12 start-up leaders in the running for ‘Founder of the Year’

22 Jun 2021

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Later this week, Enterprise Ireland will announce the winner of this year’s HPSU Founder of the Year award.

The founders of 12 high-potential start-ups (HPSUs) have been nominated by their peers to receive a prestigious recognition from Enterprise Ireland.

At a virtual lunchtime event on Thursday (24 June), one entrepreneur will be named HPSU Founder of the Year 2021. It is an annual event organised as part of Enterprise Ireland’s Founders Forum, and previous winners include Tony McEnroe of Sirius XT and Neurent Medical’s Brian Shields.

Let’s take a look at this year’s nominees.

Ian Duffy, Accelerated Payments

Coming from a financial services background, entrepreneur Ian Duffy co-founded Accelerated Payments in 2017 to make it easier and faster for businesses in need of immediate capital to access funds. As CEO, Duffy leads a team of financial, technology and customer service experts.

Accelerated Payments’ invoice finance solution means clients can access cash in as little as 24 hours, and can decide which invoices to fund through a user portal.

Niamh Parker, Altada Technology Solutions

Serial entrepreneur Niamh Parker has more than 20 years of experience across the legal, hospitality, sport and technology sectors. She co-founded Altada with artificial intelligence expert Allan Beechinor in 2017, when the two became frustrated by the ethical and practical ambiguities involved with leveraging the power of AI. Together, they set out to build a company that would demystify this technology for businesses.

The Cork-based team has also partnered with Tangent, Trinity College Dublin’s ideas workspace, on the AI accelerator Alsessor.

Ross Lawless, CALT Dynamics

Co-founder and CEO of CALT Dynamics, Ross Lawless, was focused on decentralising technology when he set up his business with Irene Villafane in 2014.

Today, Wicklow-based CALT Dynamics develops 3D printing technologies, helping manufacturers make better products with proven technologies. The company’s name is an acronym for computer-aided life technologies.

Its printing tech was in demand during the pandemic, as the sudden need for PPE meant 3D printers were working overtime.

Mervyn O’Callaghan, CameraMatics

CameraMatics, formerly called ProVision, was launched by fleet industry experts Mervyn O’Callaghan and Simon Murray in 2016 with a focus on connected vehicle camera technology. The company provides cutting-edge IoT technology to ensure driver safety and make fleet operations more efficient.

The start-up raised €4m in a Series A funding round earlier this year. As well as its Dublin head office, it opened a base in Waterford in 2019.

Karina Kelly, Content Llama

Content Llama focuses on helping e-commerce outlets deliver a streamlined retail experience using creative content to display products in a user-friendly manner. Its scalable technology platform aims to make clients’ product information displays as harmonious as possible when plugged in to their e-commerce engines.

The Donegal company was founded by serial entrepreneur Karina Kelly along with head of sales Joleen Looney.

Kerrill Thornhill, MEG

Kerrill Thornhill is the founder and CEO of MEG, a company that creates a management platform for healthcare organisations. With more than 20 years’ product development experience, Thornhill has designed and implemented digital solutions for hospitals in the UK, Ireland, US and Australia.

As well as having specialist industry knowledge and expertise working with hospital staff, Thornhill has a keen interest in how technology is being used to improve the delivery of health services for both patients and staff.

Oisín Curran, Odyssey VC

Oisín Curran has more than 15 years’ experience designing and implementing computerised systems to support business processes, process automation and analytics.

Odyssey Validation Consultants was established to provide cloud and management services regulated companies, with a focus on the life sciences sector. Last year, it announcement plans to create 100 new jobs at its headquarters in Sallins, Co Kildare.

Fionn Lahart, OneProjects

Co-founded by Fionn Lahart and Christoph Hennersperger, OneProjects is a medtech company developing next-generation connected intra-vascular medical devices. It operates at the intersection of hardware, software and data science, with the aim of treating patients using data-driven solutions.

OneProjects is currently developing Verafeye, a cardiac imaging technology focusing on the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation. The Irish-German start-up raised €11m in Series A funding this time last year.

Sharon Cunningham, Shorla Pharma

Sharon Cunningham is CEO and co-founder of pharmaceutical company Shorla Pharma. It is focused on developing and commercialising treatments in the oncology space for women’s and paediatric cancers, prioritising areas where existing treatments are limited or in short supply for the target population.

Cunningham founded the business in 2018 with Orlaith Ryan. It raised $8.3m in Series A funding last summer and recently submitted an application to the US Food and Drug Administration for its oncology drug designed to treat T-cell leukemia.

John McCarthy, Taxamo

John McCarthy is co-founder of Taxamo, a Kerry-based company providing global tax and payment automation solutions for e-commerce platforms and marketplaces.

The business was acquired by Philadelphia-headquartered Vertex last month, and McCarthy is joining Vertex in a senior leadership role overseeing the company’s global e-commerce and marketplace strategy.

Wendy Slattery, The Beauty Buddy

Wendy Slattery is CEO and co-founder of The Beauty Buddy, a data analytics company that aims to bridge the gap between brands and consumers in the beauty and cosmetic industry. It uses consumer social interactions to provide real-time insights and data for brands and industry partners, focusing on consumer behaviours, competitive comparisons and sentiment analysis.

Slattery started the business with her sister Tracy Leavy. The pair had previously co-founded a retail and e-commerce company together, where they developed experience in business development, corporate sales and project management.

Peter Jenkinson, Wrkit

Wrkit specialises in the creation of better working environments using an online suite of data-driven employee engagement and retention tools. It was founded by CEO Peter Jenkinson.

The employee engagement software aims to offer business and HR leaders a way to attract, nurture and retain employees, focusing on smart working practices, collaboration and upskilling.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic