An interview with Pat Carroll, Startup Community Manager for Limerick @BOIstartups


Meet Pat Carroll, a native of Limerick, prolific connector, advocate and tireless promoter of Irish businesses both at home and abroad.

David Scanlon (Venture Investment Leader at NDRC) & Pat Caroll at a recent Startup Weekend event in Limerick

Pat worked for many years in sales, then built a Global Irish Social/Business Network, and later ran his own digital marketing company. He now works with Bank of Ireland as Startup Community Manager for Limerick. He works as part of their Innovation team, who are focused on the companies of the future and how they can support entrepreneurs and startups to succeed and grow.

What is your background? how did you get your start and what brought you to a life in and supporting startups?
I grew up in Limerick, the 4th generation of Limerick Pat Carrolls (the eldest boys were all called Pat), my Mom is a Dubliner. I worked in sales and marketing positions for many years, including 10 years in London.

Street art on the streets of Limerick

What brought you to a life supporting other startups?
6 years ago, like many others,due to the economic situation, I found myself needing to reinvent myself career wise. I became actively involved in networking with groups of entrepreneurs, techies and startups in Limerick.

What does your role as Startup Community Manager at Bank of Ireland entail, how are you supporting startups?
As BOI have already done in Dublin and Galway, I am working on setting up city-center hot-desking spaces or ‘Workbenches,’ in Limerick and Cork. I run regular startup events in Limerick, including Startup Grind, Startup Weekend and Founder Fridays.

How is Ireland doing at fostering startups and supporting the community?
We are experiencing an exciting time when people are realising that startups offer an alternative route to career success. Irish society has been slow to recognise this but this is changing as people realise that we can’t continue to rely solely on the FDI model for economic success. Supporting startups in Ireland can for many offer an alternative to emigration.

What kind of supports are the government offering startups in Ireland and are they working?
Enterprise Ireland offers good financial support to early-stage startups, through New Frontiers, CSF and HPSU initiatives. Many startups, however are somewhat frustrated that the qualification criteria places too much emphasis on numbers employed, which doesn’t align with the lean startup model. While government support for initiatives like the Startup Gathering last year are positive, many believe that the government could be going further towards offering tax incentives similar to those in the UK, to create a supportive funding environment for scaling companies.

You’re known as a prolific connector both online and off, both within and outside of Ireland. Why do you do it, what do you get out of it?
I like ‘joining the dots’ by spotting potential synergies between people and connecting them. I don’t do this to get anything in return, as I’ve been helped by others in this way and appreciate the value of unselfish networking. Sometimes, I’ve found we Irish are more helpful to each other outside of Ireland than we are here on the island.

One of Pat’s Netflix favourites of House of Cards fame Kevin Spacey, says it well

Where have you seen this working at its best outside of Ireland?
I’ve seen how the Irish in London and New York help each other out. One example of this is the Irish International Business Network, which I have had the good fortune to have been involved in for the past five years. They are a superb organisation for supporting Irish business people and I would highly recommend them for any Irish startups or business folk wishing to connect with UK or US markets to utilise this network.

What about the government’s role in supporting and promoting Irish interests abroad?
While organisations like the IIBN often work closely with our Embassies and Consulates globally, in my own experience, the Dept of Foreign Affairs are in many ways Ireland’s ‘unsung heroe’ around the world. I have found them to be extremely practical, accessible and most helpful. Enterprise Ireland’s global network, which covers over 60 countries is also a super resource for Irish companies seeking to enter foreign markets.

What are your tips for anyone starting out to doing it effectively?
I believe the most effective way of making positive connections is when we combine the online with the face-to-face networking ( Some more tips in my blog, ‘10 Habits of Highly Effective Networking’ )

Have you ever tasted failure? How? And what did you learn from it?Sure, I’ve experienced redundancy and while it certainly rocks one’s foundations, it ultimately makes us stronger. It makes us dig deep and draw on our resourcefulness.

What gets you up in the morning and what keeps you up at night?
I guess, it’s ‘lust for life’, that feeling that there’s ‘so much to do and so little time’. The injustice we see in the world affects us all to different degrees, but it also drives us to use our talents to help others less fortunate.

What are your best and worst character traits?
I’m often described as a good connector so I’ll say this role as a catalyst for bringing people together to achieve positive results is probably my best trait. The worst part of my character is that I have a busy mind and I sometimes falter in my attention to detail.

“I’ve come to know Pat through his prolific social media presence. Pat has a remarkable capacity to identify opportunities for his associates to connect with each other for business. He has introduced me to several relevant contacts. His enthusiasm to help others is matched only by his understanding of the potential for social media” – Margaret Molloy, Global CMO + Head of Business Development Siegel+Gale

Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
I believe the secret may be enjoying ourwork, so that work and life become intertwined. I believe I’m striking this balance, as I feel passionate about the work I do in my role as Startup Community Manager with Bank of Ireland in Limerick. The Innovation team that I’m part of have a great work ethic not unlike the working culture expounded by Netflix’s founder Reed Hastings.

When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
What works for me is watching Munster Rugby, bingeing on Netflix series and recently singing with Killaloe’s Male Choir.

If you could talk to yourself at the age of 25 what would you say?
Enjoy the next 25 years – it will fly!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
‘You can never be overdressed or overeducated’ – Oscar Wilde

What’s the last book or movie you’ve read/seen?
Transatlantic’ by Colum McCann
Once Upon A Time In America’ – Dir, Sergio Leone

What’s your favourite gadget and why?
My new MacBook Air, because it links in so well with all the other apple gadgets I use. Sorry Microsoft but Macs really are the business !

