30 Irish sci-tech leaders finding success in the States


13 Dec 20161846 Shares

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These Irish sci-tech stars have grasped a golden opportunity in the US. Image: ventdusud/Shutterstock

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Continuing our celebration of Ireland’s greatest emigrants, we look at the leaders who are storming the States.

Ireland's Sci-Tech 100

Continuing a centuries-old tradition, many Irish emigrants make the journey Stateside to live the California dream, be a part of the new New York and, generally, find business success. In the sci-tech field, things are no different.

Our new instalment of the Sci-Tech 100 continues with the many who have crossed the Atlantic looking for opportunities, and made the most of it.

Inspirefest 2017

Lorraine Twohill

Carlow native and Dublin City University (DCU) alum Lorraine Twohill traded in Ireland for Silicon Valley in 2009. Senior vice-president of marketing at Google, Twohill is now based at the search giant’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California.

Google’s first marketing hire from outside the US, Twohill has been working with the company since 2003. She oversees one of the largest marketing budgets in the world, which Forbes puts at $3.2bn.

David Smith

US MD of FirstCapital, Dublin native David Smith claims to be the “best connected Irishman in Silicon Valley”. Having studied in University College Dublin (UCD), Smith spent time in Irish operations such as IDA and Enterprise Ireland, where he became VP, before the latter took him to the US.

From there, positions in US Mac and TMF Group resulted in a move to FirstCapital, with M&As his latest priority.

This summer, FirstCapital co-founder Hazel Moore spoke at Inspirefest about how banks are completely wasting valuable customer data.

Shane Buckley

CEO of San Francisco-based commercial Wi-Fi provider Xirrus, Shane Buckley originally studied engineering in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).

Joining Xirrus from his role as SVP of Netgear in 2009, Buckley was handpicked by outgoing CEO Dirk Gates for his fine track record.

He grew Netgear’s commercial business 50pc to $360m in just two years and has twice been named as one of the top 50 Irish-Americans in technology in recent years.

Suzanne Rice

Suzanne Rice, sales planning and operations at Apple, has a long history in the tech sector. Holding an MBA from UCD and a computer science postgrad qualification from University College Cork (UCC), the Cork native has previously worked at Intel, McAfee and Cisco.

Now based at Apple’s HQ in Cupertino, Rice is putting her near-20 years of experience to good use.

Suzanne Rice, Apple

Suzanne Rice, Apple. Image: Suzanne Rice/LinkedIn

Kevin Barrett

Kevin Barrett’s move into the pharmaceutical industry via a career in IT had an unlikely but profound effect on the Irishman, now based in Silicon Valley.

After seeing how drugs developed by his company Elan helped a wheelchair-bound person walk again, he set out on his own path in 2013 to found the life sciences software platform, Chita.

Taken in 2013: Former Daybreak chairman John Hartnett (left) with Kevin Barrett (centre) and former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. Image: Daybreak

From left: Daybreak chair John Hartnett, Kevin Barrett and former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. Image: Daybreak

On two occasions, Barrett has been named in the prestigious Silicon Valley 50 list of Irish executives.

James McGlennon

Originally from Galway, James McGlennon has been the executive vice-president and chief information officer for Liberty Mutual Insurance Group for almost a decade.

McGlennon has ensured the Fortune 100 insurance giant is always at the forefront of technology and cloud computing.

An engineering graduate of NUI Galway, McGlennon worked as vice-president of architecture and development at telecommunications company Bellsouth for seven years before moving to Liberty.

Tom Kelly

Roscommon native Tom Kelly received an MBA in financial management from MIT following his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy. What followed was a 15-year career with some of the leading global investment banks such as Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Robertson Stephens and The Blackstone Group.

Tom Kelly, Sci-Tech 100

Tom Kelly, Iona Capital Advisors. Image: Iona Capital Advisors

Almost five years ago, he founded Iona Capital Advisors, an independent adviser to companies seeking to raise capital in the private capital markets.

Jacinta Tobin

Award-winning professional Jacinta Tobin studied international marketing and languages at DCU.

She is currently the chief revenue officer at Twistlock, a security suite for container security.

In 2013, she was listed as one of the top 50 influential women in technology by Silicon Valley Global Magazine. She was also listed as one of the top Irish technology executives by Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) two years in a row.

John Hartnett

Currently residing in California, SVG Partners founder John Hartnett is originally from Limerick.

Before he founded SVG Partners nearly seven years ago, Hartnett had quite a colourful career, ranging from board director of Aer Lingus and Mcor Technologies to president and founder of ITLG.

Hartnett has won a number of accolades, including the distinguished leadership award from the American Ireland Fund and the Lord Mayor’s Award for forging links between Silicon Valley and Ireland.

Gina O’Reilly

DCU and University of Phoenix graduate Gina O’Reilly is COO of Nitro, a company based in Silicon Valley.

