“The purpose is to bring together start-ups because it’s a lonely place” – A spotlight on four successful companies at the Enterprise Ireland Start-Up Showcase

By David Monaghan
25 April 2023
Pictured (L-R): Pauline Mulligan, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Minister Dara Calleary TD., AnnaMarie Turley, Department Manager, HPSU, Enterprise Ireland, Leo Clancy, CEO, Enterprise Ireland

Last week, Enterprise Ireland played host to a Start-Up Showcase, marking the start of the agency’s first ‘Summit’ week of events, which celebrated Enterprise Ireland’s 25th anniversary. David Monaghan, Deputy Editor, Business & Finance spoke to four representatives of some key start-ups at the RDS to discuss how they intervene into their respective fields, what successes and hurdles they have experienced to date, and what lies in their future.

Last week, Enterprise Ireland played host to a Start-Up Showcase, marking the start of the agency’s first ‘Summit’ week of events, which celebrated Enterprise Ireland’s 25th anniversary. Summit week brought together Irish businesses from a broad range of sectors, alongside the global team at Enterprise Ireland and key stakeholders to discuss the progress of Irish enterprise, and its current and future impact for the benefit of both economy and society.

The Enterprise Ireland Start-Up Showcase facilitated the meeting of the ‘Class of 2022’ start-up companies and the wider start-up ecosystem, including investors, state agencies, and start-up accelerators.

The event also plays host to technology-based companies who have their roots in state-funded research. In 2022, twenty-four companies were spun out of third level institutions, supported through the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund Programme.

Business & Finance spoke to some of the start-ups on show at the RDS last week.

Positive Carbon 

Positive Carbon provides food waste monitoring technology to the hospitality and food service industry.

“Food waste is a massive problem, both globally and in Ireland,” says Aisling Kirwan, COO of the technology start-up. “One third of food produced globally is wasted. In Ireland, although we’re a small country, we waste a million tonnes of food every single year. “

The average hotel spends a quarter of a million euro on food that is purchased only to end up in a bin, says Kirwan.

“Food waste is a complicated problem, it’s coming from multiple teams at multiple stages. It’s preparation food, unserved food and plate waste which makes it really difficult to track and that’s why the problem is so extensive. So we want to make it as easy as possible to track food waste so businesses can know where they’re wasting food and then make changes in preparation, production and purchasing to reduce it at the source,” she continues.

DM: What was the impetus for the idea? 

AK: Myself and my co-founder had been working in the food waste industry for the past eight years. So we were primarily working with food retailers on tracking and reducing their food waste. Although they buy in millions of euros worth of food every year, their food waste is actually relatively quite small and it’s because of barcodes. So they can really easily track everything. When we wanted to start something and make our own impact we wanted to essentially replicate that system of being able to track where the food waste is coming from. But of course commercial kittens are a lot more complicated. Ingredients come in and they are transformed into meals and plate waste comes back. It’s a bit more complex. 

DM: Tell me about some of your successes to date. 

AK: Our pride and joy is always the Grand Hotel in Malahide. It’s the first hotel we’ve ever worked with. They took us on when we just kind of had an idea. They’re quite an innovative hotel and they’re not afraid of using new technology. When we first started monitoring food waste there the managing director and head chef had no idea how much food they were wasting at the time. But since introducing our system they have shown a 42 per cent reduction in food waste. That equates to saving several thousand euro on food bills while also having a massive environmental impact for the hotel. 

DM: What are the benefits of an event like the start-up showcase?

AK: It’s first of all great to meet other people. I’ve already made eight different start-ups there. We are joking already about how diverse all of the start-ups are. You find out that I have a passion for food waste but someone else has a passion for something else that seems very niche. That’s always great, to meet other people and see what’s going on in the whole ecosystem.


Teleatherapy is software used by speech and language therapists to provide care to people with Parkinson’s.

“Parkinson’s is the fastest-growing neurodegenerative disease,” says CEO & Co-Founder Clare Meskill. “90 per cent of people will have changes to their speech. Timely and consistent care is really important when it comes to maintaining their voice.”

DM: What was the impetus for setting up the business? 

CM: My background is, I’m a speech and language therapist. People live with Parkinson’s for many years. It can be very hard for speech therapists to have the time in stressful environments and a lack of resources to provide care from an early stage. It got me thinking ‘would there not be a technology to help deliver the care remotely; provide follow-up between appointments and help with carry-over over the long term?’

DM: Has that been a successful intervention so far? 

CM: The therapy is not new, we’re not reinventing the wheel, but it’s digitalising what’s already proven. We’ve been piloting with individuals with Parkinson’s with a lot of support from the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland. We’re currently piloting in the HSE and we recently got our FDA registration. 