What’s the most played song in your iTunes / Spotify playlist?
‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ by The National

So what’s next for Pat Carroll?
Startup Workbenches are the main focus now, working on getting our spaces in up and running in Limerick and Cork city centres. Also continuing to work with the community running events for startups in Limerick, including Startup Grind, Startup Weekend and Founder Fridays.

#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders that I meet on my travels, have worked with in the past or simply find what they do interesting. These posts do not represent the views of any employer or any business that I am affiliated with.

I hope you enjoy them! Want to be featured?

Other interviews in the series:

Meet Kevin McCaffrey founder of Tr3dent, helping you visualise your business in a whole new way

Pictured (18-01-16) is Kevin McCaffrey founder of TR3Dent. Pic. Michael Dillon

Pictured (18-01-16) is Kevin McCaffrey founder of TR3Dent. Pic. Michael Dillon

So tell me a little about Tr3dent, when was it founded?, do you have any co-founders? how did you get the idea?
I founded Tr3dent back in October of 2014, so It’s been on the go for about 18 months or so now. No co-founders, just myself. Its an interesting story how the idea actually came about, I was managing a large Enterprise Software Programme, and attended a critical meeting between Senior Business Execs and technical managers where the new technical architecture was presented for approval to Business and once the technical slide was shown the entire business audience lost interest and became unfocused – this ultimately caused delays, confusion and miscommunication. When I went home my son was playing on his Xbox and I thought “why does business data have to be so boring and gaming environments so engaging and cool?”.

Users are immersed in a natural 3D environment to unlock unique insights and make better business decisions based on a deeper and clearer understanding of the complex processes, relationships and data within IoT Ecosystems such as Smart Cities, Smart Homes, eHealth etc.

Where are you located and how many people work at Tr3dent?
At the moment we are located in the GMIT Innovation Hub and we are currently a team of 5, two of whom are still studying; one completing his Masters at NUIG and the other completing Computer Science at GMIT . The Innovation Hub is a great place for any Startup to be based. It’s always nice to be surrounded with like-minded people who are essentially going through the thing as you are, and the support provided by the iHUB is outstanding.

How were you originally funded and how are you funded now?Originally, the business was self-funded by myself. More recently, the company has been back by Enterprise Ireland and we are now CSF funded. Currently, we are also talking to some private angel investors which is pretty exciting.

Were you ever close to failure? How close? How did you recover?
I can’t honestly say I was ever very close to failure, I set very specific goals and milestones and when any of these are not achieved we adjust the plan to make sure that the next set of goals are met. We’ve been on the go now for about 15 to 16 months and it’s been an incremental process thus far. I think as a startup you face challenges on a daily basis and you certainly have your good and bad days, but I guess challenges and overcoming obstacles are all part of the buzz of being a startup.  I don’t like surprises so I am constantly thinking ahead about issues or challenges that we be faced with whether they are financial or technical.  I then work through the various ways of mitigating or avoiding these challenges before they actually occur.

What’s are biggest challenges you faces today?
I think challenges are part and parcel of starting a company in the first place and everybody could probably give you a different answer. For myself, I would have to say the biggest challenge is getting your first customer, this is key validation for your product.  It is also is a crucial milestone to achieve when you start discussions with investors. The next large challenge we are faced with is scaling and growing the business, this will require a very different mindset, new team members and external financing.

What is your background? How did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?
Where to start, I went to GMIT and did Business there and I then emigrated to Canada.I have over 20+ years in the ICT sector delivering enterprise solutions globally working in the US, Europe and Africa as well as Canada.  I returned to Ireland in late 2014 from Cape Town, South Africa where I lived for nine years and had built a successful consulting and software development company.  Prior to that I had been in Canada for 13 years where I worked for Reuters and then was a co-owner of a Software Development and Training company in Toronto. For Tr3Dent, as I said previously, I spotted a gap when I noticed that the quantity of data that we deal with was growing vastly and people’s ability to interpret it wasn’t, so visualising your data in a more consumable way was something that people needed, and looking at it in 3D was the answer to that.

What gets you up in the morning and what keeps you up at night?Interesting question. What gets me up in the morning is to eventually be the Enterprise and SME market leader in 3D data visualisation.

What is your best character and worst character trait?
My leadership and communications skills are very strong but on the negative side I am also a perfectionist which does mean that I set very high standards for everyone who works with me.

Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
It’s not easy to get the balance right all of the time, and how you achieve this will change as your kids grow older.  Today I start work early, am usually in the office by 6.30am and leave at 5pm so that I can spend 2 or 3 quality hours with the family over dinner.  I usually then spend another couple of hours on emails before bed.  My family also has the priority on the weekend so I fit my work around their schedule.

When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
I’m a big Rugby fan, I like to go so see Connacht and Ireland whenever I can. I’m also one of a few West Brom supporters so I keep up to date with how they are doing. Other than that, I do a bit of cycling and like like a good book at the weekends. And of course a good pint always helps.

What’s your favourite gadget and why?
Without doubt, the Microsoft Hololens. I think augmented reality is just so cool and will play a big part in the way we live our lives in a few years time. It was announced just a few days ago that the Hololens is now available for pre-order so we’ll see if we can get our hands on one at some stage. We definitely see it have potential uses to visualise data. Could you imagine being fully immersed within your data? Think of how different your data would look and all the vital information that it would highlight.

What’s the most played song in your iTunes / Spotify playlist?
Brewing up a Storm by The Stunning.

What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you created your Tr3dent?
I think it would be not to wait for the product or idea to be perfect in your head before you act on it. It’s very important to get a just an MVP out there and test the water. Waiting for the idea or product to be perfect in your head doesn’t really get the ball rolling. You can always get an MVP out there and pivot as you go along and that usually lends itself to more creativity and being more tailored to what the customer wants and needs.

