Galway company wins ‘Irish Times Innovation of the Year award 2019’

Galway company wins ‘Irish Times Innovation of the Year award 2019’

We have a look at the life of Brendan McCormack, Vice President of Quality with Atlantic Therapeutics, the company which just won two prestigious awards at the ‘Irish Times Innovation awards’ 2019.

Like all success, this hasn’t come from nowhere. Galway based Atlantic Therapeutics – a spin-out from the Bio-Medical Research Group, the company behind the well-known global brand Slendertone – are currently operating in a range of European markets such as the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

They recently finalised distribution deals in Scandinavia and are making massive inroads in the US. The company develops medical devices, related software, apps and connected health technologies and won this prestigious award with their breakthrough device, Innovo.

Brendan and Jenni on their wedding dayBrendan tells us why his move to this ground breaking company has been such a good one for him professionally and personally: “Before I made the move to Atlantic Therapeutics two years ago, I was working for a different medical devices company and living between Dublin and Limerick. My career path at that time looked like taking me to either Dublin full-time or London. I felt I was being swallowed up into the city and it was something I wasn’t really into. Around this time, on a night out, I met what turned out to be the love of my life and my future wife, Jenni. She was based in Galway and entrenched in its local scene. The more time I spent in Galway with Jenni, the more I saw what I was missing out on and I thought – ‘I only have one life, I can’t let it pass me by.'”

Brendan started to look around to see what was available in his industry and after a short while he was asked to Join Atlantic Therapeutics as Vice president of Quality, a promotion from his previous work. He still travels the world, but he has a great home to come back to. With both the city and the motorway on his doorstep while still in the countryside, Brendan enjoys the best of both worlds.

Now with a home and garden that would be hard to equal in Dublin or London, Brendan is able to enjoy his down-time properly when he gets it!

Brendan enjoying the west“You’ve got to love it. I live in Kinvara, I’m only a twenty minute drive to work, where I can park on my doorstep. I’m down the road from the culture hot-spot that is Galway with its abundance of restaurants, theatre and gigs and I just have to stroll out the door to some great walks.

I love the positive impact of a rural community, there is a vibrancy and a quality to life that is completely different to anything else. I love the fact I didn’t have to take a step backward to be here, working with Atlantic Therapeutics has been absolutely the perfect step forward in my career”.

Two of the top five Irish Times Awards were won by finalists in the west of Ireland, it’s just another example of the wealth of opportunity in the west, not only for entrepreneurs, but also for those hoping to join already established firms in a large variety of employment.
The other winners were, PEL Waste Reduction Equipment, based in Balla, Co Mayo, who won the ‘Manufacturing and Design’ category for their innovative solar-powered compacting litter bin, BriteBin.

Lead picture credit:
shopify galway

Shopify – A New World of Job Opportunities for the West of Ireland

With the advent of better broadband and an increasing demand for flexible working options, companies are looking at the potential of remote working for staff.

This is good news for the West of Ireland, with more and more people looking to escape the M50 and work in the West, the potential to work remotely for a large company with great career options is very appealing.

working from home

Shopify in the West

One such company offering just this is Shopify. Shopify is a Canadian e-commerce firm headquartered in Ottawa. It develops software for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. It was originally founded after its owners wrote software for their online snowboard store. The platform is currently used by more than 600,000 merchants who transact more than $34bn in sales volume.

Shopify now employs a large team in Ireland; most of whom are based in the West. All Shopify staff work from home; there is no Shopify office.

Shopify staff are located across the Western Region; with Galway centralised as its hub city. There are already some clusters of staff in towns like Carrick on Shannon, County Leitrim and Boyle, County Roscommon. They also have staff in Sligo, Donegal, Clare and obviously a large cohort in Galway. Staff do get to meet though; Shopify hosts monthly social meet-ups, mostly in Galway but events have also taken place in Sligo and other areas.