Born in Belfast, O’Reilly joined the company in 2008, after seven years at ActivePDF as director of sales.

Spearheading the global expansion of Nitro, a document management company, O’Reilly told Siliconrepublic.com that her big break at Nitro came after it moved its HQ from Melbourne to San Francisco – with the Irishwoman double-jobbing for the company throughout the change.

Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill

Having originally studied business studies at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill is now the senior vice-president of national business outsourcing at Accretive Solutions.

With more than 20 years’ experience in accounting and finance, Ni Dhomhnaill works with companies providing consulting services such as strategic fundraising, financial planning and project management services, and has counted Facebook among her clients.

Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill, Sci-Tech 100

Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill, Accretive Solutions. Image: Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill/LinkedIn

Ni Dhomhnaill is also a board member for Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network, which brings together leaders to work towards innovative solutions to current issues.

Eimear Noone

A resident of California, Irishwoman Eimear Noone splits her time between composing new music for video games – most notably World of Warcraft – and feature films and TV.

A winner of numerous awards, Noone will be visiting Dublin next summer as part of the diverse line-up of creators, entrepreneurs, investors and pioneers for Inspirefest 2017.

Eimear Noone

Eimear Noone, World of Warcraft composer. Costume by Claire Garvey. Image: Steve Humphreys

She recently conducted her own programme with the National Symphony Orchestra in partnership with Video Games Live, entitled Video Games Classic.

Valerie Casey

Dubliner Valerie Casey founded The Designers Accord in 2007, creating a global network to host discussion about the creative community. She was named as one of Time magazine’s Heroes of the Environment in 2009.

Based in San Francisco, Casey worked as a chief product officer at Samsung’s Global Innovation Centre and now works as a product leader, focusing on social innovation and advising businesses, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.

Rhona O’Leary

After completing her PhD in biotechnology at DCU, Rhona O’Leary moved to San Francisco and began working for Genentech in 2005. She currently is vice-president of business operations for research and early development, as well as a project team leader; focusing on immunology, metabolic disorders and infectious diseases.

In 2013, she was named one of HBA’s rising stars of the healthcare industry.

Eoghan McCabe

Eoghan McCabe and his Intercom co-founders Des Traynor, Ciarán Lee and David Barrett outgrew Ireland’s “small pond” quite quickly, their company now employing 300 people between its San Francisco HQ and Dublin R&D facility.

A computer science graduate from Trinity College Dublin, McCabe recently said of his relocation to Silicon Valley: “If your ambitions are global and at a scale, at the biggest scale, then you do yourself a disservice by not being here.”

Grainne Barron

A graduate of UCD’s Smurfit Business School, Grainne Barron is the founder and CEO of ViddyAd, a cloud-based video ad creation tool with access to millions of videos and images, based in San Francisco.

Barron is a member of numerous boards including IBEC Forum and Enterprise Ireland iGAP. Her company’s turning point was when it struck a deal with imagery giant Getty Images in 2013.

#colorado 🙂

A photo posted by Grainne (@grainnebarronsf) on

Among Barron’s numerous accolades is a L’Oréal Women in Digital Award, received just this year.

Anne-Marie Farrell

With a background studying electronic and computer engineering, Wicklow native Anne-Marie Farrell joined Google in 2006 before going on to work across multiple sectors including strategy, business analytics and finance.

A decade later, Farrell is now the head of behavioural economics research for global SMB marketing at the search giant, where she gets into the mind of the consumer and help smaller businesses grow in a digital space.

Ray Downes

CEO of Kemp Technologies Ray Downes grew up in Pallaskenry, a small village west of Limerick. He has since traded that in for New York City.

Downes has been at Kemp since 2010. Initially managing the company’s international business from Limerick, Downes has been running the entire show for the last five years.

Ray Downes, Kemp

From left: Leo Clancy, IDA Ireland; Ray Downes, Kemp; and then-Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, TD. Image: Maxwell Photography

With Downes at the helm, Kemp has undergone global expansion, with an increase from 35 employees to more than 175 across eight international offices.

Cora Creed

Originally from Listowel, Co Kerry, Cora Creed relocated to the US in 1991, gaining roles in the digital music scene at Napster, EMI Music and Sony Music.

One of Siliconrepublic’s 100 leading women in tech, Creed was also named in the Top 50 Power Women list by Irish America magazine earlier this year.

She currently works as vice-president of business transformation at Universal Music Group in New York City.

Margaret Molloy

Margaret Molloy is the global chief marketing officer and head of business development at branding and design firm Siegel+Gale, co-founded by Inspirefest 2016 speaker Alan Siegel.

With a career spanning financial and professional services, and enterprise tech – with experience at Siebel Systems (Oracle) among others – Molloy is a self-described ‘strategic marketer with tech DNA’.