So what’s next for Tr3dent?
We have big plans made for 2016. In the early part of next year we will hire more developers, with the expansion of the team I think it is inevitable that bigger premises will definitely be in the pipeline as well. Without giving away too much, we are currently in talks with several recognisable global brands that want to make visualising their data much more efficient and user-friendly, it’s exciting times around the office at the moment.

#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders that I meet on my travels, have worked with in the past or simply find what they do interesting. These posts do not represent the views of any employer or any business that I am affiliated with.

I hope you enjoy them! Want to be featured?

Other interviews in the series:

Meet Daniel Evans & Ed Kniep of GarbShare


Daniel Evans & Ed Kniep co-founders of GarbShare

When was Garbshare founded? Do you have any co-founders?
GarbShare was founded in 2015 by myself Daniel Evans with my co-founder Ed Kniep.

What does Garbshare do and who is your typical customer?
Few things allow you to express yourself, give you the freedom to define and redefine who you are more than what hangs in your closet. Yet few things are more frustrating that staring at a closet that has everything except something to wear. GarbShare aims to remove that frustration. We’re applying the lessons of inventory management, data and analytics on a micro level to help consumers take control of their personal style.

Our primary markets are (1) the “”emerging fashionista”” – skews female, 18-34, in-college or college graduate, household income likely to be more than 100k (now or in future), suburban to urban; (2) the “”stylish organizer”” – skews female, 25-44, some college or college graduate, household income likely less than 100k, suburban.

Where are you located and how many people work there?
DP: St. Louis, Missouri, USA. We currently have 6 employees

How are you funded and how does Garbshare make money?
We raised a seed round of $400,000 in March or 2015. We are currently raising an angel round to fund growth and R&D. We make money by aggregating user data and providing a variety of trend and market research to retailers and manufacturers. We will be turning on e-commerce within the app in the fall of 2016 – allowing users to “”shop their friends closets”” and a personalized “”wish list”” based on our proprietary scoring system (GarbFit).

Have you ever been close to failure?
In any startup, failure is close. The odds are not exactly in your favor, but thankfully, we haven’t had to stare down the end of the runway just yet.
We have yet to cross a truly difficult bridge.  We have been lucky.

What’s the biggest challenge Garbshare faces today?
We can deliver an amazing amount of functionality and insights that really empower consumers – if they take the time to build their closet and interact within the app. It’s a learning tool that delivers better insights with every data point, but users have to put in the effort to get the reward. We make it as easy as possible, but it’s a change to how people currently behave. That’s our biggest challenge. Like any startup, we also need to put a huge amount of effort behind funding.

What is your background? how did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?
DP: “I’m a creative problem-solver by nature.  I started my career in UI/UX design, learned to code to ensure my designs were implemented – and users had a great experience. My career evolved into product development and eventually product management where I really found my passion for building products. When I ran into a problem with my daughter never having anything in her closet, it exposed this need in the market. I’ve been working on Garbshare since.

Sidenote: I’ve always been fascinated with the startup world. I’ve funded a few and consulted with several. It was always on my radar – if the right product or opportunity came along. This was it. ”

EK: “I went into sales out of college, realized that was not for me, went back to school for my MBA then went to work for our “”family”” business.  I started a waste hauling company on the side, loved the start up space and proceeded to leave my position as CEO of Shaughnessy to work with startups”

What gets you up in the morning? and what keeps you up at night?DP: “I love creating things from scratch – seeing an idea come to life. Every morning is another chance to see it grow, to build on that idea, to create a business.

What keeps me up at night is the trust my employees and our investors have placed in me and the responsibility to make sure they have jobs and we keep getting better – every day. I also tend to spend a lot of late nights reviewing new functionality, making sure designs and the user experience is right. ”

EK: I see most businesses as fairly similar.  Top line, bottom line and a lot of effort to make those a big deal.  I like the people/culture/alignment side of business.  A few good people with alignment and vision can do amazing things.  I like being a part of that.

What is your best character trait? what is your worst character trait?DP: Creativity or Optimism. I generally see things in terms of solutions and possibilities. Perfectionism is likely my worst. I constantly remind myself that “done is better than perfect”, but it’s a struggle sometimes.

 EK: Integrity would be my best.  Patience would be my worst.

Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
DP: I could probably be better about it, but I love what I do. If I’m not spending time with my children or have specific plans, I generally spend my time on work or researching/planning for the business.

EK: I chose to leave the family business and redefine what work meant to me.  I want to live through the process more and check boxes less.  It’s not always easy but it’s profound when it’s happening.

When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
DP: Golf or sand volleyball. Both allow me to completely unplug and just breathe.

EK: Not well.  Stress can get me tied up but choosing to walk away, knowing it will be there tomorrow, is usually my best route.  I’m a big proponent of people using their vacations and staying away from getting frayed. I have to work on that a little for myself.

What’s the last book or movie you’ve read/seen?
DP: “I just finished Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” and I’m reading “Traction” by Justin Mares, Gabriel Weinberg. My son and I see most of the super hero / scifi movies as they come out. “”Star Wars”” was our last over the holidays. ”

EK: Book – The Twenty Seventh City, movie – The Revenant

What’s your favourite gadget and why?
DP: I do love my iPhone. I love being able to stay in the loop no matter where I am. We just recently went to Poland and Dublin and without it, I would have been lost.

EK: Definitely my smartphone, it’s just so easy when on the road to get so much done and stay connected with everyone back at the office

What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you created your business/startup?
DP: How difficult it would be to find good creative talent. There are a lot of designers in the world, but there are very few who can take complex requirements and deliver something simple and elegant. If you have good UX/UI people – train them, inspire them, help them improve – they are rare.

