10 globetrotting ambassadors for Irish sci-tech success

9 Dec 2015

While some incredible sci-tech companies were born in Ireland, some world-renowned founders were too, and their talent and success knows no borders.

Ireland's Sci-Tech 100

Nearing the final stretch of Ireland’s Sci-Tech 100, we look abroad and wave to Ireland’s global citizens who have built and scaled international companies.

We love to shout about the great Irish diaspora and, with Irish founders such as these 10 representing us, our worldwide reputation is in good hands.

1. Grainne Barron

Grainne Barron, founder and CEO, Viddyad

Grainne Barron, founder and CEO, Viddyad

Grainne Barron, founder and CEO of cloud-based video ad creation company Viddyad, is the quintessential diaspora success story.

After studying and working in the US for several years, Barron returned to Ireland, where she undertook a MBA at UCD Smurfit. From there, it all exploded. Armed with the idea for Viddyad, she began seeking investment and met with Getty Images, with whom she would eventually sign a deal for use of their stock footage.

Born in February 2013, Viddyad went on to win the ESB Spark of Genius Award at the 2013 Web Summit. With the €25,000 winnings, Barron scaled up, moving sales and marketing to San Francisco, while keeping engineering based in Ireland. She hopes to someday be able to invest in other companies, particularly female-led ones.

2. Liam Casey

Liam Casey, founder and CEO, PCH

Liam Casey, founder and CEO, PCH. Photo via Robert Scoble/Flickr

For nearly 20 years, Liam Casey has been one of the driving forces in the hardware powering Silicon Valley with his company PCH and operations around the world, while his extensive knowledge of Asian tech manufacturers earned him the nickname ‘Mr China’.

A regular jetsetter who rotates his time between San Francisco, Cork and Shenzhen, Casey and PCH are turning concept ideas and creative designs into the hardware that many of us use and love today.

Under his tenure, PCH has grown to the point where it now works with both Fortune 500 companies, as well as start-ups, with more than 2,800 staff and revenues of over $1bn in 2014.

3. Jules Coleman

Jules Coleman, co-founder and chief product officer, Hassle.com

Jules Coleman, co-founder and chief product officer, Hassle.com

Irishwoman Jules Coleman is the co-founder and chief product officer of Hassle.com, which allows people to hire a cleaner quickly and easily.

Former Accenture executive Coleman established the company in London in 2011 with friends Alex Depledge and Tom Nimmo after teaching herself Ruby on Rails and attending the TechStars programme. Hassle went on to win the Start-up of the Year at the Tech City Awards in 2013.

The company was acquired by Berlin-based Helpling for around €32m in July this year and now operates in 14 markets, having launched a mobile app for its Irish customers in September.

Coleman will share her story of start-up success on-stage at Inspirefest next summer.

4. Patrick Collison

Patrick Collison, co-founder and CEO, Stripe

Patrick Collison, co-founder and CEO, Stripe. Photo via TechCrunch/Flickr

Though there are two people equally worthy of this spot, our need to keep things to neat figures forces us to choose Stripe CEO and Forbes cover star Patrick Collison.

Patrick and his younger brother John have established the name Collison both in Ireland and internationally. Two of the country’s leading tech entrepreneurs, the Collisons sold their first company, Auctomatic, when they were just teenagers.

Teenage triumph was not new to the elder Collison, though, who won the top prize at the 2005 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at 16 for a computer programming project – an achievement believed to have set him on the road to tech success.

After Auctomatic, the Collison brothers went on to build e-payments company Stripe, winning investment from tech superstars such as Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. Their company currently enjoying unicorn status, the brothers are now Silicon Valley royalty.

5. Oisin Hanrahan

Oisin Hanrahan, co-founder and CEO, Handy

Oisin Hanrahan, co-founder and CEO, Handy

Oisin Hanrahan is a serial entrepreneur and founder, and has always had his sights set further afield than Ireland. He founded his first company, Clearwater Group, when he was just 18. Based in Hungary, it sought to tap the Eastern European residential property market.