Now based in Manhattan, Molloy has not forgotten her Offaly dairy farm roots, citing lessons she learned there as being instrumental in her career.

Sinead O’Sullivan

Recently featured on Siliconrepublic.com’s Science 50 list, Armagh native Sinead O’ Sullivan has a very impressive CV. With a degree in aerospace engineering, she went on to do research work for NASA’s Mars mission and is currently a research fellow at the Center for Climate and Security and Harvard Business School.

Based in New York, O’Sullivan recently entered the entrepreneurial field, becoming CEO of Fusion Space Technologies.

Susan O’Brien

Inspirefest 2017 attendees are in for a treat when they hear from Smigin founder Susan O’Brien.

A graduate of UCC, O’Brien founded the language-learning company after realising that there was nothing on the market that helped users with simple, everyday conversation.

Susan O'Brien

Susan O’Brien, founder, Smigin. Image: Nuala Purcell

With her company now based in New York and used in 175 countries across the globe, O’Brien is also co-chair of the Irish International Business Network NYC branch and executive director of LEAP.

Eamonn Carey

Managing director at New York start-up accelerator Techstars Connection, Eamonn Carey has a résumé chock-full of entrepreneurship, mentoring and consultancy.

A former entrepreneur-in-residence at Techstars, Carey “started, succeeded and failed with several start-ups in Europe and the Middle East”. The Griffith College Dublin alum now helps to support other entrepreneurs as they attempt to get their businesses off the ground.

Fiona Ginty

A Galway native, Dr Fiona Ginty is a principal scientist for GE Global Research in New York, working in the life sciences and molecular diagnostics field. She previously worked as a research scientist for Nestlé and the Medical Research Council.

In 2015, Ginty featured in the Breakthrough documentary series directed by Ron Howard, highlighting her work to develop prevention and therapeutic strategies in the fight against cancer.

Pat Phelan

New York-based serial tech entrepreneur Pat Phelan originally began his working life as a butcher, at his dad’s behest.

Realising he wanted to do more, he became a mature student at CIT.

First, Phelan started Cubic Telecom, which today is a major internet of things player with clients and investors like Audi and Qualcomm. He left Cubic Telecom to start e-commerce security company Trustev, which was acquired last year by TransUnion for $44m.

Margaret Burgraff

California-based Margaret Burgraff is vice-president in charge of business development and global geographies at Intel and has progressed through all the major evolutions in technology.

UCC graduate Burgraff began her career at Apple in Cork in 1994 and quickly progressed through the ranks to be present at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino for the return of Steve Jobs in 1997. She subsequently worked at Palm and HP before joining Intel in California in 2011.

Oisin Hanrahan

New York-based Oisin Hanrahan is the CEO of Handy, a kind of Uber for handyman services.

Sci-Tech 100: Oisin Hanrahan

Oisin Hanrahan, Handy. Image: Handy

Prior to co-founding Handy (formerly Handybook), Hanrahan worked with Dublin Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave on a short-lived voting website called MiCandidate.

Hanrahan set the company up while studying at Harvard, where he met co-founder Umang Dua. The other co-founders are Weina Scott and Ignacio Leonhardt.

The company has so far raised $110m in seven rounds from 12 investors.

Margaret Murnane

For nearly 30 years, Prof Margaret Murnane has ‘lit up’ the world of photonics as one of Ireland’s leading physicists with a particular interest in ultra-fast optical and x-ray science.

Now a fellow of the University of Colorado in the US, Murnane runs a joint research group and a small laser company with her husband, Prof Henry Kapteyn.

Prof Margaret Murnane. Image: Penn State University (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Prof Margaret Murnane. Image: Penn State University (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Over her career, Murnane has written or co-written approximately 130 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Duncan Lennox

Massachusetts-based Duncan Lennox had a successful career as co-founder of WBT Systems in Dublin before he departed for the US.

Whilst studying at Harvard, he discovered research by Dr Price B Kerfoot, a professor at Harvard Medical School, which led to the founding of Qstream to revolutionise management training.

Sci-Tech 100: Duncan Lennox

Duncan Lennox, Qstream. Image: Qstream

Selected as one of the top 100 fastest-growing companies in North America on the 2016 Deloitte Fast 500 list, Qstream has raised $23m to date.

Pearse Lyons

Kentucky-based Pearse Lyons is the Irish Steve Jobs of the health and nutrition industry.

The Louth-born entrepreneur’s distillery work led him to Kentucky and, with just $10,000, he established Alltech in 1976. He used his own garage as a site, working on the principle that yeasts and enzymes could be used in animal feed.

Pearse Lyons, Alltech

Alltech founder and president Dr Pearse Lyons speaks at the opening of the Alltech ONE Ideas Conference in Lexington, Kentucky. Image: Alltech

Today, Alltech employs 5,000 people across 100 manufacturing sites and records annual revenues exceeding $2bn.