 EK: It’s funny to me….it’s all out the to learn.  Someone else has gone through all the struggles at some point but we still have to learn some things on our own.  I guess if someone could have made me believe that, that would be my answer

So what’s next for GarbShare?
We’re currently in beta with a few hundred users. We have been collecting feedback and iterating for the last month. We should wrap that process up and be ready to come out of beta toward the end of March.

We are currently working on raising an angel round to support our growth and further R&D. We hope to close that round by mid-March and spend the Spring and early Summer focused on growth.

We plan to release our personalized shopping functionality in September in time for the 2016 holiday season.

#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders that I meet on my travels, have worked with in the past or simply find what they do interesting. These posts do not represent the views of any employer or any business that I am affiliated with.

I hope you enjoy them! Want to be featured?

Other interviews in the series:

Meet Marco, Sandro & Dominic, co-founders at Swiss grocery list startup Bring! Labs


Meet Bring! the Swiss digital grocery startup. They’ve built a digital grocery list, which aims to replace pen and paper by bringing the user real value while giving brands exposure and at the same time adding fun to your shopping trips.

What is the name of your startup, what year was it founded?, do you have any co-founders? how did you get the idea?
The name of the startup is Bring! Labs. I founded the company together with my co-founders Sandro Strebel and Dominic Mehr in 2015. We are the publisher of the Bring! Shopping List app – the worlds most social and intelligent grocery shopping list for iPhone and Android. Our vision is to help everyone on the planet to save time and money while grocery shopping.

What are all the ways in which you can use bring?
Bring! is the perfect fit if you live in a shared household. It’s useful for families, shared flats, couples or small offices. Bring! is always at hand and part of your regular grocery shopping. You can use Bring! to plan your shopping trip at home on your tablet and go shopping with your Apple Watch. Hands-free shopping has already started. 🙂

What markets are you live in?
Bring! is currently available in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. We have localized catalogues for markets Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, UK, USA, Italy and France.

Who’s your typical customer and how do they use your service?
Bring! is built for everyone. Among our users are students who share a flat or married couples in their seventies. Grocery shopping is something everyone is somehow involved with. We give our users a tool to efficiently manage their grocery shopping. From the business point of view our customers are FMCG brands, retailers and online grocery shops. We connect them with our users based on the buying intend they express in the app.

Where’s Bring! labs located and how many people work there?
We are based in Zurich, Switzerland and are currently just three employees. But we are hiring and looking for Android/iOS/Java/Web developers, a data scientist and a business developer.

How was Bring! originally funded, how are you funded now and how does Bring! make money?
We are in the comfortable position that just 10 months after founding the company we are already break-even. In order to grow faster and to extend our value proposition we are currently raising money.

Do you generate any market trends/ insights, if so can you give some examples?
We clearly see seasonality in a lot of our categories. As summer last year was really hot in Switzerland we saw an unusually high demand for water melon. Also various fruits and vegetables like  strawberries or asparagus show strong seasonality. Guess when is the hottest time in year for Champagne? Right, it’s New Year’s Eve. In the future we will use those insights to make predictions and a like for our users to simplify grocery planning even further and save time and money.

How did you come up with the design of the App?
We did a lot of paper prototyping and tested various designs. It was key to us to not only copy the standard paper list and transform it into an app. We wanted to use all benefits and advantages of a mobile platform. As the context of use is very important to an app, we ended up with a tile design. With the big icons it’s very easy to tick off items during a shopping trip with the smartphone in one and a basket in the other hand.

Do you engage and get feedback from your users,  how,  and have you implemented any of their suggestions?
We receive a lot of user feedback by email and via social media. User feedback is very important to us and helps us further improve our app. Currently we don’t have the resources to answer all the emails and requests personally but we read them all and fill our product roadmap based on all the ideas. Based on the suggestions we introduced multiple lists a while ago and published an Apple Watch and Android Wear version of Bring! (just to name a few).

What’s the biggest challenge for Bring! today?
User growth and retention are very important for us. Everything depends on our loyal users. That’s why the biggest challenge for us is to decide how to further develop our product to gain more users and become better in keeping them active. Also we have to understand  how the food/grocery digitalisation is going to evolve.

How did you get your start, what brought you to a life in a startup?
I studied computer science and worked many years as software engineer and later as product and project manager. This of course helps me to understand the mechanics of a mobile application startup. But what really brought me to do Bring! was my desire to do something on my own. Sandro and I founded our first company when we were around 20.

Dominic: I spent the last years in different leadership roles in the field of Business Development and Marketing/Sales in global enterprises. I worked and lived in 4 different countries and thus could gain extensive knowledge in international business as well as on how to deal with different cultures as team leader and with key partners. This experience helps me now understanding and evaluating on our international business potential and setting up new relationships with future key partners. I focus on the commercial topics at Bring!.

Sandro: Before I started at Bring! I spent several years as Software Engineer and Usability Consultant in a leading software consultant company on different projects. I was always passionate about the combination of software engineering and design. Therefore I have made a master study in human computer interaction design. At Bring! I’m responsible for the engineering and the design.

What would you say is your best and worst character traits?
I have a lot of new ideas. I think this is good because new ideas are the source of innovation. But on the other hand, new ideas can distract you from a plan. It’s important to keep the right balance.

Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
I see it as a whole. I try to focus on what I’m doing and have a healthy balance. Sometimes it works well, sometimes not.

When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
I go for a long run or I meet my friends for a beer and a card game.

What’s the last book or movie you’ve read/seen?
I’ve just finished The Circle by Dave Eggers. It’s something like 1984 with Facebook or Google.

What’s your favourite gadget and why?
Our excellent coffee machine. we simply couldn’t work without it.

