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The Portershed, Galway’s first startup hub, home to an accelerator programme, high potential start-ups and entrepreneurs has recently opened its doors. Located on a vast expanse of 14 acres between Eyre Square and the harbour, the Portershed building is centrally located and provides much needed working and meeting space for budding entrepreneurs.

The idea behind the Galway startup hub is similar in many ways to other startup hubs that are emerging around the country. The Ludgate@Skibbereen startup hub initiative, for example, was the brainchild of local businessman John Field. He recognised the scarcity of office space for new startups and along with gifting the premises for the hub, he also set about assembling a collection of tech savvy business people to help oversee the initiative. They’ve ambitious targets to generate 500 new jobs over the next five years.

One of the interesting aspects of this innovation hub is the involvement of Allied Irish Bank(AIB). AIB signed a five-year deal with the Galway City Innovation District (GCID) who have been tasked with turning Galway’s city centre into a thriving meeting and working place for entrepreneurs. The first move in this grand plan is AIB’s sponsorship of the Portershed building. According to AIB’s CEO, Bernard Byrne, “Developing an innovation district in the heart of Galway can serve as catalyst for high growth companies, and is a model that has worked in other cities such as Boston.”

The Portershed already has ten companies in situ. What’s interesting about one of them, Altocloud, is that they were established in 2014 so are growing out of that startup phase. For them, the hub is an opportunity to work out of purposely designed offices that support and enrich their working day. A significant positive for the ‘newbie’ startups is that they get the opportunity to meet and network with Altocloud’s staff and learn, first hand, the do’s and don’ts of operating in the tech space. That networking aspect is one of the key attractions of a vibrant startup hub.

It’s worth repeating the story that AirB’nB supposedly looked at Galway as a possible European HQ destination. They wanted to be part of the fabric of the city so a city centre location that had a degree of retro charm was essential. None was available so they decamped to Dublin where they are operating out of a 40,000 sq ft refurbished warehouse.

Altocloud is joined by an eclectic mix of other budding Irish tech companies – LingoHost, Addvance IT, Ragsbox, Earthbound Films, Irish Apps, Privity, ClearBookings, PayWear and QA Services.

Mary Rodgers, Portershed Community Manager, says that the 14 acre district, once rejuvenated, has the potential to generate and support over 20,000 jobs. Mary is ably supported by a very dynamic and tech savvy team – John Breslin, NUI Galway, Niamh Costello, Galway Technology Centre, Dave Cunningham, Beolas, Michael Fitzgerald, OnePageCRM, Paul Killoran, Ex Ordo, Conor O’Dowd, KPMG, Johnny O’Dwyer, AIB and Maurice O’Gorman, Galway Chamber of Commerce.

The tech West is awake!



Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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