FoodCloud and Webio selected for Blackbox Connect accelerator

14 Nov 2017

A scene from the Blackbox Connect acclerator in November 2016. Image: Blackbox Connect

Irish start-ups punch above their weight on the global stage.

Irish start-ups FoodCloud and Webio are two of only 16 global start-ups that have been selected for the Blackbox Connect accelerator in Silicon Valley, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs.

This is the fifth year in a row that Irish start-ups have been chosen for the Google programme.

‘It’s great to see so many players in the start-up ecosystem working together to accelerate Irish start-ups on the global stage’

They join 14 other start-ups spanning sectors such as fintech, AI, machine learning and sustainability.

FoodCloud is a previous Start-up of the Week and was founded by Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien. The social enterprise connects businesses with surplus food to charities through an innovative software platform. Five years on, and more than 8,300 tonnes of food, or more than 18m meals, have been diverted from landfill.

Webio, founded by Cormac O’Neill, is a conversational middleware company that enables organisations to engage with customers via AI over new messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger, Viber and soon, services such as Alexa and Google Home.

The purpose of Blackbox Connect is to take the most promising start-ups from all over the world and bring them to the US west coast to learn about the Silicon Valley mindset and the practicalities of launching in the US market.

Elevating the founders

FoodCloud and Webio selected for Google Blackbox Connect accelerator

Blackbox Connect 17 Irish participants from left: Liz McCarthy, Dogpatch Labs; Michael O’Dwyer, SwiftComply; Dave Kearney, FluidUI; Luca Boschin, LogoGrab. Image: Blackbox Connect

The Irish nominees were selected by Dogpatch Labs, Enterprise Ireland and the local Startups with Google team to identify suitable candidates.

Since 2013, more than 12 Irish start-ups have participated in the programme, including NewsWhip and Restored Hearing.

Paddy Flynn, director of Google Ireland and a longtime supporter of the Irish start-up ecosystem, commented: “It’s great to see so many players in the start-up ecosystem working together to accelerate Irish start-ups on the global stage throughout their journey of growth; from Enterprise Ireland, who provide the seed and follow on financing, start-up hubs like Dogpatch Labs, and multinationals like Google, who want to transfer their knowledge locally, and many more.”

Dogpatch Labs’ Liz McCarthy, who participated in the Blackbox Connnect programme as a partner in residence, said that Blackbox is not your typical accelerator.

“The programme focuses on ‘elevating the founder’ – individuals who are recognised as key drivers of growth within their ecosystem.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years