If you weren’t working on bring what would you be doing?
I love my job and never really thought about it. But it would definitely contain a technical and creative part again.

Dominic: I am convinced that being an entrepreneur is the best fit for. I love sports so being a pro athlete could have been an interesting choice too, till you reach the age of 35 and can no longer walk 😉

So what’s next for your Bring! Labs?
We’re looking forward to close the current financing round, to extend our team with more great people and to get working on our next big release.

What question would you like me to ask the next founder?
If you could change the start up environment you are working in, what would be the major change you would like to see?

#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders that I meet on my travels, have worked with in the past or simply find what they do interesting. These posts do not represent the views of any employer or any business that I am affiliated with.

I hope you enjoy them! Want to be featured?

Other interviews in the series:

Meet Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh, Founder of Clearpreso


Meet Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh Chief Presentationist at Clearpreso a business which helps startups craft great presentations which simply get results. Ed lives and works in Dublin, specifically Dalkey a lovely village right on the Irish coast.

What’s the name of your business and when was it founded?
Clearpreso is the name, presentation design is the game. I’ve been on the go since 2009, and at the moment, it’s me myself and I. Occasionally I hire in people to help with bits and pieces I’m not great at but I find it really hard to give up any sort of control… it’s a problem I have.Who is your typical customer and what value do you bring to them?
I help companies ranging from startups to corporates get their messaging right and then put in great presentation visuals. At my last calculation pitch decks, I’ve worked on have raised more than $10m, it’s great to be a small, but important, part of their journey. My typical customer, well I work with all sorts really! In a way, it’s anyone who knows they need help. 100% of my work is by referral.

You’re a one-man operation, where do you work out of Starbucks?
Most of the time I work from home out in lovely picturesque Dalkey. In theory I can work from wherever I can get a decent internet connection, so occasionally I’m working on the road. This summer I spent a month working and living in Newfoundland in Canada, I’m really grateful I’ve lucked myself into a position where I can do that.

Dalkey Island (Irish: Deilginis meaning “thorny island”)

How was Clearpreso originally funded and how do you make money?
Funding was easy. I basically only needed two things to get up and running. First was a web domain (about €15) and my biggest investment was a whopping €20 on some business cards. I operate on the old fashioned “value for value” model, I create great presentations that get results and people give me money in return!

You’ve an impressive client list, why in your opinion did those teams succeed, what do they have that others don’t?
I work with dozens of founders every year, and I’ve seen their high highs and rock-bottom lows. Although I’m not a founder myself I think I’m kind of a sideline reporter with VIP access to all areas.

And what I’ve found is that startups, when done the right way, are not “fun”, or if they are they are a very specific type of “fun”. They’re the sort of “fun” you find in a war zone. I remember listening to a podcast recently about people who came back from ww2, most soldiers were shocked, some were profoundly traumatised, but a small group were actually disappointed to be home. They loved the war and everything that came with it.

I think that’s what founders are like, uniquely suited for war. And that’s not to say that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I think they’re just born with the love for the fight. It’s why you’ll see founders who get a big exit take about a week off and then put it all on the line again with another startup. As I say… uniquely suited to war.

The funny thing is you’ll probably never really hear of them because they won’t be speaking at startup events every week, cause they’re too busy working!

You’re like the Keyser Söze of startup events, is that purely a recruitment drive for business or is there more to why you turn up and mentor startups at so many events?
Haha, I’m trying to cut back to be honest, I’m not the serial attendee I once was. Attending these events is a mix of it being good for business and it being a great place to mingle with people that are “doers”. At events like Startup Weekend the enthusiasm is infectious and you’ll come away from the event knowing some great new contacts, mentors, possible future co-founders etc.

It’s worth pointing out that the real heroes are the people who organise all these events, they have it tough! I just turn up and do my thing, they’ve been putting in weeks of prep work.

Were you ever close to failure? How close? How did you recover?Absolutely. I remember the exact day! June 15th 2012, the day of the “Dotconf”. I was supposed to be going along, but a quick look at my accounts put me into a bit of a panic, things were so dire I remember literally looking around the apartment for things I could sell to get a bit of cash.

I think it served as a good rock bottom moment and was definitely a good kick in the ass. I very much realise though that I have it pretty easy, my clients have a lot more to lose, personal guarantees, payrolls to be met etc.

What’s your background? How did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?
In the first phase of my life, I was sure I was going to be a professional basketball player. Looking back, I obviously wasn’t good enough, but when you’re that age you don’t let facts like that get in the way of your dream.

When that dream didn’t pan out, I decided I wanted to be a big-shot business guy, suit, tie, working in a “consultancy” whatever they were. I did a BComm degree which led to me interning with one of the main consulting companies in Dublin. The reality of that brief stint ended phase number two.

So now I’m in phase 3 which I could either call “the experiment” or “the accident”. I really only started this business because there were no jobs out there. I knew I had skills when it came to presentations, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to work for myself at all. Six years on and I’m still loving it!

What do you think are your best and worst character traits?
I would say the answer to both questions is my ability to be critical and pick holes in anything. That’s very good when you are trying to dissect a presentation and put things back together. It’s actually a pretty crappy trait to have in the rest of your life though, crappy for you, and crappy for others. It’s something I need to learn to park when I’m “off duty”

Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
I think if you’d asked me that years ago I would have said that there’s no difference between the two, but as time goes on I’m starting to realise I probably need to more clearly set boundaries for myself. There’s the whole Parkinson’s law thing which says “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

When things are going crazy, what do you do unwind?
Without question, it’s walking. I’ll routinely go for really long walks when I’m feeling stuck. There are some really great walks near where I live, some of the finest views in all of Dublin.

