30 superb Irish tech start-ups to watch in 2019

20 Dec 2018

Silicon Docks in Dublin at dusk. Image: © tilialucida/Stock.adobe.com

Irish start-ups have never been more potent and relevant, and a defining feature of the ones to watch in 2019 is their embrace of deep tech.

It is a fascinating time to be an Irish start-up. The benefits of a strong research ecosystem, a flourishing multinational environment and the sheer desire among entrepreneurs to succeed are clearly evident.

What is characteristic about this year’s 30 to watch is the shift away from generic business solutions and apps to more focused, data-ingrained, deep-tech platforms involving artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, virtual reality (VR), data science, the internet of things (IoT) and photonics.

Another characteristic is the increasing number of start-ups that are women-led or that include women on the founding team. Outstanding start-up founders such as Nuritas’s Nora Khaldi, Skmmp’s Aileen Carville, Popertee’s Lucinda Kelly and VR Education Holdings’ Sandra Whelan, to name a few, demonstrate the calibre of leadership that has emerged.

That said, start-ups to watch in 2019 are going into a year full of uncertainty defined and dominated no doubt by Brexit as well as major shortfalls in venture capital and seed funding.

But, as you can see from our selection of the ones to watch in 2019, you shall know them by their velocity.


Aid:Tech CEO Joseph Thompson. Image: Aid:Tech

Aid:Tech CEO Joseph Thompson. Image: Aid:Tech

Dublin-based blockchain company Aid:Tech’s platform enables aid, welfare, remittances, donations and healthcare to be digitised and delivered through blockchain technology in a completely transparent manner, helping governments and corporates to tackle some of the most entrenched issues in their fields. Founded in 2014 by Joseph Thompson and Niall Dennehy, Aid:Tech claims to be the first company in the world to deliver international aid to Syrian refugees using blockchain technology. The company recently signed a €1m funding deal with investors including SGInnovate and BlockAsset Ventures.


Three men in suits standing against a wall.

From left: Joe Blake, CEO, Artomatix; Eric Risser, CTO, Artomatix; and Barry Downes, Suir Valley Ventures. Image: Artomatix

Artomatix is a Dublin-based AI software firm whose flagship product, ArtEngine, automates up to 90pc of the most repetitive and time-consuming tasks in the 3D artistic workflow. Led by CEO Joe Blake, the company raised €2.7m in October in a round led by Suir Valley Ventures and recently raised a further €3.2m in government grants from the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund and the Fast Track to Innovation Fund.


Gillian Doyle, CEO, Cerebreon Technologies. Image: Cerebreon

Gillian Doyle, CEO, Cerebreon Technologies. Image: Cerebreon

Cerebreon is a Donegal-based tech firm that uses machine intelligence and algorithms to spot insolvency failures in advance and take corrective action. Founded by Gillian Doyle and Kenneth Doherty, Cerebreon wowed the judges at the NDRC’s summer Investor Day and picked up the top prize, including €30,000 in follow-on investment from the NDRC.


A woman and four men stand beside Liffey on a sunny day.

From left: Mariam Barakat, Sean Kenny, Cormac O’Brien, David Heath and David O’Connor. Image: Circit.io

Circit.io is developing a secure platform for communicating and automating processes during a financial audit. Founded in 2015 by David Heath, Circit connects banks, accounting firms and their clients during the highly sensitive audit process. Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and Deloitte are among customers using the platform.


Two women with blonde hair and black jackets stand in a corridor.

From left: Maeve Kneafsey and Brenda Jordan, co-founders of CloudKPI. Image: Connecticut Innovations

CloudKPI is the creator of a platform for cloud businesses to help them make more data-driven decisions. The company is targeting the cloud analytics market, which is currently valued at $7.5bn and is expanding at 20pc per annum. Founded by Maeve Kneafsey and Brenda Jordan, it recently emerged as the sole European winner of the Connecticut Innovations VentureClash competition.


High-angle shot of a man sitting on a green chair and a woman sitting on a yellow chair.