We spoke to the Luke Cassidy who works in Talent Acquisition at Shopify, to understand how this works and what their expansion plans are for the West of Ireland.

‘We’ve grown our team 300% over the last few years; from a small team that started in Galway in 2015. The majority of Shopifolk are based on the West coast. The team primarily works in support roles.’

Looking West

galway cityWhen asked why Shopify chose to base their team primarily in the West, Cassidy is effusive in his positivity on the benefits. ‘As soon as we felt the entrepreneurial energy of Galway City, we felt at home. At Shopify, we saw the opportunity to tap into the diverse and skilled workforce, and have a positive impact on the city as a whole.’

Luke also emphasises the importance of the cultural strength of Galway; ‘Galway is a cultural hub with an amazingly inclusive, innovative and engaged population. From Eyre Square to Spanish Arch, and everything in between  illustrated that the passion, spirit and heartbeat of the city is palpable.’

Shopify is a Canadian company and considers itself to be the world’s biggest start-up. They see a very strong cultural alignment between their company’s ethos and the West of Ireland culture; they are champions of diversity.

Remote Work Doesn’t Mean Isolation

Working remotely takes a certain amount of discipline and whether Shopify are recruiting for a customer service role or a more techie position, skills like problem-solving and the ability to think independently are key.

While you’ll get all the benefits of working from home, but with a solid structure. Staff work in set shifts, typically between 7am – 3pm or 10 am – 6 pm. And although you’ll be working remotely-  you won’t be lonely. “We schedule by team, so when you are working your whole support network are online too,” Luke explains.

And you’ll also get plenty of opportunities to meet your team members face-to-face. “There are meet-ups happening organically and then once a month we have a team meet-up.”

Meet The Team:

shopify team

Luke Cassidy and Veronica Patton of Shopify

Veronica Patton is a ‘Support Onboarding Trainer’ working with Shopify. She divides her time between Galway City and her native home in Donegal. We spoke with Veronica to get an insight into her experience of remote working for Shopify.

What did you do before you worked for Shopify?

‘I worked in many different areas before Shopify. My background was in Town Planning and most of my experience was in that field. I was a Heritage Officer for a local authority, then a tourist advisor for a while. Directly before Shopify, I was working for a distribution company in the West.

How did you find your job?

‘I was introduced to Shopify in April 2015 when a recruitment agency I had used before got in touch with me and told me about an exciting Canadian company that was looking to hire people in the Galway area. I didn’t really have any commerce or IT experience but the mission and values of the company drew me in. .

I also really enjoyed the interview process, from the “Life Story” interview to the technical interview (aptly called the Gauntlet!) I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better since joining Shopify.

I joined as a Customer Success Guru and loved every minute of it. I had never learned so much in any role previously. It was challenging work, but thanks to an amazing team, I was able to embrace the change and excel. I spent over a year as a Guru, then moved into the Squad Lead role and now a Support Trainer.’

What are the pros and cons of remote working?

‘One of the biggest pros for me has been the flexibility it has offered. I can work in Galway until 4pm on a Monday, hop in the car after work and drive to Donegal and work from there for a few days without it impacting my role. I have been able to spend more time with my family and friends than I ever did in any previous role. I can work from my home office or meet up with colleagues where we work together for the day.

I’ve noticed such a difference in my work-life balance. You have more time to spend doing the things you enjoy rather than sitting in traffic trying to get home. You’ll also save money on work clothes. Remote working makes you more proactive and independent – which has definitely helped me both inside and outside of work.’

remote working

So are there any negatives to remote working?

Veronica struggles to find any large negatives in her experience of remote working. ‘Personally, I find it hard to think of too many cons of remote working. I have definitely found more pros than cons, it has had a such a positive impact on my life.

