Wednesday 26 October 2016

The 30 under 30 shaping Ireland's future

Sarah McCabe, Adrian Weckler and Nick Webb

Published 31/08/2014 | 02:30

THIS IS THE LIFE: Danielle Ryan is the founder of luxury lifestyle company Roads Group
THIS IS THE LIFE: Danielle Ryan is the founder of luxury lifestyle company Roads Group
Chupi Sweetman (photo: Ronan Lang)
Simone Rocha
Donal Skehan with his fiancee Sofie Larrson (photo: Rhianne Jones)
Simon Harris (photo: Tom Burke)

They are the start-up founders, hedge-fund traders, property speculators and cyber-security experts of tomorrow. Meet the young people who will change the face of business in the next decade. Sarah McCabe, Adrian Weckler and Nick Webb identify Ireland's smartest and most promising talent

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Keyun Ruan (28)

Cyber security

Originally from Shanghai, Dublin-based and UCD-educated Ruan is one of the world's foremost experts on cybersecurity - specifically, the exotically named field of cloud forensics. Companies turn to Ruan when they want to fend off hackers. She has worked with, among others, IBM and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company. She was recently appointed as senior research scientist at the R&D division of Dublin-based online security company Espion and is co-founder of New York cloud forensics training and consultancy organisation Xensix.

Simon Harris (27)


Many dismissed Fine Gael TD Harris's appointment as junior minister for finance earlier this year as a mistake, arguing he is just too young to bring the necessary weight and experience to the role. But others welcome it as a breath of fresh air. Regardless of your view, the fact is that Harris has made it to one of the most influential roles in domestic finance at 27. He's now a person of interest to some of the world's biggest banks and will play a role in the formulation of the next two budgets.

Eoghan Phipps (29)


Celbridge man Phipps is the one to watch at the European headquarters of the world's biggest search engine. He has risen rapidly up the ranks in five years at Google, where he is now head of Irish agency sales. He leads its partnerships with media and creative agencies across Ireland.

Until recently he worked for the company in the US, managing its partnership with Resolution Media, Omnicom's search and social agency. The Trinity graduate joined the company in 2009 as a lowly account manager and was soon taking the lead on major accounts including government agencies and telecoms organisations. A former academic, he previously taught business and economics at Maastricht University.

Emma Manley (27)


Grafton Academy graduate Emma launched her eponymous label Manley in 2010. It's now stocked in the UK and Egypt as well as in boutiques across Ireland. 50pc of the label is manufactured in Ireland. Emma refined her craft at the embellishment division of Alexander McQueen and helped to launch Topshop's To Go style advice service in Ireland.

Dean McKillen (28)

Property and restaurants

McKillen, the son of Belfast-born developer Paddy McKillen, owns a rake of interests in the US, including a nightclub on Santa Monica Boulevard. He hit the headlines last year when he sold a mansion he revamped to Sam Nazarian, an Iranian hotel and nightclub tycoon, nicknamed Los Angeles's 'King of the Night.' The price-tag was $39m for the lavish home, which was once owned by Naked Gun villain Ricardo Montalban.

Dean's older brother Paddy Jr (31), is behind nightclub Everleigh Gardens on Harcourt Street and the Bison Bar on Wellington Quay, among other Dublin venues.

Simon Phelan (25)

Hedge funds

Trinity maths and engineering graduate Phelan is a rising star at Jon Moulton's hedge fund Better Capital, responsible for a €100m fund with taxpayer money on the line. He moved back to Dublin last year to help establish Better Capital's Irish office alongside veteran venture capitalist Brian Stephens, after the company launched a €100m joint venture fund with the National Pension Reserve Fund.

Patrick Leddy (27)

Apps, customer tracking

Leddy, from Rush, Co Dublin, is now on his second million-euro company.

He set up his first, app development business Furious Tribe, while still at university studying computer science. But it wasn't a one man band for very long; soon Furious Tribe was developing apps for big names like RTE Sport, TV3, Vodafone and Citibank. It now has offices in London and New York as well as Dublin.

Leddy recently stepped back from Furious Tribe - though he still owns it and remains as chairman - to launch new business Pulsate. It helps companies to track customers inside stores and get better insights into how they shop. It has only been live for four months and has already signed up Selfridges and Coors Lite. It recently closed its first round of financing, a number thought to be in the seven figures.

William McQuillan (28)

Venture capital

William is a founding partner at Dublin venture capital firm Frontline Ventures, which specialises in early-stage technology companies. Its investments include online currency trading platform Currency Fair and television data service Boxfish. He is also co-founder and chief executive of, an online sales platform targeting some of emerging fashion brands. Before this he worked on the founding team at Ondra Partners, an investment banking boutique.

John (23) and Patrick (25) Collison


Limerick brothers John and Patrick Collison set up online payments firm Stripe in 2010 with the aim of making it easier to pay online. Four years later, their company is headquartered in San Francisco and valued at around €1.3bn. Developers and investors in Silicon Valley say Stripe is one of the hottest start-ups in a market full of hot start-ups. Their product is designed for website and app developers and makes it easier for companies to accept payments online and via mobile apps. It processes millions of payments every year for thousands of companies in 12 countries. The only way is up, with the payments processing market expected to expand hugely as ecommerce, which at present accounts for only about 2pc of retail purchases globally, continues to grow. They have indicated they have no intention to sell.

Terry Cavanagh (29)


The Monaghan-born entrepreneur is the founder of game design company Distractionware. It's based in so-hip-it-hurts London suburb Shoreditch. He has made a name for himself with innovative, experimental games like At A Distance and Fantastic Arcade, a finalist for Game of the Year on Apple's App Store. He has become a takeover target for major studios but wants to remain an independent developer.

Gary Martin (26)


This Derry man first got a taste for business at 15, after a relative asked him to manage their nightclub for a time. He used the proceeds to buy into property and had made his first million by 17. He went on to set up Martin Construction and has been involved in hundreds of residential and commercial developments across the UK. The company has even received a commendation in the House of Commons for completing a government building fit-out in a rapid 11 weeks.

Paul Kenny (30)

Travel software

Dubai-based Kenny is the founder of Cobone, the Middle Eastern daily deals business. Tiger Funds took a majority stake in the company in exchange for a cool $40m last year, with Kenny hanging onto a sizeable chunk, staying on as chief executive. It has since rebranded as Triperna focusing on travel deals. It targets the $32bn travel market in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which is poorly serviced online. Kenny also has a private investment portfolio, with stakes including Carve Cases, which makes hand-crafted wooden iPhone cases, and Box of Awesome, which delivers top brands to the hard-to-reach 13-to-14-year-old market.

James Whelton (22)

Computer coding

Whelton is the founder of computer club and runaway success Coderdojo. From its humble beginnings in 2011 as an after-school meeting teaching HTML and CSS expand at Presentation Brothers College in Cork, Coderdojo clubs now take place around the world - as far as Panama, Bolivia, South Africa and Brazil. Describing himself as "not the wix nor the wax but the spark", Whelton has stepped back from Coderdojo to focus on Paul Kenny's travel business Triperna, where he is chief technical officer.

Chupi Sweetman-Pell (30)


Chupi was recruited to design for Topshop at the tender age of 21 - the youngest designer it had ever hired- but it's jewellery rather than clothes which have made her a household name. In 2011 her fiance encouraged her to get a new hobby, so she decided to take up jewellery-making. Now her line is stocked in boutiques and department stores around the country with a successful export arm. Known for its delicate pieces made of solid gold and silver pieces with precious stones, it broke the mould at a time when cheap costume jewellery dominated the high street. Celebrity fans include Marina Dimandis of Marina and the Diamonds, and Ruby Wax. The business is run from Dublin's trendy Portobello district.

Eric Risser (30)

Animation software

This Floridian isn't strictly Irish, but given the roots he has built up here we had to include him. Tech genius Risser moved to Dublin five years ago to complete a PhD in computer science at Trinity and never looked back.

His Dublin-based software business Artomatic, co-founded with Naas entrepreneur Neal O'Gorman, lets animators speed up the most laborious aspects of the design process for film and video games. The software was built by Risser himself from scratch.

They are now in talks with some of the biggest names in the video game and animated movie industries. Watch this space.

Greg Kavanagh (29)


Arklow's 29-year-old Greg Kavanagh is behind one of the biggest gambles of the crash and boom. His New Generation house-building group has been hoovering up prime development land around Dublin since the crisis days of 2011. With well-heeled backers, thought to include e-learning tycoon Pat McDonagh, Starwood Capital and the family office of minted British investor Sir John Beckwith, New Generation has inked around 50 land deals in the last three years as other builders and developers were hamstrung by legacy debt or an inability to source funding. The company has been selling hundreds of houses and is on site and in construction. Having packed up many of its sites for half nothing, Kavanagh and his team are sitting on truly stupendous profits.

Eoghan McCabe (28)

Sales software

An off-the-cuff email to billionaire Twitter founder Biz Stone led to Eoghan McCabe getting investment for his start-up Intercom, which makes software that helps companies manage and track their relationships with their customers. McCabe set up Intercom with Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee and David Barrett, having sold another tech company called Exceptional. Along with Silicon valley royalty like Stone, Intercom has backers including Bill McCabe's Oyster Technologies and NewBay's Paddy Holohan. In January, Intercom raised €17m from investors - one of the largest fundraisings by an Irish tech company this year. The prospects for Intercom are massive. "We're only doing this to be a billion dollar company," he told the Sunday Independent, "We're really trying to make it really big."

Ciaran Greenwood (21)

Food supplements

The Limerick-born entrepreneur left Blackrock College before his final exams to trade gold online. He used the proceeds to launch his business V12 Shots, a protein drink made in Ireland and sold in the UK, last year. It is now stocked by Ocado, a large British supermarket chain, and is in talks with several others. In the company's short lifespan Greenwood has managed to secure a high-profile partnership with UK championship football club Wolves. It hasn't cost him a cent other than to supply the players with his product - that's how much faith they have in it.

Daire Hickey (28)

Event management, software

While Paddy Cosgrave gets much of the brand recognition for the Web Summit, his two co-founders have contributed a lot to the creation of a company that is probably worth far more than the €35m figure ascribed to it in (rejected) acquisition rumours last month. The 28-year-old co-founder, Daire Hickey, is the media brains behind an organisation that leans heavily on media leverage to expand its influence. A former journalist in Dublin, Cork-born Hickey has an encyclopedic knowledge of US, European and Irish media organisations and how they operate. Whatever he's doing is working a treat: the company, which is expected to see 20,000 people attend the Web Summit this November, has doubled in size this year, to over 100 full-time employees. It's also starting to branch into software development.

Jules Coleman (29)

Online cleaner finder

What Airbnb has done for accommodation and Uber has done for taxi-booking, aims to do for home cleaning services. Launched late last year in the UK, Leixlip-born Jules Coleman's outfit is a new online service that connects home-owners to cleaners. Earlier this year, it received €4.4m in funding, allowing the company to expand into Ireland and hire 30 people. Coleman is a UCD graduate who previously worked with Accenture and PWC. Last month, Rathcoole-born Oisin Hanrahan (31) successfully raised €22m for a similar service,, which allows US homeowners to hire cleaners, plumbers and other handymen for everyday home jobs.

Danielle Ryan (29)

Luxury goods

Yes, that's Ryan of aviation dynasty. But Danielle is making her own mark as founder of luxury lifestyle company Roads Group.

It has three main activities: fragrance, publishing, and film production. There are currently 10 Roads fragrances available at exclusive department stores from Moscow to Madrid. On the publishing side, Roads has brought out a series of "Classic" books (new editions of popular classics, each designed to be recognisable as a Roads product), and a number of coffee table books. Roads Entertainment is headed up by producer Alan Maher and Oscar-nominated film producer Eimear O'Kane and will release its first documentary and feature films in 2015. Ryan trained as an actor at London's prestigious RADA.

Brendan O'Driscoll (27)

Music app

O'Driscoll is one third of Soundwave, the music app that's making waves in Silicon Valley. Unlike its competitors, Soundwave monitors what its users are listening to across all platforms - meaning it's unrivalled in its ability to collect data and help music fans share and learn about new music with their friends. It has been downloaded more than a million times since its launch last year.

High profile supporters include British TV boffin Stephen Fry and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniacki.

Ben Harris (27)

Smart appliances

In an emerging era of internet-connected home devices, Dubliner Ben Harris is one of the country's brightest prospects. He is the first of an impressive list of young start-up creators to come out of the accelerator programme set up by Liam Casey, the China-based manufacturing magnate who is currently being touted as a pivotal figure between Silicon Valley's tech giants and their (largely Chinese) manufacturing operations.

Harris's company, Drop, is a 'smart' kitchen food measurement machine that's part of an iPad (and iPhone) system to simplify cooking and baking. Harris is thought to be in discussions with major US retailers, eager to catch up on offering connected home appliances, following Google's recent €2bn purchase of 'intelligent' home alarm system, Nest. Harris comes from entrepreneurial stock: his mother, Elaine O'Hora, founded the Munchies chain of outlets in Dublin. His father, Peter Harris, also set up restaurants as well the courier company Pony Express.

Donal Skehan (28)


The Mop-haired cook is a masterclass in branding and fast becoming Ireland's answer to Jamie Oliver. From humble beginnings as a food blogger in 2007, his brand has grown to span books, websites, TV shows, brand tie-ins and even a convenience food line. His Skoff Pies are flying off supermarket shelves around the country, he has just launched his fourth book with Gill and MacMillan and he's making television for the BBC, Mitt Kok in Sweden and Fox in the US as well as RTE.

Jamie obviously knows Skehan is hot on his tails and recently signed the Howth native up to his Youtube channel Foodtube. Amidst all this Skehan is also planning a wedding to long-term Swedish girlfriend Sofie Larrson.

Jayne Ronayne (25)

Networking software

UCC graduate Ronayne is a consummate networker and the brains behind Konnect Again, a software system which helps universities to connect with and keep track of alumni with fundraising in mind. It is her second start-up after Your Yearbook, an online yearbook system she set up while still studying at University College Cork and sold to universities around the country.

Konnect Again targets the endowment-friendly US market but is also active in the UK and Ireland. It officially launches in November but has already signed up DIT and Durham University in England. It recently turned down a €500,000 investment bid from a UK party and is instead relying on funding from a private investor (a Googler) while seeking alternative funding in the US. It is also branching out, developing a more commercial arm that helps consultancy businesses and other large employers connect with their massive employee alumni.

Katie Tsouros (29)

Fine art

Tsouros is a rising star in the fine art world. In 2010, aged 25, she established KT contemporary, an art gallery dedicated to young, emerging Irish and international artists. She went on to co-found Artfetch, an ecommerce website that globally selects, curates and sells emerging contemporary art online.

Richard Whelan (25)

Reward schemes

Whelan's baby is Popdeem, the online rewards service that allows shops and banks to target customers with tailored offers. Consumers earn points by interacting with brands using Facebook and Twitter and users who are identified as most influential among their peers get extra offers. Unusually, brands can integrate the technology into their existing apps. It recently raised €500,000 from venture capital firm Delta Partners, Enterprise Ireland and several leading angel investors.

Hazel Mulhare (26)


Mulhare is a vice president at Kea Recruitment, one of London's hottest recruitment firms. She specialises in finance roles, filling positions at private equity and venture capital. Clients include Blackstone and Silverlake Partners. It's a powerful job - if you want a decent job at the heart of the global financial world, Trinity graduate Mulhare's a good person to know.

Iseult Ward (23) and Aoibheann O'Brien (29)

Social entrepreneurship

Dubliners Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O'Brien founded app-based social enterprise FoodCloud in a bid to help businesses with food surpluses connect with charities and community groups. They were spurred into action after learning in the course of a university dissertation that Ireland wastes one million tonnes of food every year while 600,000 people experience food poverty.

Things really took off for FoodCloud this year with the launch of a new partnership with Tesco, which is adopting its technology in stores around the country and pouring €250,000 into the venture. Tesco is just the start: they are also targeting hotels, caterers, supermarkets, shops and restaurants.

Simone Rocha (28)


Her father, John, may have taken a step back from fashion, with the news earlier this summer that he is retiring from London Fashion Week - but Simone's star is firmly on the rise. She has successfully carved out her own identity since graduating in 2010 with a Fashion MA from St Martin's College, London.

After a Topshop collaboration and a pop-up window display in Selfridges, things really took off for the Dublin-born designer when she was named Emerging Womenswear Designer at the 2013 British Fashion Awards. She now has showrooms in London and Paris and is stocked in some of the world's most exclusive boutiques, including Dover Street Market in London, Colette in Paris and 10 Corso Como outlets in Milan.

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