Tech entrepreneur is RTÉ’s newest ‘Dragon’

28 Nov 2011

Tech entrepreneur Sean O'Sullivan on the Late Late Show on Friday

Kinsale-based technology entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan – who founded US$200m GIS player MapInfo and co-founded Cork-based transport software firm Avego, as well as venture capital firm SOSventures – has been appointed to the panel of Dragons’ Den.

Irish-American software veteran O’Sullivan has also founded or invested in 20 other technology firms. O’Sullivan is a founder and former president and chairman of Nasdaq-listed company MapInfo Corporation, a pioneer in the GIS (geographic information system) market.

On The Late Late Show on Friday night, O’Sullivan spoke of his origins in the US and his humanitarian work during the second Iraq war.

O’Sullivan replaces Seán Gallagher in the role of RTÉ’s fourth ‘Dragon’, sitting alongside Norah Casey, Niall O’Farrell and Bobby Kerr.

O’Sullivan said he was looking forward to his role as the latest Dragon, and said he hoped to see plenty of technology-led applications by entrepreneurs in this year’s Dragons’ Den.

O’Sullivan said Ireland is becoming the Silicon Valley of Europe but pointed out more people with the right skills need to be produced to seize opportunities in the export-led technology economy, which is currently at full employment.

“I think the things that an information-centred economy like Ireland, the IT industry here in Ireland, needs is obviously engineering and computer science grads.

“The focus in the whole Leaving Cert programme – I discovered this over the years – it doesn’t seem to celebrate the importance and creativity of engineering in the same way it celebrates accountancy or international business relations. You have these cutoffs. The attractive programmes seem to be some of the less creative programmes (whereas programmes) like engineering or science, the ones where you could have so much impact and magnitude of your work (aren’t). As an engineer, I’m incredibly proud of the contributions I have made to society; that billions of people are using various technologies that I’ve been involved in.”

In recent weeks, O’Sullivan was credited by MIT Technology Review as being the co-creator of the term ‘cloud computing’, with George Favaloro in 1996. In 1996, O’Sullivan’s company, NetCentric, was a leader in providing “software for inside the internet”, and Compaq Computer’s Favaloro invested US$5m in the idea to develop the industry of software providers for internet infrastructure.

O’Sullivan’s previous investments include Harmonix, which created Guitar Hero.

It emerged in recent weeks that O’Sullivan’s SOSventures has taken a strategic investment in Silicon Republic and successful technology entrepreneur Bill Liao will come on board as a director.

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