You stayed in Newfoundland for a month to explore the place its people and the thriving startup community, sounds like an awesome adventure what did you discover?
Aw man! that place is fantastic. When I describe it to people I start by saying “You know the way there is French-Canada, well Newfoundland is Irish-Canada.” The similarities in our cultures are phenomenal, and if you run into a Newfoundlander you’ll notice instantly how Irish they sound.
Newfoundland chocolate with their local phrases on it, so Irish

It’s a beautiful place with a look and feel similar to the West Coast of Ireland, it’s got that rugged Atlantic feel. Just 20 mins outside of the main city, St. John’s, you can find yourself some amazing walks and scenery.

Startup wise, they’re a small city (250K-ish) with a scene that has been pretty fragmented until recently, kind of like Ireland actually, but there are some great groups like StartupNL that have been trying to bring everything together.

I met some great startups there, they are fiercely proud to be from the region and don’t see operating out of what could be seen as a small-time outpost (compared to Toronto/Montreal) as an obstacle to success.

You’ve written some excellent travelogues, how did that come about and when’s the next adventure?
I’ve done two major ones, and I suppose they were both situations where I thought other people needed to be convinced to try them out! Seriously that 55 hour (yep… 55 hour) train from San Francisco to Chicago was amazing. All of the classic American scenery, the Sierra Nevada, Utah deserts, right through the Rockies, wizzing past your window.

More broadly I like writing, it’s something I should do more. I’ve had a blog since before it was cool (2005) and I need to carve out more time to do it.

What’s the last book or movie you’ve read/seen?
I just finished re-reading “Let My People Go Surfing” my favourite business book of all time. It’s written by the founder of Patagonia clothing and tells the story of how we want from accidental and indeed “reluctant” business man to CEO of a global company. I love this snippet from the book ““If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his actions, “This sucks. I’m going to do my own thing.”

What’s your favourite gadget and why?
I think this is best answered by the “apartment burning down test”, if I could only escape with a few things it would be laptop and Samsung Note 3 It’s big, thin, has great battery life, and because it’s all plasticky (Samsung), you can drop it on a concrete floor and it’s still good to go.

What’s the most played song in your itunes / spotify playlist?
I reckon my most played song if “Take the long way home” by Supertramp.

So what’s next for Clearpreso?
I’m about to catch a train to Galway to check in on all the teams at startlab, a tech incubator programme powered by Bank of Ireland, built from the ground up to educate, connect and scale tech startups.

Well that’s it, all over thanks for taking the time Ed
Thanks, really enjoyed the chat best of luck with the series.
Ed during his month-long visit to Newfoundland

#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders that I meet on my travels, have worked with in the past or simply find what they do interesting. These posts do not represent the views of any employer or any business that I am affiliated with.

I hope you enjoy them! Want to be featured?

Other interviews in the series:

Meet Luca Boschin and Alessandro Prest, Co-Founders of LogoGrab


#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders

Founded in 2014 LogoGrab’s patented technology is helping to transform the way brands engage with consumers and measure their offline activity. 

What is the name of your startup, what year was it founded? do you have any co-founders? how did you get the idea?
LogoGrab. 2014 (after 2 years of R&D). Alessandro Prest. Founders combined experience in Image Recognition and Marketing.

What does Logograb do? who is your typical customer?
LogoGrab offers the strongest logo recognition technology in the market, with a Hit Rate 3x higher than the closest competitor. With ‘LogoGrab Social’ brands monitor the presence of their logo or their competitors’ logo within images shared on social media. With LogoGrab Mobile our clients activate marketing campaigns by asking their audiences to actively take a picture of their logo using their smartphone to unlock prizes and content. LogoGrab’s clients include brands such as Heineken International, Nestle, McDonald’s and Disney.

The Heineken 007 campaign was great, I noticed it back in November when I was doing the weekly shop at Coop in Zurich and picked up a bottles in the name of research is you remember
Yes, we remember was a great shout out on Twitter, cheers for that!

Where is your startup located and how many people work there?
We have a really cool office located at Percy Lane, with 12 people working there. When we re-located from Switzerland to Dublin we were looking for offices to work and apartments to sleep. We ended up combining the two and got an awesome two stories penthouse with our own private pool on the terrace. Living downstairs, desks and office space upstairs. The parties are amazing and known in town!

How was your startup originally funded, how are you funded now and how does your startup make money?
Originally funded by Angel Investors. Now VC backed. Annual subscription contracts with brands using our technology.

Were you ever close to failure? how close? how did you recover?
I wouldn’t say close to failure, but there have been some tough times. We always made sure to plan things ahead, pivoted very fast when needed and tightly controlled our risks.

What’s the biggest challenge your startup/business faces today?
Today LogoGrab is in a pure growth stage, so we are fully focused on scaling sales.

What is your background? how did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?

LB: My background is an MSc Economics, always loved to create products. This is the 7th business I’ve put together. Alessandro, is a PhD in Computer Vision and leading expert in Image Recognition technologies.

AP: I come from academia, where I’ve been doing research since I was 21. The startup world was a natural choice as it offered more control over my future.
LB: We’ve never considered working for someone else.

You’re both Italian, how did you end up in Dublin?, why Ireland for your startup?
2 main reasons: A) you guys speak English in Ireland , and that really helps when you want to sell tech globally 🙂 B) You get some amazing brains from the giants selling tech in town: Google, Twitter, etc. As an example our COO David Larkin is a former VP of sales at

What gets you up in the morning? and what keeps you up at night?LB: I love LogoGrab. I can’t wait to get up in the morning, see the guys coming in the office energised and ready to rock another day at the office. It is my essence of life, I gave up a lot to be here and I am enjoying every single moment of it. I love it so much that when important decisions are at stake I can’t stop thinking of them at night. It has happened before that I would find my answers within my dreams!

