15 Irish people full of Eastern promise

15 Dec 2016

A sailboat approaching Hong Kong harbour, a popular port for Irish émigrés. Image: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Completing our Sci-Tech 100 for 2016, a selection of 15 Irish pioneers who have brought their talent eastwards.

Sci-Tech 100

Reaching the end of this year’s Sci-Tech 100 list brings us to Asia and the Middle East, where Irish roots have been laid in the flourishing fintech industry and exciting start-up spaces.

Our final list is filled with truly globetrotting entrepreneurs and firestarters, some wholly based in the east while the others live a more nomadic professional life, continuing to hold down roles in Europe and the US simultaneously.

Inspirefest 2017

Anne O’Riordan

Anne O’Riordan is the senior managing director of Accenture’s life sciences industry group, responsible for developing the company’s global life sciences practice.

Originally from West Cork, O’Riordan is currently based in Hong Kong, where she helps pharma, medtech and consumer health companies restructure their offerings and improve sales, marketing and commercial activities.

O’Riordan has been with Accenture since 1990.

James Lloyd

Head of fintech at EY in the Asia Pacific, Dubliner James Lloyd’s fingerprints are all over the industry.

Based in Hong Kong, Lloyd helps point clients in the direction of new, useable technologies emerging in finance.

Starting out in Deloitte in 2006, Lloyd spent time at Realex before hitting the high seas. Heading for Hong Kong, he first worked at AMP, before his efforts building and scaling a venture-backed ‘alternative finance’ platform caught EY’s eye.

Paul Kenny

Paul Kenny made his name in Cobone, a Dubai-based coupon website he founded in 2010, before selling it for an estimate $40m four years later.

Still based in UAE, Kenny is now a partner at Emerge Ventures. The Galway native has won numerous awards, and featured in numerous lists of influential business people in the region.

Kenny also co-founded Safarna.com, a travel deals website, and has previously acted as start-up fund ambassador for Enterprise Ireland in MENA.

James Whelton

Named in the 2013 edition of Forbes’s 30 under 30, James Whelton is based in Dubai in the UAE.

The Cork native’s entrepreneurial streak has in the past seen him in positions such as ‘entrepreneur out of residence’ at Polaris VC. He was CTO at Cobone, before the start-up was acquired.

Whelton’s CoderDojo legacy, though, is his most lasting. Co-founding the movement, there are now more than 1,000 dojos across dozens of countries.

Trevor Healy

University of Limerick graduate Trevor Healy is a technology executive building a platform for artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics, as co-founder and CEO of Sansa AI since 2015.

Prior to this, Healy was executive chairperson of the cloud communications firm Nexmo and chief innovation officer of telecoms giant Teléfonica.

From his new home of Singapore, Healy is also chair of the data company Boxfish, which is based in Silicon Valley.

Stephen Breen

Stephen Breen works on Visa’s Innovation and Strategic Partnerships (I&SP) team in Singapore.

Within the I&SP team, Breen plays a part in setting Visa’s innovation agenda, developing commercial partners, and promoting incubation and prototyping.

Breen has a true global footprint, having worked first in Europe, then moving to the Asia Pacific region for roles at Digicel and Visa.

Patrick Lynch

26-year-old Dublin native Patrick Lynch is one of the co-founders of new Irish-led fintech start-up, First Circle, based in the unlikely surroundings of the Philippines.

Prior to his current role, The Trinity College Dublin graduate spent time as the co-founder and coordinator of the college’s Trinity Economic Forum.

First Circle

From left: Patrick Lynch (CEO) and Tony Ennis (CTO) at the announcement of the completion of First Circle’s $1.2m seed funding round. Image: First Circle

Lynch said there is a $50bn opportunity for SME financing in south-east Asia and described how the company raised $1.2m in funding last October.

Niamh Given

Head of programmes at Nest.vc, Hong Kong-based Niamh Given is perhaps best known for her 12 years at PCH International. There, she filled various roles in China.

With extensive experience in corporate management, Given enjoyed several years working in manufacturing and start-up acceleration. She was also a founding member of Highway1, a hardware accelerator based in San Francisco that has raised over $80m through over 60 start-ups.

David Harmon

As vice-president of global public affairs, David Harmon works on strategy for Huawei from the technology giant’s base in Shenzhen.

Harmon is responsible for creating and implementing strategies that will promote Huawei’s global interests with governments and other stakeholders around the world.

A former cabinet member of the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Harmon played a central role in the development of the Horizon 2020 programme.

Donald MacCallum

Sci-Tech 100: Donald MacCallum

Donald MacCallum. Image: Donald MacCallum/LinkedIn

University of Ulster graduate Donald MacCallum has spent the last 15 years in Asia working in management and director roles for such prestigious companies as PCH International.

Now, MacCallum has forged a new foothold back in Europe, where he co-founded Austria-based accelerator Io2 Hub.

Splitting his business life between the two continents, MacCallum is also a partner at Detekt Design and OnePointZero in Hong Kong.

Alister Musgrave

Founder and MD of MoneyHero.com.hk, Hong Kong-based Alister Musgrave’s Asian promise is supplemented by his co-founding of CompareAsiaGroup, a financial product comparison business. While the former raised $3m in its first year (2014), the latter saw $40m raised just one year later.

A former associate at Morgan Stanley in the UK, Alister is one of the younger members of the Cork Musgrave retail dynasty.

John Smith

Cavan native John Smith is associate vice-president of Singapore manufacturing operations for MSD. Smith is responsible for managing the pharma giant’s manufacturing ops, encompassing API and formulation, among other areas.

John Smith, MSD

John Smith, associate vice-president, MSD. Image: MSD

Having worked in a number of roles within MSD since joining in 1989, Smith was based in various facilities around Ireland until making the move to Singapore in 2013.

Liam Casey

PCH International founder and CEO Liam Casey is a true globetrotter. The West Cork native splits his time between Cork, San Francisco and Shenzhen, where his company’s operational HQ is based.

Liam Casey, PCH

Liam Casey, founder and CEO, PCH. Image: Web Summit/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Casey started PCH in 1996 as a manufacturing and supply chain management company. Over the intervening years, the company’s remit has expanded. PCH now designs custom manufacturing solutions, engaging in product design engineering and start-up innovation.

Dylan Collins

Splitting time between London and Singapore, Dylan Collins has quite the string of interesting start-ups that he has either led or been involved with over the past few years.

Most recently, he is CEO of SuperAwesome, an international company producing an operating system aimed for the under-13 internet.

In 2015, SuperAwesome expanded into Asia with a joint venture between itself and Inspire Ventures to form SuperAwesome Asia, with Collins as chair.

Sean Fee

Sean Fee first came to the attention of Siliconrepublic.com after launching a gaming social network called Player.me from the tropical paradise of Thailand in 2014.

Two years later, Fee now splits his time between Dublin, Manila and Hong Kong as Player.me’s product director, following its acquisition by the e-gaming subsidiary of SplitmediaLabs in July.


From left: The Player.Me founding team Jamil Velji, Mak Sok and Sean Fee

Fee started out his career in investment banking with Davy Corporate Finance before co-founding his first startup, iFoods, with Niall Harbison.