Hanrahan is now co-founder and CEO of Handy, the company behind an app that connects consumers with handyman services. Set up in New York in 2012, Handy operates in US, UK and Canadian markets, and is valued at $500m.

Handy had a big year in 2015, receiving $50m in Series C funding, which will be invested in the company’s expansion to 28 markets globally. Maintaing his connection with the Irish diaspora, Hanrahan has said: “Building and fostering relationships is the core of what it means to be Irish.”

6. Duncan Lennox

Duncan Lennox, CEO and co-founder, Qstream

Duncan Lennox, CEO and co-founder, Qstream

Duncan Lennox left Ireland in 1997 to set up the San Francisco office of Irish e-learning software company WBT before re-locating to Boston, where he has remained since.

His latest venture, Qstream, was founded at Harvard University and combines the power of mobile, gamification and big data to create a new class of business intelligence tools to help sales managers strengthen the skills of their team.

While settled in Boston, Qstream announced 16 new jobs in Dublin earlier this year after it raised $4m in venture capital from renowned US investor Excel Venture Management and existing investors Frontline Ventures and Launchpad Venture Group.

7. Eoghan McCabe

Eoghan McCabe, CEO and co-founder, Intercom

Eoghan McCabe, CEO and co-founder, Intercom

If there is one company that is transforming the art of selling and customer relationships, it is Intercom, founded and headquartered in San Francisco and led by Trinity graduate Eoghan McCabe.

Intercom has 7,000 paying customers in more than 85 countries who use the platform to communicate with customers. This is McCabe’s third start-up after selling Exceptional for a significant, but undisclosed, sum.

In August, Intercom announced it had raised $35m in Series C funding, bringing total funds raised by the company to $66m. The company said it will use the new funds to invest in R&D and double staff in its Dublin and San Francisco offices, including 70 new engineering jobs in Dublin.

8. Jane Ní Dhulcaointigh

Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, inventor of Sugru and founder of FormFormForm

Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, inventor of Sugru and founder of FormFormForm

The inventor of Sugru – named alongside the iPad as one of Time magazine’s top 50 inventions of 2010 – Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh began 2015 by being named as one of CNN’s tech superheroes to watch. By July, Sugru had smashed its crowdfunding campaign, raising more than £3.5m from 2,700 investors on Crowdcube.

The London-based Kilkenny native first came up with the idea for Sugru while studying product design at university in 2003. This ‘21st-century duct tape’ is now available in Target stores in the US, and the brand has its eyes firmly set on the DIY and toy markets, with ambitions to create seven factories around the world.

9. Barry O’Sullivan

Barry O’Sullivan, CEO and co-founder, Altocloud

Barry O’Sullivan, CEO and co-founder, Altocloud. Photo via RTÉ

Though he serves as both CEO of Altocloud and board member of Science Foundation Ireland, Barry O’Sullivan is perhaps most recognisable to people in Ireland for his appearances on RTÉ’s Dragons’ Den.

Formerly of Cisco, O’Sullivan’s colourful career began when, at the age of 25, he sold his car to buy a ticket to California. Since then, he has gone on to live out a glittering career in technology.

Originally from Cork, O’Sullivan now leads Silicon Valley-based Altocloud, a communications company focused on adding better layers to business-to-customer interactions.

10. Pat Phelan

Pat Phelan, CEO and co-founder, Trustev

Pat Phelan, CEO and co-founder, Trustev. Photo via Limerick Chamber of Commerce

After experiencing online fraud first hand in some earlier ventures, Pat Phelan (along with Chris Kennedy) created Trustev, a company dedicated to stopping it.

While the company is still headquartered in Cork, Phelan now operates out of New York, as Trustev’s real-time online identity verification process garners fans all over the world.

Named Europe’s top start-up back in 2013, Phelan has overseen huge growth in his company in recent years. Trustev raised a stunning $3m in one of Europe’s largest seed funding rounds just 10 months after it was created and it signed a major multi-million dollar deal with RadioShack in the US last year.

Flight image via Shutterstock