It can sometimes be easy to continue working past your scheduled finishing time or opening the laptop on a weekend to check something else but you end up reading emails. It’s important to be aware of these kind of habits. You’re not really getting proper downtime if you are constantly on. Luckily Shopify has resources in place to help with this. Teams have daily check-ins as well as weekly meetings with your team lead – both are so supportive and always offer great advice. We also have allowances to support your mental and physical health, which let me expense the running shoes I had been looking to buy for months and help inspire me to be active. I’ve also tried my hand at a few meditation classes for the first time! Communication is different on a remote team, we mostly communicate via our internal chat (Slack) or by using video call.’

A huge thanks to Luke and Veronica from Shopify for sharing these insights with us. If you like the sound of a role in Shopify, the good news is they are hiring!

Shopify Roles Open Now:

Customer Success Guru Role (Fluent in German)

For more info, visit

Mary Rodgers, The Portershed Co-Working Space

Mary Rodgers is the Innovation Community Manager at The PorterShed, a co-working space for the technology sector based in the heart of Galway city.


Tell us about the Portershed.

The PorterShed in Galway city is the first building in the Galway City Innovation District. The district’s mission is to create a Cluster of Galway City’s entrepreneurs, startups, accelerators and incubators. Close to public transportation, wired for high-speed internet, supporting mixed-use development, and nurturing collaboration and knowledge sharing.

The PorterShed is the first building in this evolving story; it allows entrepreneurs to use a collaborative space, mingle with other entrepreneurs and have efficient access to everything from insights into the latest technology to legal and financial advice. We are only open 7 weeks but already there is a real sense of community and collaboration and great place to work!

Already, we are home to 13 companies and 37 individuals. For us it’s all about collaboration. Companies, big and small, bounce ideas and form solutions; it’s an amazing space with energy and belief.

Portershed2Why are you located in the West of Ireland?

The idea was born out of a need to create a space in the city centre that was attractive for the Startup community; research has shown that tech startups want to be somewhere in the centre of a city, and where better than Eyre Square.

We are located at the back of the train station in what used to be the Old Guinness Administration offices.It is right in the centre of Galway just off Eyre Square members of the Portershed can often walk or bus to work making it very attractive place to work. Once this building had 15 rooms and an event space. It is now an open plan co-working hub. The building is a mix of old and new. We are thrilled to have been able to maintain some of the old fixtures and to incorporate a new modern feel. 

When did The PorterShed start and what inspired you to do this?

The PorterShed is the brain child of several ambitious and innovative business people from Galway who worked closely with academia, public, and private sector to create this amazing space. The ethos is driven by the need to combine our economic assets in the West of Ireland (companies, education institutions and organisations), our physical assets (public and privately-owned spaces designed and organised to stimulate new and higher levels of connectivity, collaboration, and innovation) and our networking assets (the relationships between individuals, companies, organisations and institutions that have the potential to generate, sharpen, and/or accelerate the advancement of ideas).

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

The PorterShed is part of the Galway City Innovation District (GCID), a non-profit entity formed to promote innovation in Galway city centre. The PorterShed is backed by AIB and has also recently received funding from Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office in Galway.

Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?

Our aim is to attract individuals and companies in the ICT sector to the PorterShed who have a desire to scale globally. We will use our existing network and cultivate new networks to promote PorterShed members worldwide. We have already began fostering international relationships and will have three international tech startups joining us in the coming weeks.

How long did it take you to get the business off the ground?

The PorterShed location was identified in 2014; building conversion started in Oct 2015 and 6 months laters the doors opened! We now have 37 people and 13 companies based in the PorterShed, we expect to be at full capacity shortly and roll out an accelerator program in the Autumn.

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful?

The best thing about the PorterShed is the range of skills the board and sponsors have brought to the table; from international contacts to finance there is myriad of skills amongst the team all eager to support and help PorterShed members grow anyway we can.

How do you continue to grow and learn?

I have no doubt the PorterShed is only the start of this emerging story – watch this space and keep an eye out for new developments in the Galway City Innovation District!

How do you promote The PorterShed? 

For now, we are promoting both members and the community through social media and the website, we have also been fortunate to get lots of support from local and national press. That’s the great thing about the West of Ireland everyone is behind the initiative!

