaming titles played today – from Call of Duty to Halo – are working off the latest version of the Havok engine, all originating from Reynolds’ and Collins’ handiwork.
The company, now under the helm of David Coghlan, was only recently purchased by Microsoft from Intel with the aim of expanding its Xbox games development even further. As for Reynolds and Collins, the pair went on to found the mobile app integration start-up Swrve, which announced a fresh $30m in investment just last week.
13. Andrea Magnorsky
Co-founder of BatCat Games, Andrea Magnorsky has been a software developer for more than 15 years and last year celebrated one of the company’s latest games, P-3 Biotic, getting greenlit on the Steam gaming platform, bringing it to the attention of avid gamers online.
Magnorsky has also been heavily involved with helping younger generations of game developers hone their skills at global GameCraft events, as co-founder of the GameCraft Foundation.
First held in 2012, Magnorsky’s contribution has seen it grow into a successful games jam event designed around building the gaming community.
14. Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is CEO of Fineos, an insurance software company that exports globally.
That global demand is due in no small part to the innovative and streamlined systems the company offers its clients, while expansions into out-of-the-box solutions have brought Fineos to an even wider audience. To achieve this success, Kelly consistently invests in R&D to ensure that the company’s software remains cutting edge.
15. David Moloney
In 2005, David Moloney co-founded Movidius in Dublin with Sean Mitchell. Now, Movidius is headquartered in the US and also has a base in Romania, while clients for its semiconductor technology include Google’s Project Tango.
The company recently raised €38m and added 100 jobs to its base in Dublin, while Moloney, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the semiconductor industry, now acts as CTO.
Moloney previously worked at Infineon (Siemens’ semiconductor division) in Munich and SGS-Thomson Microelectronics in Milan. He received a PhD from Trinity College Dublin in 2010 for his research into high-performance computer architectures, and he is now the inventor or co-inventor of 17 issued US patents, with additional patents pending.
16. Ray Nolan
Noted for his deft touch at building succesful software businesses – including Hostelworld, which recently floated with a valuation of €245m – Ray Nolan is an enigmantic figure in the Irish software community.
Nolan started his first software company, Raven Computing, when he was 22. This became the incubation engine for many businesses that followed, including Coretime, which Nolan sold to Sage in 2004, and Web Reservations International, which he founded in 1999 and which spawned sites such as Hostelworld.com, Hostels.com and Boo.com.
17. Jennifer Condon
In April this year, Jennifer Condon ended her 18 years with Enterprise Ireland, having reached as high as the organisation’s head of software and services.
A chartered engineer, Condon was educated in Columbia University before becoming a prominent face at ICT events up and down the country in her position at Enterprise Ireland.
Prior to her role at Enterprise Ireland, Condon spent over a decade at Fujitsu, working within the software R&D department.
18. Colm Lyon
Colm Lyon founded Realex Payments, which was sold to Global Payments for €115m earlier this year. Thanks in large part to his role with the company, Lyon was recently awarded a Net Visionary Award from the Irish Internet Association.
Lyon is continuing his fintech pursuits with new start-up Fire Financial Services and as chair of the newly established Fintech and Payments Association of Ireland.
19. Joe Hogan
Joe Hogan founded Openet in 1999 and has acted as the company’s CTO ever since.
Along with Openet CEO Niall Norton he was named European Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013 and EY Irish Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011.
Openet, which is Ireland’s largest indigenous technology company, provides software that enables its global mobile phone and cable customers to improve profitability, by commercialising network activity. Its customers include AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Bell and Vodafone.
Hogan is the principal architect of Openet’s product portfolio and has more than 25 years of software engineering experience.
20. Niambh Scullion
Niambh Scullion worked as a software engineer in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin before moving on to the role of senior software engineer with Curam Software and, since 2012, she has worked as a business analyst with IBM. However, her greatest influence on the Irish software industry is her role in ensuring a more gender-balanced future.
Scullion is the co-founder, with Sarah Doran and Noel King, of CoderDojo Girls in Dublin City University. Based on the model of CoderDojo, CoderDojoGirls caters for the specific interests and motivations of girls, helping to build their confidence and interest in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
21. Sean O’Sullivan
Sean O’Sullivan is an entrepreneur, investor and inventor, and the man behind venture capital operation SOSV.
Through SOSV, O’Sullivan has made investments in Netflix and Harmonix (the company behind video-game smash Guitar Hero), among others.
He is probably most widely recognised as a current judge on RTÉ’s Dragon’s Den but, within software circles, it is another achievement that has brought O’Sullivan attention – he is the person who coined the term ‘cloud computing’.
Disclosure: SOSV is an investor in Silicon Republic
Stargazing image by Stefano Garau via Shutterstock