CorribPoint founders John Rushe and Caitriona McGuckian. Image: CorribPoint

Galway-based CorribPoint has developed a cloud technology for credit unions to meet anti-money laundering (AML) obligations. Founded by Caitriona McGuckian and John Rushe, CorribPoint’s Akula technology is a cloud-based platform that automates the process of identifying, analysing and reporting potentially suspicious financial transactions.

Equine MediRecord

Equine MediRecord has the breeding to keep horses in perfect health

Equine MediRecord winning the under-30s category at the ITBA Expo 2018 at Goffs. From left: Aislinn deBarra, AIB; Pierce Dargan, Equine MediRecord; Simon Hillary, Equine MediRecord; and Seán Gallagher, Dragons’ Den. Image: Caroline Norris

Equine MediRecord has created a digital platform that allows breeders and trainers to safely manage medication for horses. Led by CEO Pierce Dargan, the NDRC start-up’s platform allows users to record such information from their mobile phone.


two well dressed young men answer questions.

From left: Evocco co-founders Ahmad Mu’azzam and Hugh Weldon. Image: Evocco

Evocco is a sustainable shopping app that helps consumers find out the environmental impact of their shopping. Founded by Ahmad Mu’azzam and Hugh Weldon, the app gives tips on how you can make your shopping purchases more environmentally friendly. Weldon recently won a top UN environmental prize for the app at the Champions of the Earth ceremony in New York.


Four men in a field, one with a shovel of soil.

From left: Joe Desbonnet, Farmeye; Dr Chaosheng Zhang, NUI Galway; Dr Eoghan Finneran, Farmeye; and Brendan Allen, Farmeye. Image: Andrew Downes/Xposure

NUI Galway spin-out Farmeye has created an online, map-based system for sustainable soil nutrient management for agri-consultants and agronomists to manage and monitor sustainable fertiliser usage on farms. The Farmeye portal has been approved by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as an alternative to the Teagasc system for preparation of compliance-based Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) such as derogation plans. Founded by Dr Eoghan Finneran and Brendan Allen, it aims to create 10 new direct jobs and additional spin-out business over the next three years.


Group of people in blue t-shirts.

From left: Brothers Conor and James McCarthy with members of the Flipdish team. Image: Flipdish

Flipdish is an online ordering and loyalty platform for takeaways and restaurants. Founded in 2015 by Irish brothers Conor and James McCarthy, Flipdish enables restaurants to directly accept online orders and manage their online presence and operations, without having to list on aggregator platforms. It recently raised €4.8m in a Series A funding round led by Global Founders Capital with participation from Elkstone. Earlier this year, Flipdish raised €2.7m from Elkstone, Enterprise Ireland and Growing Capital.


Two men in checkered shirts stand before a giant light bulb.

From left: ID-Pal co-founders James O’Toole and Colum Lyons. Image: ID-Pal

Founded by James O’Toole and Colum Lyons, ID-Pal is a digital identity verification solution that enables businesses to seamlessly onboard their customers in seconds. The only Irish company taking part in Salesforce’s EMEA Accelerate programme, the start-up also recently won the Industry Breakthrough award from Payments Industry at PayExpo in London.

Kite Medical

Man and two women at top of a stairs.

From left: Kite Medical CTO Paul Frehill, founder and CSO Sarah Loughney, and CEO Joan FitzPatrick. Image: Kite Medical

A spin-out of the NUI Galway BioInnovate programme, Kite Medical has created a novel device for detecting kidney reflux in children. With the leadership team of Sarah Loughney, Paul Frehill and Joan Fitzpatrick, Kite Medical recently closed a €1.5m investment round. It has also commenced a clinical trial for its device at the world-renowned Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York.


MeetingRoom makes conference calls more productive in one click

Meetingroom.io co-founder and CEO Jonny Cosgrove. Image: MeetingRoom

Meetingroom.io is on a mission to revamp remote video or conference calls and make them work for businesses. Founded by Jonny Cosgrove, Dr Tadhg O’Sullivan and Dr Abraham (Abey) Campbell, the company has devised digital meeting spaces for teams to meet online, using body language and spatial audio for crystal-clear sound.


Young man in sports top standing with arms folded in a path in a park.