AP: Work is a good wake-up call. As soon as I’m awake the daily todo kicks in my head and it’s time to grind. What keeps me up at night is usually a good book. Reading increases a lot the quality of the sleep.

What is your best character trait? what is your worst character trait?
LB: My best and worst character trait are kind of the same! I like getting quick to the point. This helps me focus on the essentials and keep track of things. Although at times some find it hard to deal with it, so I’m training myself to be more patient.  
AP: I hope to come across as humble and flexible. This means I love to admit I’m wrong as soon as a better solution is around. In my team I work more as a moderator than anything else. A bad trait is that I don’t stand inactivity, procrastination and all of that. It took me an effort to get out of unhealthy procastination habits acquired in academia and I have a few life hacks that I’m happy to share with anyone affected. On the contrary I love a bohemian approach to life, but not in my team.

Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
LB: When younger I couldn’t fully control the speed of my brain. I would jump across multiple tasks at the same time and would never stop thinking about… well everything. With time I learned that doing one thing at the time and taking mental breaks is actually more beneficial than always running at 300,000 m/s. I realised that I switched from thinking to meditating. This helped me getting closer to a state of inner peace. It feels great!
AP:  I used to work literally every minute I was awake. However a friend of mine suggested that it could hinder creativity not giving your brain some time off. Therefore I found the sweet spot between by imposing some forced breaks: sport twice a week, wild night out once a week.

When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
LB: I love cooking – the whole process of it. Going to the multiple supermarkets, finding the right ingredients and cook myself some great Italian recipes. It helps me relax, switch off my brain and enter into a meditating state.

AP: Things are never crazy if you plan ahead. But that means that on average you have to work more: one part of the day solving short-term tasks and another part should be dedicated to planning for future cirumstances. Practically it means you need 2 working days every day, but in reality it’s a little bit less than that. But when you think “today I don’t have anything to do”, then you’re in for some craziness later down the road because you’re only thinking short-term, daily tasks. There’s always something to do long-term.

What’s the last book or movie that you’ve read or seen?

LB: Bridge of Spies, great movie, really enjoyed it. Tom Hanks is already a great start. A great story about the power of negotiation and how in life you can get more that what is expected if you really care about something.

AP: It’s basically about four different groups of guys in the world of high-finance who predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, then short the market to make a killing.
NOG: I actually caught this one last night in Zurich, a brilliant movie.




What’s the most played song in your itunes or spotify playlist?
LB: Back & forth – 20syl

AP: I’m very shy about my taste in music, but I can tell you it’s broad 😉
NOG: Don’t be ashamed Alessandro, the Spice Girls are a great brand! Next time suggest you minimise your spotify play list on your screen. AP: Ahah, you got me Niall!


What’s your favourite gadget and why?
LB: My “to-do” piece of paper. I still like to have a written to-do list and it’s a great summary of what I am working on.

AP: Noise cancelling headphones. Concentration is vital during the grind. Bose SoundComfort, love the crips sound quality. Tried Beats studio but they were rubbish.
QuietComfort® 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones

What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you created your business/startup?
LB: All considered, I am pretty happy with how things went.
AP: Demand from others as much as you demand from yourself. Be organised.

How much of your time do you spend working on the different aspects of the job as founders? – e.g. working on product, hiring, raising money, sales, media, etc? How do you divide the responsibilities between you?
LB: Alessandro and I mutually compensate each other. Alessandro is an unbelievable research and engineering mind (seriously, he operates at another level) while I excel at vision and relations. We fully trust each other’s decision and respect our roles – but we always consult when it comes to “must win” decisions.

AP: Luca and I are lucky in that we don’t have any common skills. We’re very disjoint. It means that each of us has very clear responsibility and scope within the company.

So what’s next for LogoGrab?
LB: LogoGrab exited its first year of operations with the strongest logo recognition technology on the market, a great product, a dedicated founding team and global clients. 2016 is all about growth.
AP: To become the market leader

What question would you like me to ask the next founder?
LB: What’s the person that helped you most in achieving what you have achieved?
AP: Why you chose to start your own business?

How would you answer your own question?
LB: Many people shaped my personality and helped me make the best of my capabilities. I probably learned most from those that tried to hurt me and push me down. This made me stronger and helped me learn with practice.
AP: Because there’s life outside golden cages and rat races!

Well guys, thanks for taking the time today it’s been a pleasure speaking with you both. I’ll be keeping an eye out for brands using LogoGrab on my travels.
LB: Thanks Niall. Inspiring work the one you are doing with #FounderStories.
AP: Thanks Niall, fun questions and hope to see you soon in the office pool 😉
NOG: Cheers guys!

To learn more about how LogoGrab helps global brands increase the effectiveness of their marketing click here 

#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders that I meet on my travels, have worked with in the past or simply find what they do interesting. These posts do not represent the views of any employer or any business that I am affiliated with.

I hope you enjoy them! Want to be featured?

Other interviews in the series:

Meet Mark Cummins, Co-Founder at Pointy


The Pointy POS barcode scanning device in action

 #FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders 

Co-Founders Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby of

I recently caught up again with Mark Cummins, Co-Founder at Pointy, an Irish hardware startup that he co-founded with Charles Bibby in 2014, which is helping retailers to win back the high street. 

Previously I’d visited the team back in August 2015 at their Dublin office find out more about what they were up to and discuss an innovation project I was working on at the time.

Founded in 2014 and already over 500 retailers around Ireland like Donnybrook Bikes below are using the Pointy device to auto generate search engine friendly web pages for over 500,000 unique products with a view to ultimately driving more in store sales for them. In effect Pointy is helping to take back the high street for retail.