If you had to do it all over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

Ask again in a year!

portershed4What do you love most about working with The Portershed? 

For me this was a move from being my own boss to being part of a bigger team with vision and ambition not just for the PorterShed but for Galway city. What’s great about the PorterShed is that even for members who are working on their own they are not alone. As I write this there is a frenzy of activity as we prepare for a PorterShed BBQ which provides a sense of being part of something bigger than your own company.

What should happen in the West of Ireland to encourage further entrepreneurship?

We are getting there we now have a vibrant start up community in the city centre, road infrastructure and linkages globally are also key to success and sustainability.

What advice would you give to anybody thinking about a life in the West?

We are very lucky in the West as we have the culture and the talent. I moved home from the US in 2007 and have never looked back – there is no place I would rather be rain or shine! Galway is the place to be!

For further information on the PorterShed visit and follow @portershed


Barry O’Sullivan and Joe Smyth – Altocloud

Altocloud, a Silicon Valley-based start-up with a base in Galway was co-founded in 2013 by Barry O’Sullivan, Joe Smyth and Dan Arra.

  • Barry O’Sullivan, Altocloud CEO, is a former senior executive at Cisco and Nortel, a co-founder of ITLG, the Irish Technology Leadership Group, a charity board member, and an investor and “Dragon” on the Irish TV program Dragon’s Den.
  • Joe Smyth is Altocloud’s CTO; he has previously held senior technical roles at Apple, Nortel and Cisco.

We spoke with Barry and Joe about their business and why they are based in the West.

Tell us About Your Business

Altocloud Galway

Altocloud is a cloud platform that combines predictive analytics with voice, video and chat interactions to identify the right website visitors and best moments for communications.

We help convert shoppers into buyers for ecommerce, connect web and mobile visitors with inside sales people in real-time,and streamline customer support experiences.

Altocloud helps businesses efficiently grow revenue, saving time and money while making customers happy.

Why are you based in the West of Ireland?

Galway City

We wish to build a successful Irish tech company with global reach based on local talent and showing that it can be done from the West of Ireland. Two of our three founders are based in Galway as is our R&D department.

When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

The company was founded in 2013. We were driven by the state of the customer care business and how it has failed to move into the web age.

We have significant background in Customer Care; Barry was General Manager for Customer Care in both Nortel & Cisco and Joe was a key R&D manager in Nortel’s Contact Centre product development. We understand deeply the current state of the industry which is rooted in technology designed in the 1980s and early 1990s and it is time to move Customer Care into the web era.

Contact Centres today are completely disjointed from Business Websites – we believe that the Contact Centre should be deeply integrated with the Website and that together they should present a consistent unified interface to the customer.

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

As we are a SaaS product the key startup costs have been hiring key people. The product is developed using Open Source tools and hosted on a Cloud Provider platform. The initial funding came from founder funding, angel investment and Enterprise Ireland. This was focused on building the Software as a Service to an Minimum Viable Product.

Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?

The market for Altocloud is global but right now we are focused on the US & UK as they are two of the most advanced eCommerce markets and we have presence in the USA and are close to the UK. We also have customers in Ireland who are very accessible to the engineering team.

How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?

From initial idea to actual product coding took about 8 months.

How do you recruit and retain a talented team?

We leveraged our network locally for hiring. This was especially fruitful within the university environment where we were able to get really great talent who were finishing up research projects, PhDs, Masters programs and some really great graduates. Being based on campus at NUI Galway has facilitated this process.

We are also heavily involved in the Startup Galway community ( which is a great way of meeting people with ideas or who have an interest in starting or joining a startup. Retaining such people requires a mix of interesting work, connection to customers, a strong sense of product ownership and company ownership via stock options. Everyone we hire is deeply committed to what we are doing and where we want to take the company. Oh, and they need to have fun doing it!

Start Up Galway

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful?