DM: What are the benefits of the Enterprise Ireland Start-Up Showcase? 

CM: The networking is really valuable, learning from other people’s experiences. Both myself and my co-founder, we’re only a small team, so to get the experiences from other founders that have been here before […] So yeah, the networking is really good […] It can be a lonely journey. I have a co-founder, so it’s not too bad […] It’s a different path to what others in healthcare have chosen, so it’s nice to have that support. 

DM: Where would you like to be in a year? 

CM: We would like to be working with more clinics, [be] a bit further on in product development. 


Akara develops robots and automation to improve environmental standards in hospitals.

“Pathogens since COVID are a big problem, so what we’re able to do is develop cleaning procedures that are powered by robotics and artificial intelligence that can decontaminate these rooms faster, to a higher standard and using less resources than is currently the case,” says Co-Founder and CEO, Conor McGinn.

He continues: “This is a big upside for the hospital because of course, we saw during COVID, infections and the transmission of infections in hospitals has very serious issues due to the built environment but equally, procedures. Ireland has some of the longest waiting lists in Europe. Procedures are often delayed or limited by things [taking] place in a room. If cleaning accounts for a large amount of time, which it can, it can take six hours to turn some rooms around. If we can dramatically reduce that time we can perform more procedures.”

DM: So, was COVID the impetus for the idea? 

CM: The mission of our company has always been to develop technology to empower frontline workers and the healthcare industry. We see massive need for this because of the growing ageing population that has increasing healthcare challenges. With a growing ageing population, it means there are fewer workers. This has been at the core of what we’re trying to do as a company for ten years. What happened during COVID was we were focused primarily on the nursing home sector where we were building technologies for something else. When the nursing homes closed down we saw an opportunity to take a lot of what we had done.

Like most people at the start of the pandemic, we were keen to do what we could. Through working with colleagues in the HSE and in hospitals around the country and some globally, we were able to get an insight into this bigger unmet need that’s been around for 100 odd years. There’s actually been very little innovation in how hospitals are cleaned. Decontamination hadn’t actually changed much since the Spanish flu pandemic. It’s crazy. You’re still using a manual person that’s going around. It’s a time-consuming process, it’s subject to high degrees of human error.

A human in a room cleaning isn’t cleaning the air. It’s also putting their own health at risk, not only from the perspective of potentially coming into a contaminated space and getting ill, but the chemicals being used are known to be hazardous for respiratory issues. Studies have shown very significant increases in things like COPD and asthma. Not just amongst cleaners but also nurses that spend time in these rooms. We felt the technology and robots in particular had potential to empower this part of the workforce. 

DM: There is potential there for a strong intervention?

CM: We started as a company building a robot to do a specific job and since then we’ve evolved and we now see ourselves more holistically as effectively two builders and we want to drive the creation of a new way of doing things on the frontline, so that not only can we keep hospitals safe, but we can improve efficiency and those two things are really at the heart of the product we’re building. 

DM: What are some of your successes to date? 

CM: When we started, there was a lot of talk about autonomous robots being […] deployed in hospitals, [but] there was actually no research showing that it was possible. Within about six months we went from an idea to actually validating that in real hospitals and, to my knowledge, the first to publish a paper showing that a fully autonomous robot that was programmed in advance could achieve levels of, we call it Bio Burden Reduction, in effect it’s proving we’re killing a certain proportion of germs in the room.

We were able to show we could do that with this autonomous robot within six-to-eight months. That’s the first time it’s ever been done. Following that, we were able to show that we could actually, through a data-driven approach, when we clean a room, it’s often done somewhat anecdotally. Two cleaners cleaning the same room will do different things. Our more systemised approach, we can dramatically reduce the time it takes for the process. We were able to show our technology can actually reduce the time it takes by about four times.

So, a room was taking forty minutes to clean, we could do it between five and ten minutes. This is a very significant upside in terms of the number of procedures. This was originally in theory, we did this through research papers. More recently what we’ve been able to do is operationalise this. Since June of 2022, we’ve had a robot over in a major NHS hospital in the UK. Over there we measured the number of procedures that were performed in their endoscopy department two months before and two months after our robot. It more or less doubled what they were able to do. From the hospital’s standpoint, that was huge because it had the impact of creating two extra procedure rooms. The capital costs for a hospital to build two extra procedure rooms would be quite substantial. 

DM: Where would you hope to be in a year? 

CM: We’ve started this as an idea in Ireland and our hope would be that we could start to operationalise it here even though the Irish healthcare system has challenges, we’ve had a very good experience with it. We’ve been able to progressively show that it can be adapted for this setting. Ireland, UK, we’d like to be able to show this can be rolled out permanently.