MyStudyPal founder Mark Nealon. Image: City Headshots Dublin

MyStudyPal helps secondary school students create personalised timetables to ensure work-life balance in the lead-up to exams. The start-up was founded by 19-year-old student Mark Nealon after he completed his own Leaving Cert and realised that there had to be a better way to plan and manage your study. The start-up has completed the build of its iOS and Android mobile apps a few months ahead of schedule, and they have been launched in time for the Christmas break.


woman with dark hair and black halterneck top beside man in blue shirt tracing lines on a futuristic screen.

Dr Nora Khaldi and Emmet Browne of Nuritas. Image: Kieran Hartnett

Nuritas combines IT and life sciences expertise to mine DNA and protein data from plant materials in the hope of discovering new food components to help prevent, manage and possibly even cure disease. Founded in 2014 by mathematician and bioinformatician Dr Nora Khaldi, Nuritas recently became the first Irish biotech to gain direct support from the European Investment Bank with a new funding round worth €30m. This is in addition to backing from U2’s Bono and The Edge as well as Salesforce’s Marc Benioff.


Dark-haired man in pink shirt in front of a wooden wall.

Daniel McGlade, Oroson founder and CEO. Image: Oroson

Northern Ireland start-up Oroson is transforming how companies, teams and individuals work. The company’s software enables businesses to increase productivity by streamlining workflows. Founded in 2013 by Daniel McGlade, it recently received a £1.2m investment from Co-Fund NI and private investors.

One Step Closer

Photo of Joanna Mulkeen, founder of One Step Closer.

One Step Closer founder Joanna Mulkeen. Image: NDRC

One Step Closer helps brands to communicate their corporate social responsibility (CSR) work to consumers. Founded by Joanna Mulkeen, the NDRC-based start-up collects data on user preferences that both brands and causes can use to improve their communication on CSR.


Cork-based Over-C, which also has offices in London, enables end-to-end visibility to service-centric operations while optimising compliance, reducing risk, and delivering smart, paperless reporting. Founded in 2011 by Michael Elliott and Greg Gleinig, the company earlier this year landed contracts worth more than €20m with KPN and Facilicom Group. It counts Thomond Park, Eli Lilly, GSK and Savills UK among its clients.


Four men holding a tech award.

From left: Niall Brennan, PaidAde; Ben Hurley, NDRC; Ciaran Brennan, PaidAde; and Ken Lambe, PaidAde. Image: Patrick Browne/Brownes Photography

PaidAde connects building trade contractors to suppliers via a clever Android app. Founded by brothers Ciaran and Niall Brennan alongside Ken Lambe, PaidAde won the NDRC Investor Showcase at ArcLabs at Waterford Institute of Technology during the summer.

Pest Pulse

four men standing in front of a blue wall.

From left: Brian Monaghan, Tim O’Toole, Wassim Magnin and John O’Gara. Image: Pest Pulse

Pest Pulse is a technology-led company that is using smart devices and software to offer a superior pest control service. Founded by Brian Monaghan, Wassim Magnin, Tim O’Toole and John O’Gara, Pest Pulse has created a patent-pending package that lets you know the status of a rodent snap trap at all times.

Pilot Photonics

DCU spin-out Pilot Photonics raises close to €1m

From left: Ger Goold, COO and partner, Kernel Capital; Frank Smyth, CEO, Pilot Photonics; Kevin Healy, senior manager, Corporate Banking Ireland, Bank of Ireland. Image: Kernel Capital

Dublin City University spin-out Pilot Photonics has developed a new type of laser that can be used across a whole spectrum of applications. Earlier this year, the spin-out raised close to €1m in an investment round led by Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Funds in syndication with Dublin Business Innovation Centre after 10 years of pioneering R&D work.


30 awesome Irish start-ups to watch in 2018

Lucinda Kelly, founder of Popertee. Image: Popertee

Popertee is building a global data platform that will use AI to match the perfect audience with the perfect location, connecting brands with the ideal space using social media and behavioural data. Founded by Lucinda Kelly, Popertee is capable of measuring the impact of campaigns for experiential marketing, pop-ups, events and brands looking to test markets on a short-term basis while also gaining deeper insights on performance, event planning, agencies and venues.