Both Barry and Joe have significant industry experience in Contact Centre and Unified Communications. We have therefore focused our talent acquisition on Data Analytics and Web services and of course Sales which is the forte of our US based co-founder. So ensure you have a balanced team who know their roles and can complement each other.

How do you continue to grow and learn?

Leverage the web, there are a huge amount of talks and presentations online, delve into Open Source and embrace the Open Source way of “do, don’t talk”.

How do you promote your business?

Via our website, social media, word of mouth and especially working with initial customers so that they become a word of mouth driver for you.

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

Do it earlier!

What should happen in the West of Ireland to encourage further entrepreneurship?

  • Infrastructure is key – especially completing the motorway network North / South to allow us to connect Cork/Limerick/Galway/Sligo. This will enable the creation of a counter-balance to Dublin on the western seaboard
  • Galway itself needs to grow to be at least twice the size it is to get to critical mass and make it easier to have opportunities in the city for it’s people rather than having easier options in Dublin or Abroad. It would be great if it grew up rather than out – proper urban planning would be good.
  • Government investment in the universities is key and the universities need to work with local industry to ensure they stay current.
  • We’d love to see a proper Startup community in the city centre – it’s too easy to push development to the suburbs but that kills community and the network effects of what can be achieved.

‘Galway now challenging Dublin as a software start-up location’ written by Barry O’Sullivan recently featured in the Irish Times

What advice would you give to anybody thinking about a life in the West of Ireland

The weather may be not so great but it’s what drives so many great things about the west – the ocean, the weather beaten scenery, the vibrancy and resilience of the people, the sense of common purpose of people who live here. So embrace it – you can complain about it for sure but it makes us who we are!

More at and



upstart-babog-baby-01In our new series of case studies Upstarts we interview some of the West’s latest and greatest who have gone out there and done it for themselves. Kicking off the series is Adrian Devane, creator of the award-winning Irish speaking teddy bear Bábógbaby.

Bábógbaby was founded by Adrian Devane after moving back to Galway following 13 years in film and Television production in Dublin. Adrian’s three-year old daughter Robyn is the voice of Bábógbaby.  BB teaches toddlers and children 33 words of Irish, while the company’s other products include a Bábógbaby app for the iPad, iPhone, iTouch and Android.

This summer TG4 will broadcast BB Agus Bella, the all-Irish animation series based on Bábógbaby’s creation, aimed at pre-school children who will have lots of fun learning through Irish.  Adrian now has his eyes firmly fixed on the Irish diaspora in the US market.

What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?

I was working in film production. I had worked on feature films, television productions, commercials and music videos. When I started off most of the work took place in Dublin so I moved there from Galway. When my wife and I started a family we wanted to return to Galway and film work was slow so I decided to go start a new business in Galway.

When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

I stared Bábógbaby in April 2010 after we found our that all the toys out there either spoke American English, French or Spanish, and we wanted something Irish for our children. And so the Irish BB bear was born.

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

Our start up costs were high. They included legal, company registration, website, rent, wages, design, prototypes, research, Insurance, trade marks, copyright, patents, printing, stationary, vehicle, product purchases, packaging, distribution. We got a small business loan of €100k from Allied Irish Bank to start up. We used it to pay for start up costs and order our first 10,000 bears.

What was the biggest obstacle?

Finding the money to get started.

Who supported you?

Allied Irish Banks and Údarás na Gaeltachta

upstart-babog-baby-02How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?

From idea to research to design to launch it took about six months.

What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?

I love going to work everyday knowing that I am doing is for me and my family and that more work I do the more we will all benefit personally. The drawbacks are that I have to deal with it all myself and don’t have a whole division to bounce ideas off like the larger companies.

Where do you work from and do you have employees?

I work from my office here in Moycullen and it is just myself that the company employs. We use the services of about seven companies so we contribute to employment indirectly.

Do you have entrepreneurial role models?

Yes I certainly do. President Michael D. Higgins is a huge inspiration to me and from the business world, Pat McDonagh from Supermacs.