Being able to expand on our studies to show that over long periods of time, because it does take long periods of time to correlate the introduction of a technology like ours with a reduction in infection rates. We’d like to move towards that so we would have hard data spanning years to show it leads to meaningful patient outcomes.

We’re also looking at the US, that’s the biggest healthcare market in the world. So, trying to plan a way in which we can build the technology in Europe to the point where it can be translated and adapted to suit a global healthcare challenge. That’s the north star path we’re on at the moment. 


ResHub is an agetech platform that provides a technology solution to later-living providers, including independent living, assisted living, and nursing home memory care settings. ResHub is a resident experience hub that enables care providers to provide a connected experience between residents, staff, services and family members.

It is “a really large bit of enterprise software that enables the care provider to digitise from a staff point of view,” says Seán McLoughlin, CEO & Co-Founder.

He continues: “[It also provides] services such as life enrichment, activity coordination, concierge, visits scheduling, family video calls, newsletters, marketplace services and an optional in-room experience for the residents which can be an app on their own device, we can provide a fully managed tablet experience for residents who’d like to get us to help with the hardware side.

“And a really immersive TV box experience. Most residents’ rooms have a large TV, and our simple box plugs in, it comes with a webcam and a voice assistant that enables them to connect. From the resident’s side, it puts their finger on the pulse of daily living in the community to prompt active daily living, social connection, purposeful activity which are all states of wellbeing that are proven to promote better health outcomes.

“The last bit is our family app, so download an app on your phone as a family member to bring you on the daily journey of your loved one. So it will give you that transparency, peace of mind and connection.”

DM: The idea is to develop better communication for people in assisted living? 

SM: Yeah, and in all those settings. We’re a complimentary platform to existing clinical systems. We would integrate into those clinical systems. Neil [Hosey, Co-Founder and CTO] and I, we come from a background of working in healthtech and agetech and working with academics. We’ve published a number of peer-reviewed papers in this space to understand interoperability. We looked at the psychosocial wellbeing on top of the biological wellbeing that clinical systems operate on. 

The industry has changed and people are more consumer-focused. We realised, particularly post-COVD, the importance of social wellbeing and preference and choice in family communication. We enable care providers with a single platform to provide and showcase that.

DM: What are some of your successes to date? 

SM: Commercially, we’re live. We have customers in Australia, in the UK, and in Ireland. We’ve just launched into the States and we’ll be rolling out with our first customer in the States this summertime. We’ve gotten some really strong, positive early traction over there. November just past, we won a competition out of Israel. We won International Agetech Start-up of the Year, which was a global competition. We were invited by the California Assisted Living Association to be their innovation partner at their conference. In a couple of weeks’ time, we’re off to upstate New York. The Empire State Assisted Living Association have invited us over to be their innovation showcase partner. So lots of wins along the way. The Enterprise Ireland funding is really enabling us to launch in the US. 

DM: What are the benefits of the Enterprise Ireland Start-Up showcase? 

SM: At the event outside I’ve connected with two potential partners in the ecosystem of what we’re doing. It’s also nice to stand back and reflect on what you’ve done because day-in, day-out is busy, and [you’re working] across a lot of time zones. I’m looking forward to the networking downstairs between VCs, Enterprise Ireland, different people across the ecosystem. It’s good to connect and see what else is happening out there. 

DM: Where would you like to be in a year? 

SM: Our vision is to be the world’s leading resident experience platform. Our goal when we founded three years ago was to ensure we could prove that product market fit and have our anchor customers in Australia, UK and Ireland and then launch into the States. So in twelve months’ time, we’d like to have significant market presence in the US and north America. 


The Enterprise Ireland Start-Up Showcase also provided start-ups the opportunity to network with potential investors. Saurabh Kumar, VC Associate, Furthr VC, said that the biggest benefit of the event as an investor “is to meet new companies which we have missed and network with some of the investors we work with. Just getting face-to-face.”

He continues: “That’s one of the biggest benefits of having this type of industry network. A second point is we get to hear the story from the successful companies who […] have done well in the ecosystem. It’s a great story and narrative for the next cohort coming in. It’s very motivating for everyone.”

John Carrigan, Investment Director, TheYieldLab echoed Kumar’s sentiments: “It’s basically about meeting the start-up community, and all the actors within that community, from Enterprise Ireland right down to the very grassroots,” he said.

“The universities, investors and all the other people that we need in the community for it to function and it’s about putting them all in the one place at the one time and getting to have multiple conversations.”

Leo Clancy, CEO, Enterprise Ireland

Leo Clancy is the Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Ireland. Before being appointed CEO, Clancy led the Technology, Consumer and Business Services sector as well as IT, Marketing Communications and Corporate Services at IDA Ireland and was a member of the Executive Management team. In that role, he worked extensively with global technology and services companies invested in Ireland.

