Martin McKay, founder of Antrim-based educational technology company Texthelp, will represent Ireland this week in Monaco at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
Mr McKay, who was named Irish Entrepreneur of the Year 2022 at the annual awards ceremony last November, is one of 45 global business leaders shortlisted for the accolade, the winner of which will be announced at a gala event on Thursday.
The Co Derry native, who founded the assistive learning technology in 1996, said it was an “unbelievable” honour even to be shortlisted.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe winning the Irish competition. I’m still pinching myself.”
Mr McKay, who is travelling to Monaco on Tuesday, said the last few months since winning Irish Entrepreneur of the Year have been a whirlwind. “It’s just been really positive,” he said. “It’s been really great to get the exposure for the business and it’s certainly opened a lot of doors for me. It’s strengthened that relationship with EY as well.”
Asked about his hope of winning the global prize, he said: “I’m not going in with huge expectations but I would be delighted for myself, my company and EY Ireland if I could bring it home for Ireland. I would love to be able to do that.”
“We are delighted that Martin is representing the Irish entrepreneurial community at these prestigious awards and we believe he would make a very worthy global winner,” said Roger Wallace, partner lead at EY Ireland for the Entrepreneur of the Year programme. “Martin is a truly inspirational entrepreneur and leads an incredible global business. He is also an agent of change and equity.”
Mr McKay wanted to help people with communication difficulties and focused initially on those with profound speech and dexterity disabilities. The business has since grown into a global assistive technology company with operations in the UK, Sweden, Norway and Australia and employs 350 people – the majority of which are in Antrim town with about 100 at its main US office in Massachusetts.
The company generated more than half its revenues in the US last year, where it works in tandem with individual states and school districts to roll-out its products in schools.
Texthelp recently reached an agreement with the state government of Arkansas, Mr McKay told The Irish Times. “So, every kid in Arkansas has now got our software, which is 550,000 kids.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a statewide deployment and that roll-out is happening now so it’s a big step forward for us and a big step forward for the state of Arkansas as well.”