NOG: What is the name of your startup, what year was it founded? do you have any co-founders? how did you get the idea?
MC: Pointy, founded 2014. Co-founder Charles Bibby. The idea came from a very ordinary experience – I was drinking some craft beer at a party. I really liked it, but after the party I had trouble finding it in shops. It was definitely available somewhere locally, but I never found it. It seemed so strange that I could search the entire internet in half a second, but it was a struggle to find something in my local shops. The process hadn’t really changed that much from fifty or a hundred years ago.

NOG: This isn’t your first foray into entrepreneurship, what was your previous startup and what happened to it?
MC: That’s correct Niall, the previous startup that I was involved in was Plink. Plink became Google’s first UK acquisition in April 2010. Our visual search engine technology allowed users to simply take a picture of something in order to find out more about it. Our first product, PlinkArt, recognized famous paintings and was a winner of the ADC2 and a featured app on the Android market.

Video: Oxford Entrepreneurs Google Success – Plink Art Interview

NOG: Where is your startup located and how many people work there?MC: We’re based in Dublin, Ireland. We’re 7 people full-time, plus a few additional part time.

NOG: How was your startup originally funded, how are you funded now and how does your startup make money?
MC: We initially worked on the idea unpaid until we had a working demo. We then raised a seed round of $1.2M from some well know angel investors and VC funds. Our revenue comes from a small monthly fee we charge to shops on the system. There are some additional things in pipeline.

NOG: Were you ever close to failure? how close? how did you recover?
MC: I failed my driving test quite a few times :-). But in professional life there’s never been anything really close to failure so far. Perhaps after Pointy I’ll have some stories of hair-raising moments to tell.

NOG: What’s the biggest challenge your startup/business faces today?
MC: Reaching small retailers. Our product has proven very popular with retailers once they learn about it, but reaching small retailers at scale is a hard thing to do. There’s no real shortcuts, just a lot of different channels and lots of hard work.


Looking for Cocoa Brown 1 Hour Tanning Mouse in Kill? No problem Allcare Pharmacy has you covered. (Allegedly the lads at Pointy buy it by the case)

NOG: What is your background? how did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?
MC: I studied Engineering and Computer Science at Oxford, and then went on to do a PhD in robotics and computer vision (as did my co-founder Charles). After Oxford I started a previous company (Plink) which Google acquired in 2010. I then spent three years at Google before leaving to start Pointy. I’m actually a little surprised to find myself founding start-ups, it’s not something I ever thought about growing up.

NOG: What gets you up in the morning? and what keeps you up at night?
MC: Honestly, the thing that actually gets me up in the morning is curiosity about what’s happened in the world overnight – normally in the form of checking our dashboards, emails, etc. At night, I often lie awake for an hour or more thinking about what to do next – it’s something I’ve done all my life. So, I guess the answer is: everything.


NOG: What is your best character trait? what is your worst character trait?
MC: I like playing with ideas and questioning things – if you question enough things sometimes you have an idea for something new and interesting. On the other side, I sometimes over-research and read a lot of background material on things, when a bit of direct trial-and-error or even just focused thought might get me there quicker.

NOG: Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
MC: It can be long hours during the week, but I always take the weekends off. That works for me.

NOG: When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
MC: Cycling in the Wicklow mountains.

Picture taken by Mark while out cycling in Co. Wicklow, Ireland

NOG: You reference Donnybrook bikes on your site, have you ever used Pointy yourself to find and buy parts there yourself?
Yes, have got plenty of small bits and pieces off Donnybrook Bikes, the guys are great and have a great selection – last thing I think was a new Bontrager bottle cage.
NOG: Ok I just checked on Pointy and they are showing in stock, thats cool!

Bontrager RL Cage (Black) available at Donnybrook Bikes

What’s the last book or movie that you’ve read or seen?
MC: Last movie was Star Wars, in common with half the world! Last book was The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi.

NOG: What’s the most played song in your itunes or spotify playlist?
MC: Bonxie by Stornoway

NOG: What’s your favourite gadget and why?
I use a projector at home instead of a screen. I love it.

NOG: What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you created your business/startup?
MC: One of the trickiest things was where to draw the line between business and non-business life. e.g. Friends and family who wanted to invest and/or work in the business, etc. I think we mostly got it right, but more by luck than judgement.

Pointy being interviewed by the folks over at IrishStartup.TV back in July 2015

NOG: So what’s next for Pointy?
MC: We’re just about to launch in a new country, which is very exciting!

NOG: What question would you like me to ask the next founder?
MC: I’d be interested to know how much of their time people spend the different aspects of the job – e.g. working on product, hiring, raising money, sales, media, etc.

NOG: How would you answer your own question? 🙂
MC: Nicely done! The majority of my time is on product – quite a lot of actual coding. There’s also a lot of time on high level decision making – which features should we prioritise, which city should we launch in next, etc. The other major part of it is establishing and maintaining relationships with investors, keys partners, etc. There are periods of a month or more when fund raising is 100% of my time. Hiring is also a big one which happens in short bursts.

NOG: Well Mark, that’s it. Congratulations on the recent funding announcement, continued success in helping retail to take back the high street. by helping them gain traction online in order to drive sales offline in store.
MC: Thanks Niall, really enjoyed the chat.


Are you an Irish retailer wanting to learn more about Pointy and the opportunity to join them on their mission to help win back the high street for retail? then click here

#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders that I meet on my travels, have worked with in the past or simply find what they do interesting. These posts do not represent the views of any employer or any business that I am affiliated with.

I hope you enjoy them! Want to be featured?

Other interviews in the series: