Latest Dragon breathes new life into show
WHEN Sean Gallagher departed Dragons' Den for his ill-fated presidential run, his co-stars on the hit show were forced to use their own headhunting skills to find a replacement.
Enter Sean O'Sullivan -- electrical engineer-turned rocker-turned-filmmaker-turned humanitarian, and arguably the most successful of all the Dragons.
The 47-year-old New Yorker of Irish heritage is the founder of several technology companies including MapInfo, a €151 million software and services business headquartered in the US that develops maps for the internet. He moved to Ireland six years ago from Madrid because of the heavy IT influence here at the time.
Mr O'Sullivan took the computing world by storm at 21, when he and three others founded the company while earning his electrical engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic in upstate New York.
He founded rock band Janet Speaks French and created a handful of independent films before turning to humanitarian work with JumpStart International, an NGO that rebuilt homes in war-torn Iraq.
So with the country's finances in the hands of the IMF and the eurozone teetering on the brink of catastrophe, is this really a good time to be considering investing in start-up companies? "If you look at when great companies are formed, they're usually formed in the midst of a recession," he said.
"It's that focus on efficiency and creativity and coming up with ideas out of nothing, that actually creates new ideas.
"It's kind of like a movie plot. You have to go through a struggle to emerge stronger. That's exactly what Ireland has to do."
Dressed in an open- necked shirt and with windswept blond hair, the latest Dragon joined media coach Gavin Duffy, property tycoon Niall O'Farrell, Bobby Kerr, the chairman of cafe company Insomnia, and publisher Norah Casey for the launch of the new series yesterday.
And as befits a man with such a can-do personality, he believes Ireland can pull itself out of its current troubles. "Clearly the Irish people are resilient," he said.
Budding entrepreneurs can still apply for the new series of the show, due to air in March, through the RTE website.
SEAN O'SULLIVAN PROFILE: REVIEW, PAGE 13