Business Irish

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Brightest and best with all the energy of youth

Despite a shocking week of awful jobless figures, miserable Exchequer returns, yet more Anglo losses and the promise of rain, the country is still awash with talent and smart ideas for business. In our annual 'Forty under 40' list, Nick Webb and Roisin Burke identify some of the keenest minds and shrewdest entrepreneurs on the block. These are the potential gamechangers of the next decade

Iain McDonald

Having sold his broadband and telecoms firm Perlico to Vodafone for a reputed €40m, McDonald didn't hang about.

The serial entrepreneur's latest wheeze is, a social-networking firm with a difference. Weedle has some serious backers, including former Euristix chief Jim Mountjoy. If it lives up to the hype, a second fortune could be on the way through an IPO or trade sale.

Conor McCarthy & Mark Druckenfield

Street Performance ChampionshipS

The two pals from Trinity College could have gone into IT but became impresarios instead.

Their Emergent Events is behind the Street Performance World Championships, a theatrical smorgasbord of juggling, swordswallowers and people who blow flames out of various orifices. Some 250,000 people attended the last shindig -- now in its fifth year. Denis Desmond better watch out.

Cyril Murphy


Former Esat Digifone executive Cullen, 36, set up telecoms software group Equiendo with ex-Meteor product manager Barry Cullen.

The company, which raised €1.5m last year, develops software to ensure mobile phone networks are performing up to scratch.

Cathal Gaffney

Brown bag Films

The head of the innovative Brown Bag Films celebrated the big one a few days ago but his company has already clocked up two Oscar nominations and has just bagged a major contract to produce a Disney series Doc McSuffins.

Mari Hurley


She's a board member and the chief financial officer at Dublin-based accommodation website Web Reservations International, which was bought by a US private investment firm last year.

Founded 10 years ago, Web Reservations International sells €200m-plus of online accommodation annually through sites including and, with partners including Ryanair and Lonely Planet.

Prior to that Hurley was finance director at Sherry FitzGerald and previously worked at Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns. She's been a member of past Fine Gael election campaign teams.

Mark Heffernan

Opsona Pharmaceuticals

A biochemistry PhD, Heffernan founded drug development company Opsona which spun out of a Trinity College research group in 2004.

Partners and investors include pharma giants Novartis and Roche, and it has financial backing to the tune of €20m. Its focus is identifying new ways to prevent and treat autoimmune/inflammatory conditions, cancers and infectious diseases.

Alan Scroope


Revenues for the Kerry entrepreneur's business-to-business auction site FreeFlow were impressive at over €20m in the last available results.

The business allows major technology firms such as Apple and Microsoft to sell excess inventory through its website instead of having to scrap vast amounts of their old stock.

He previously worked for 3Com before founding FreeFlow in the teeth of the dotcom bust in 2001.

John Rice

Jam Media

Kildare-born 30-something John Rice is the mover and shaker behind Jam Media, the Dublin-headquartered animation and media firm which made its name by merging live action and cartoons in the hit series PicMe and Funky Fables.

Eric Mosley


Thirty-nine-year-old Trinity engineering graduate Mosley initially set up Globoforce as a dotcom to sell greeting cards. Luckily, he then had a bit of a rethink and changed the company into an employee reward operation.

It was a magic idea and it took off with gusto. Ace technology backer Barry Maloney certainly thinks so, as he's ploughed millions into the fast-growing company.

Ulric Kenny

Ion equity

Kenny is one of Neil O'Leary's confidantes at uber successful private equity firm Ion Equity, which bagged SWS Energy for a cool €500m last year. It also owns the Topaz petrol station chain and Usit.

Terry Clune

As a seven-year-old Clune set up his first business collecting bags from farmers and selling them on to a local timber merchant. He was always going to be an entrepreneur.

His company does exactly what it says on the tin. It helps students and seasonal workers claim emergency tax back from summer work. Sales passed the €90m mark this year.

Paul Dowling


Supporting Liverpool may give the 38-year-old Dubliner plenty of practice of being out in the cold. Dowling is a key executive of Russian-focussed oil explorer Petroneft, which is foraging for riches in Siberia.

The share price is up 150 per cent this year. Could a takeover be on the cards?