Two men in shirts standing on a rooftop in Dublin.

From left: ServiceDock founders Leonardo Correa and Oisin Ryan. Image: ServiceDock

ServiceDock enables retail chains to capture customer experience feedback through popular messaging apps. Founded in 2016 by Oisin Ryan and Leonardo Correa, the start-up recently raised €450,000 in an angel round from seasoned business leaders along with Enterprise Ireland.


A woman with long, dark loosely curled hair stands with her arms crossed in a hall of brickwork walls.

Aileen Carville, CEO and founder, Skmmp. Image: NDRC

Dublin-based Skmmp is the creator of a virtual showroom and enterprise platform for the fashion business. Founded by fashion industry veteran Aileen Carville, the NDRC ‘fashtech’ is focused on the $275bn luxury wholesale fashion market and aims to enable wholesalers to reach 10 times the number of retailers they can currently service each season.


Sweepr is reshaping customer care for the connected home and the majority of non-technical homeowners, making IoT a more viable proposition. Led by CEO Alan Coleman, who sold Brite:Bill to Amdocs in 2016, the venture has already received the backing of Frontline Ventures.


From left: Anne James in a black dress, James Allen wearing a camel blazer and Hannah Cusack of UrbanVolt, also wearing black.

From left: Anne James of UrbanVolt, James Allen of Adopt A Startup and Hannah Cusack of UrbanVolt. Image: Shane O’Neill/SON Photographic

The winner of the latest Google Adopt a Startup contest, UrbanVolt works with some of the biggest companies in the world to reduce their carbon footprint through a move to LED lighting. Founded in 2015, Dublin-based UrbanVolt estimates it has saved the emissions equivalent of taking 9,000 cars off the road annually with its first 200 clients. Earlier this year, it signed a €55m funding deal with UK investment company Low Carbon.


Ten people sitting and standing among green pipes.

The Uleska team with their investors. Image: Uleska

Belfast-based Uleska was founded in February 2016 to address a gap in the automation of software security for internet and cloud systems. After winning £500,000 in investment and sales orders, Uleska is currently recruiting developers to help build on its initial success. Founded by Gary Robinson, Uleska is targeting opportunities in the application security market, which is expected to grow to $9bn per year by 2022, according to industry expert Gartner.

UX Design Institute

Man and woman in yellow skirt standing smiling at camera.

Colman Walsh of UX Design Institute with Tansy Murray of Mastercard. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

The UX Design Institute has devised an online user experience (UX) course and is focused on closing the rapidly expanding UX skills gap. Established in 2013 by veteran UX designer Colman Walsh, the company has operated a profitable business from year one, with revenues on track to reach €1.2m this year and €2.5m in 2019. It recently raised €500,000 in funding and revealed plans to hire 16 people in Dublin in the coming year.

VR Education Holdings

A man and a woman stand beside another woman wearing a VR headset with a red background.

VR Education founders David and Sandra Whelan with a VR demonstrator (centre). Image: Shane O’Neill/SON Photographic

VR tech firm VR Education Holdings is focused on the future of education and entertainment. Founded in Waterford by husband-and-wife team David and Sandra Whelan, the company listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Irish Stock Exchange in March this year, raising £6m in the process. In the past year, it has launched its Titanic VR immersive experience and its 1943: Berlin Blitz experience. The latter was created in collaboration with the BBC and was nominated for the Virtual Reality Film Award (Linear category) at the Venice Film Festival.


Four men in t-shirts stand on a cobbled street in Dublin.

From left: Paul Sweeney, Graham Brierton, Mark Oppermann and Cormac O’Neill. Image: Webio

Webio is empowering companies to reach across messaging apps and voice interfaces such as Messenger, WhatsApp, Alexa and Google Home. Founded by Paul Sweeney, Graham Brierton, Mark Oppermann and Cormac O’Neill, it is using the power of AI to automate conversations via autonomous smart chatbots or blended live-agent engagement, while applying machine learning, natural language programming (NLP) and its Propensity-X Indicator to deliver optimal customer conversation outcomes.

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