“We’ve run these [events] for a number of years,” he said. “The purpose is to bring together the start-ups because it’s a lonely place, bring together the companies and make them feel like a community, but even more importantly, show the success, because we want to see more and more start-ups.”

DM: Can you tell me more about the current status of start-ups in Ireland?

LC: We’ve seen 161 from the numbers last year. That’s up from a run rate of around 125. We’re trying to push the envelope and see more and more start-ups and entrepreneurs supported in Ireland. If you want to be it, you have to be able to see it. It’s really important that we demonstrate publicly what a start-up can and should be and celebrate its success. Also then bringing together the community. We have VCs, we have multinational partners that work with start-up companies and our start-ups and our own people here too. When you have those people together in a room, magical things should happen. 

DM: This is also the 25th anniversary of Enterprise Ireland, what do you have planned? 

LC: For the anniversary, we’ve got the Start-up Showcase, we’ve had our teams back from around the world meeting with clients. We’ve got 200 people in overseas markets, we’ve brought everyone back to Ireland. They were in our offices yesterday and they’re here today meeting our clients, working out what their next market and export plans will be. We’re announcing our export results tomorrow […] You’ll see when it comes out, the impact that overseas networks makes. It helps Irish companies to do business around the world.

Tomorrow we’re having a stakeholder event in the morning. The business of enterprise development isn’t just in Enterprise Ireland, you need a whole community of people. We are bringing people in across the state system and across the ecosystem, people who work with Enterprise in different guises and having them be part of the announcement of our results tomorrow.

Looking back over 25 years, we have a panel that looks back over 25 years and a panel that looks forward to the next 25 years and we tell a bit of the story. We’re also bringing our team together to look at our mid-term strategy – how are we doing, where are our challenges, where are we succeeding. On Thursday we’re having a dinner with our leadership for growth alumni. Not a lot of people know, but we effectively run an executive leadership programme for our top clients, about 30 clients every year. There’s a rolling base of hundreds of alumni now.

We’re having a business summit which will include 700 of our clients and our colleagues who are client-facing. We’re going to talk about three topics: On Thursday night we’re talking about leadership which is absolutely crucial to business success. On Friday morning we’re talking scaling, and on Friday afternoon, sustainability. And all of this to say the ambition of Enterprise Ireland, we’re launching a new brand this week. The ambition of Enterprise Ireland is about Irish enterprise being a bigger part of this economy.

One message I’ll be giving clearly tomorrow and Friday when I speak is in 25 years’ time I see Irish-owned export enterprise being the largest sector of our economy. I still believe we’ll have a very strong and growing multinational sector, we’ll have strong domestic and thriving domestic economy, but my ambition is for this sector to be the biggest part of our economy. One of my successors will hopefully be able to point to the success of that in 25 years’ time. So at the 50th. 25 years ago, various other state agencies were brought together to [produce] Enterprise Ireland so we didn’t start from scratch. 

DM: When you look back on 25 years, what are some highlights you can reflect on? 

LC: I’m less than two years in the place so I’m learning things still every day. The key moments for Enterprise Ireland, I think, expanding our overseas reach […] The other thing, we’ve become a very large equity investor over that time, we now hold 3,700 equity positions in nearly 2,000 companies. That’s huge in the context of our base of about 4500 clients. A huge base of investments. We’ve created a seed and venture capital community in Ireland, so most of the venture capital companies here today would have limited partner investments from Enterprise Ireland.

We’ve created a suite of programmes that have companies, no matter what areas they work in. Some of the recent proudest moments are Brexit and COVID-19 and the response to Ukraine last year. Enterprise Ireland is super good at reacting to whatever happens, getting to the table very quickly with supports for business And they’re either heavily subscribed, or thankfully in certain cases, not needed as much as we thought they might have been. In all cases, this is a really agile organisation for a public sector body and I’m really proud of that. 

DM: What is your ambition for the future?

We hear this negative debate about foreign direct investment being too big in the economy and I don’t believe that. Particularly on a day where the Minister for Finance is laying out the success we’ve had in terms of the economic returns of foreign direct investment. I do think, though, that Irish enterprise can be a much bigger part of our economy over time. 

For those interested in more on start-ups and investing, Dublin Tech Summit takes place between 31 May and 1 June, 2023.

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About the author: David Monaghan is Deputy Editor of Business & Finance.




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Enterprise Ireland showcases the best in Irish start-ups

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“This brings the spotlight to those who have been ambitious and succeeded,” — Leo Clancy of Enterprise Ireland on the Elevation Award