Tom O'Donohue

MX Telecom

With Claremorris roots, Tom O'Donohue is one of the brightest stars in the British telco sector. He owned 50 per cent of sms and mobile content firm MX Telecoms, which was bought by US group Amdocs for around €80m this year.

Pat Gunne

Green Property

Gunne built his family's estate agent business into one of the country's biggest commercial real estate players before exiting right at the top. He moved to join Stephen Vernon's Green Property, which is one of the few companies with any money.

Gunne has been working on deals to buy solid assets from distressed sellers, including the Kallakis portfolio which was backed by up to €750m in AIB loans. It's not all been plain sailing for the 30-something, though. Another deal to buy nearly €700m worth of assets from Anglo has hit the buffers.

Mark Stafford

Lifestyle Sports & Stafford Holdings

Clongowes educated Stafford runs the family business set up by his great-grandfather back in 1891. Stafford Holdings has expanded from shipping and coal and now includes Lifestyle Sports and a bit of property.

The hatches have been battened down as the company rides out the storm.

Breon Corcoran

Paddy Power

He's one of the sharpest executives around the boardroom table at Paddy Power -- and that's really saying something.

The 39-year-old former JP Morgan banker was recently appointed the bookies' chief operating officer having headed up Paddy Power's non-retail and development arm, as well as spearheading the move into the Australian market.

Conor Costigan

DCC Healthcare

In a sense it was a hospital pass, but after nearly 13 years on the ladder at DCC, Conor Costigan has been rewarded with the job of running the X-Box to Kp peanuts distributions firm's healthcare unit.

He's got his work cut out for him as it's one of the least fancied bits of the business. But things are certainly happening since he got there, as DCC bagged €37m from the sale of its mobility and rehab business.

Dylan Collins

Jolt Online Gaming

He got the Playboy bunnies online as part of his last major business launch, and things are certainly looking bright for 31-year-old online gaming entrepreneur Dylan Collins, who sold his Demonware videogame company to Activision for a cool €14m in 2005.

His next firm Jolt Online Gaming got global coverage for its Playboy manager game before, retailer Gamestop bought the firm in November 2009.

Clare Dillon


Former Iona Technology and Havok games whiz Clare Dillon, 35, is one of the top executives at Microsoft's Irish operations in Sandyford.

She is currently head developer at the multinational's platform group, charged with squeezing the maximum oomph out of its products for clients.

Emmet O'Neill

Smiles Dentalcare

It wasn't the most obvious move -- shifting from aviation finance to cleaning teeth -- but 31-year-old Dubliner Emmet O'Neill is finding that there's plenty of gold knocking around in people's mouths. It's quite possible that the entrepreneurial zeal may be in his genes, as he's Denis O'Brien's nephew.

Paul Dixon


The shenanigans at Philip Lynch's One51 have dominated the business pages for much of the summer. Dixon followed Lynch from IAWS to One51 becoming its chief financial officer.

Last year, the 39-year-old became chief executive of the group's environmental division, which is thought to be a real flotation candidate in the short to medium term.

Gene Murtagh


Things are getting better at Kingspan. The Cavan headquartered "green" building materials firm got absolutely slaughtered on the markets as the property sector cratered but recent figures show that trading is improving and there may even be a dividend.

Nobel prize and Oscar winning former US veepee Al Gore owns about 20 per cent of the company through his investment group.

Alexandre Ricard

Irish Distillers

Eventually we'll get over Thierry Henry. But, in the meantime, Alexander Ricard -- part of the vast Pernod Ricard family -- is doing his damnedest to make sure we drink enough to forget the incident.

After working in the far east, the 37-year-old arrived in Ireland two years ago to head up Irish Distillers, which makes everything alcoholic from Jameson to Jacob's Creek.

Jamie Rohan

Rohan holdings

Jamie Rohan has just taken over his father Ken's property business Rohan Holdings, which developed stuff long before the market went mad. The 34-year-old millionaire has also dated a string of top Irish models including former Miss Ireland Yvonne Ellard.

Patrick Coveney


His brother, Fine Gael TD Simon, backed Richard Bruton in the comical heave against Enda -- but Patrick appears to be the shrewder scion of the Coveney dynasty from Cork.

He's currently the chief executive of Greencore, the listed food company that is expanding rapidly in the United States.

Continued on next page

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