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?

You learn by listening and thinking, planning and executing. You do the good things again and what doesn’t work, you tend to discount.  Constant training and reading is key to keeping up. Add all that with a good dollop of common sense and you are well on your way. To continue to grow and learn you must keep up with trends, read the news and reinvent. Publicity is key to the business so it is important to be out there selling and promoting.

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

Budgeted better. No one ever tells you all the costs that are there to start up and sustain a business. I underestimated them a bit, but I am learning. You have to make some mistakes to learn. it also make you stronger.

What is your best selling item/service?

Our award winning world’s first Irish speaking toy, BB Bear.

How have you been promoting BB Bear to Irish people and gaeilge speakers abroad?

We are targeting the US market at the moment and trying to reach the Irish diaspora by having our bears distributed to the Irish Gift shops over there. We have done advertising in Irish International magazines and had newspaper editorials in Irish publications.  We gave BB Bear to all the international press who arrived [in Ireland] with US President Barack OBama, so that was a good way of spreading the product and brand back to the states and beyond.

Are you a LookWester and if so why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?

I am from Galway, I moved to Dublin 15 years ago and came back 3 years ago. The West is a cheaper place to live. It is more artistic and certainly more beautiful. Being around family is very important too and all most of our families are here in Galway.

What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?

Stop looking and get here. You have all you need here. So come on, “Just West it”!!

Image Captions

Above (top right):  Adrian Devane, BB Baby

Above (right):  Robyn Eliffe-Devane, the voice of Bábóg Baby

Mark T Burke Millinery

upstart-mark-t-burke-01A native of County Galway, Mark T Burke has been creating headwear from his Loughrea studio for the past three years.

At the 2010 Irish Fashion Innovation Awards, Mark claimed the prestigious title of ‘Accessory Designer of the Year’.  Since then, Mark’s millinery career has gone from strength to strength. From ‘Best Dressed Lady’ at Punchestown Racecourse to the royal wedding of Zara Philiips, Mark T Burke Millinery has become a prominent feature in ladies’ fashion both at home and abroad. His creations are often spotted at Royal Ascot, Cheltenham, Buckingham Palace and, of course, his native Galway Races.

What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?

I had just finished my degree in Textile Design in GMIT

When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

My love for the industry, the desire to achieve and the possibility of being able to work with my hands and make a living

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

Start up costs were kept to a very minimal – I started in the spare bedroom at my home!

Mark T Burke Millinery 2012 Collection at Brown Thomas

Mark T Burke Millinery 2012 Collection at Brown Thomas

What was the biggest obstacle?

It’s a one man show, so I do everything, balancing time is probably one of the biggest obstacles.

Who supported you?

I had/have great support from my family and a wonderful team of aunts.

How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?

I had great media coverage locally and nationally in my first year, this really helped get my name out, after that I grew little by little. I always like to walk before I run.

What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?

Flexible working hours is certainly an advantage but it also can prove to be one of the biggest drawbacks.

Where do you work from and do you have employees?

I have just opened a new studio on Fitzwilliam Street Upper in Dublin 2, I am based there most of the time. I still see clients in my Loughrea base though at least once a week.

At the moment its just me. Once we get into summer season I will take on a part-time worker. I also have a lot of very talented people come to me for work experience


Mark T Burke Millinery 2012 Collection

Do you have entrepreneurial role models?

I can’t say I have anyone in particular. I admire anyone who can get things up and running and keep them running. I always enjoy and take every opportunity to talk with other business people and entrepreneurs, you never know what could pick up.

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?

I did the ‘Business Management’ course with the Galway Enterprise Board in Oct 2010, since then its just continuous learning.

What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?

Although you may not think it, Galway is actually quite the hub for fashion and design. There is a great little community and a very friendly and health business group. The Enterprise Board also offer great support to anyone considering setting up – certainly a must stop for anyone ‘looking west’.