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

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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 Daniel Evans & Ed Kniep of GarbShare

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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: