Start-up stories of the year

25 Dec 2012

The Dublin Docklands. This year Fortune magazine named Dublin as one of the best global cities for start-ups

From the Dublin Web Summit in October to new networking meet-ups for start-ups and insights from tech entrepreneurs and visionaries, we take a look at the start-up highlights of the year.

First off, Dublin City’s tech scene received a welcome marketing boost in September when Fortune magazine named it as one of the best new global cities for start-ups. Fortune used data from the Global Innovation Index to evaluate factors such as how countries rank on their digital infrastructures and educational institutions.

In all, six global cities made it onto the Fortune list – Dublin, Zurich, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oulu and Eindhoven – plus the city-state of Singapore.

Fortune rated Dublin for its low corporation tax rate, while it also described the city as being good for education, hardware and its business-friendly policies.

The Dublin tech start-up scene also really took on a life of its own this year, with gatherings such as Dublin Beta and Entrepreneurs Anonymous helping to connect software developers, entrepreneurs, investors and those looking for new business opportunities.

Shane Curran founder of Libramatic

Shane Curran, the 12-year-old coder who did his first Linux install at the age of six, launches his new venture Libramatic at a Dublin Beta event in July

Tech start-ups of the week has been running a weekly ‘Tech start-up of the week’ series to showcase the innovations happening in Ireland’s start-up scene. Here is a taste of some of the new ventures that were featured this year and which caught people’s attention.

The daily deal-browsing site MyDealPage featured as a tech start-up to watch in June and was a hit amongst readers. Brothers Charles and Chris Maltha set up in 2011 to feature daily deals from sites such as LivingSocial and Groupon on a single platform. In May, the duo also brought out a smartphone app featuring GPS functionality to allow users to search for deals while on the move.

In August,, a cloud-based video surveillance service, featured as a tech start-up to watch. The Enterprise Ireland high-potential start-up is aiming to disrupt the CCTV security business by making video surveillance open to everyone – from homeowners to businesses and governments.’s co-founders are Vinnie Quinn and Marco Herbst, the duo behind the recruitment portal, which was sold to re-launched as in 2002.


Cristina Luminea, founder and CEO of ThoughtBox

Cristina Luminea is the founder of ThoughtBox, a start-up that is creating educational games to help change the way kids learn maths and science. Luminea, a software developer who also has a master’s degree in engineering, worked on the venture while she was on the LaunchPad accelerator programme at the National Digital Research Centre in 2011.

Her first free iPad app, Numerosity, was released in November and aims to teach children ages eight to 10 about maths via ‘gameful learning’. The game is available in six languages and in November it was downloaded more than 5,000 times.

“It is important for children to understand the rules of maths and science by themselves; through Numerosity we try to make this applicable,” said Luminea at the time.

One company that decided to embrace the digital aspect of its business this year was The Happy Pear, a natural food market and restaurant based in Greystones, Co Wicklow. Set up by twin brothers David and Stephen Flynn in 2004, this year the duo set up an online store as another avenue to sell products. They also set up an online version of their Happy Heart course to help people focus on managing their cholesterol and to eat more healthily.

Lean start-ups

Eric Ries

Eric Ries addresses the Enterprise Ireland iGAP 3 class of entrepreneurial CEOs in Dublin in January

An interview with Eric Ries, the creator of the Lean Startup Methodology, seemed to strike a chord with readers this year. Serial entrepreneur Ries, who is the author of The New York Times best-seller The Lean Startup, spoke about how self-starters need to be agile and not afraid to pivot, and gave advice on how start-ups can survive in times of high uncertainty.

“It is a stressful time – but for entrepreneurs it’s a time of great opportunity. The case I try to make in my book, and this is very controversial in some circles, but I really believe in it, is that entrepreneurship is the management discipline of high uncertainty,” explained Ries.

Sandbox initiative for young innovators

One exciting initiative that came to Dublin last April was the Sandbox Network. The organisation that was set up in 2008 to create a global networking community for young innovators under the age of 30 launched its Dublin hub at the Mansion House. The city was abuzz with Sandboxers such as Keyun Ruan, co-founder of the New York-based not-for-profit Xensix; TED fellow Bel Pesce Mattos, who is head of business development at the Palo Alto, California, start-up; and Irish woman Niamh Hughes, who is a co-ambassador of Sandbox in New York.

Bel Pesce Mattos, head of business development at and TED fellow

Sandboxer Bel Pesce Mattos, head of business development at and TED fellow

One of the Dublin ambassadors for Sandbox is John Egan, who heads up the not-for-profit Archipelago and who runs Archie Talks events to promote entrepreneurship to people who are under the age of 35. He said one of the aims of Sandbox is to connect its members with entrepreneurs, government officials or venture capitalists.

Dublin Web Summit

Dublin Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave, HootSuite's Ryan Holmes, Michael Acton Smith from Moshi Monsters, IDA Ireland's Barry O'Leary and Mike McCue, founder of Flipboard, at the start of F.ounders

Dublin Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave, HootSuite’s Ryan Holmes, Michael Acton Smith from Moshi Monsters, IDA Ireland’s Barry O’Leary and Mike McCue, founder of Flipboard, at the start of F.ounders during the Dublin Web Summit

Finally, Dublin was a global tech hub in October when start-ups, investors, entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts gathered for the two-day Dublin Web Summit and F.ounders conference. More than 4,000 people converged at the RDS for the event, which featured speakers such as Mike McCue, founder of Flipboard; Victoria Ransom, founder of Wildfire; Michael Acton Smith, founder of Mind Candy/Moshi Monsters; and Paul Sciarra, founder of Pinterest.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong talked about how the company is focusing on the next evolution of the internet.

Meanwhile, Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström gave a video interview with about the changing technological landscape and start-ups.

Scobelizer's Robert Scoble pictured at the Dublin Web Summit in October

Scobelizer’s Robert Scoble at the Dublin Web Summit in October

Blogger and technical evangelist Robert Scoble was also in Dublin and he spoke to editor John Kennedy about innovation and the future internet.

Danae Ringelmann, the co-founder of the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, spoke about the growth of the crowdfunding phenomenon,

More than 100 start-ups also pitched their ideas at the Dublin Web Summit, with the US start-up SmartThings ultimately taking home the Spark of Genius award. The new venture is aiming to connect things in the physical world to the internet via smartphones – think air conditioning or fans and heaters.

Since the win, SmartThings has raised US$3m in seed funding from a consortium of investors.

As for 2013, here’s hoping that Ireland’s tech start-up scene continues to thrive.

Start-ups may also submit their details to our Start-ups Directory.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic