The business of success: seven finalists on their start-up journey
In the second in a two-part series we profile seven of the finalists in this year's AIB Start-up Academy
The AIB Start-up Academy in association with The Irish Times. Photograph: Conor Mulhern
Last month we met seven of the 14 finalists on this year’s AIB Irish Times Start-up Academy, here the remaining seven tell their business stories. At the end of their eight-week accelerator programme they will pitch to a judging panel at the final to try to win a prize worth €200,000 to their business.
Service/product: a device to allow self-management of sleep-related breathing disorders
“The idea for Dynomed came about because of my mum. She has a sleep-related breathing disorder that disrupts sleep quality, called sleep apnoea. Her prescribed therapy is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a small device she needs to use when she sleeps that allows her to breathe naturally and achieve high-quality sleep. When the therapy was working it was fantastic, but she struggled to achieve this constantly. I’m a clinical physiology scientist and have specialised in sleep medicine therapies for over eight years, so I built her a platform that allows her to self-manage the routine, day-to-day aspects of her therapy. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnoea and use a CPAP device, then our product makes for a much easier and rewarding experience. We are building a product that offers sensors, analytics, services and supports for the management of respiratory sleep disorders. There’s a reason we spend approximately a third of our lifetime sleeping – it’s so important for our mental and physical health – so we should ensure we’re doing it to the best of our ability.” – Mark Rowe, Dynomed
Service/product: healthy and convenient premium food products.
“We create premium, ready-to- eat, convenience food products for retail and catering.Having entered the RTÉ TV series The Taste of Success, where you could get your food product into Lidl, my product was crowned Dublin regional champion and national runner-up. With the attention the product received and a lot of people looking to buy it through social media, I decided to set up my own food business to bring it to market. We launched our leading product seven months ago, our rustic smoked fish pâté (€4.50 for 150g) and currently stock 40 stores. We are on track to reach 200 stores by the end of this year. Our “rustic smoked fish” is the only pâté on the market with a coarse, chunky texture, mixing hot smoked salmon and mackerel with crème fraiche, capers and lemon juice. It’s high in protein, high in omega 3, low in salt and sugar, gluten-free. It’s good for your heart and soul.” – Ken McHugh, Fresh From
Service/product: a molecular diagnostic solution to help patients make decisions
“Our company name is loosely based on an ancient Greek phrase that trasnlates as ‘to make a decision’. We aim to become a leading global company developing and delivering advanced diagnostics solutions to support better clinical decisions, leading to better patient outcomes. We are developing a multiplexed blood protein test called OCProDx, which measures multiple proteins in blood (serum) to give a ‘confinement score’, which is the probability that prostate cancer remains within the prostate gland and has not spread beyond it. Atturos was founded in 2014 and became a spin-out company from UCD in 2016. OCProDx provides information to help a man newly diagnosed with prostate cancer decide what to do following diagnosis. That choice is to either have invasive treatments with significant side effects or continue to have the disease monitored until it will need treatment, if it ever does. Existing tests are either not very effective or dependent on taking biopsies, which is invasive, painful and carries risks and negative consequences. Tests from biopsies also have errors associated with them. OCProDx is minimally invasive, can be repeated and gives information that assists directly in the decision of whether to treat the tumour or monitor its progression. For a large proportion of men with prostate cancer, monitoring the disease is a good choice because recent evidence shows that treating them invasively does not prolong their lives, and makes the quality of life much poorer. OCProDx provides information to guide the significant, life-changing decisions needed around treatment. We plan to launch the OCProDx test in early 2019.” – Stephen Pennington, Atturos
Service/product: smart-stabling solutions to the equine and agricultural industries
“From years of working with horses, I knew many horse owners weren’t happy with the automatic drinkers on the market and had to use buckets to see what their horses were drinking. My experience as a horse-riding instructor and as a biologist inspired Hydrasure. Equine drinking behaviour is a key indicator and determinant of health and performance. If horses don’t drink enough, it increases their risk of colic, which can be very expensive to treat and even fatal. Excessive drinking is also symptomatic of a range of equine health conditions. Given the importance of water in the equine diet, and the fact that horses are high-performing athletes who need optimal hydration, I thought it was crazy that there was no easier solution for owners to keep track of what their horses were drinking. Our ‘smart’ drinker product allows horse owners to track their horses’ drinking patterns from their computer, smart TV or phone, and it also has other physical design improvements compared to other drinker models. We also have a retrofit meter that can be used with existing drinkers. Our solution provides this data with the advantage of automatic drinkers with the peace of mind that has, to date, only been achieved from using buckets.” – Emer Cooney, Hydrasure
The Little Pharma
Service/product: hydroponically grown barley and wheat grasses
“I was suffering from a slipped disc and trapped sciatic nerve and found natural remedies a much more effective treatment than ‘Big Pharma’ medication. We started to educate ourselves further on this subject and found wheatgrass and barley grass juice to be just two of the most all- round natural foods. We found it difficult to find a consistent supply of barley and wheatgrass, so we started growing our own. We saw that consumers also struggled to source a consistent supply and most wanted a more convenient product than having to grow and juice the grasses themselves. This was the spark for The Little Pharma product range and we now sell in a variety of retail outlets. Our products provide a convenient way of consuming wheatgrass and barley grass juice and also of maximising the enzyme, nutrient and vitamins absorbed, due to our proprietary process and bottling technique. All our shots are natural, made with organic, non-GMO seeds, free from artificial colours, preservatives and flavours. They currently have certified extended shelf life, due to the high pressure pasteurisation technique that does not affect the live enzymes or nutritional content, unlike powdered, tablet or freeze-dried forms.” – Amanda Swan, The Little Pharma Ltd
Service/product: an online app that allows you to find, book and pay to have legal documents sworn and notarised.
“As a solicitor, I often needed to book an appointment with a third-party solicitor or notary to verify documents when closing deals. This needed to be done to a deadline, at short notice, and out of office hours. The booking process was outdated, time-consuming, and unreliable. I had to search through my own industry contacts, legal directories and Google, make multiple phone calls and emails to secure a booking, arrange for payment and had the hassle of either travelling to the solicitor or notary with my client and documents or a long wait for them to come to me. This is an everyday problem for solicitors that drives costs, wastes time and leads to significant delays. Oathello is a mobile platform that we have built that connects nearby and available solicitors and notaries in an instant, to get these documents sworn and notarised on demand. We have built an instant payments platform for swearing and notary fees, so law firms and the wider community can find, book and pay for these services in an instant and pay a small transaction fee, just like Hailo.” – Jennifer Hourihane, Oathello
Service/product: a range of healthy meal pots designed for athletes
“After working in seven countries, I wanted a dramatic change. Returning to Ireland to study at UCD’s Innovation Academy, I couldn’t resist my entrepreneurial urges and so the idea for FEED was born. Through my travels I discovered that the key to making killer dishes exploding with flavour was to use simple, wholesome and natural ingredients. Back in Ireland, I was craving the excitement food gave me while abroad and so started experimenting. With no experience as a chef, just my imagination and ambition, the experience of creating FEED proved to be a challenge, but not without reward. Our first product is a range of plant-based, high-protein meal pots designed by a dietician and Ballymaloe-trained chef to keep you fuller for longer in a delicious and nutritious way. FEED meal pots are also high in fibre and free from gluten, dairy, additives, preservatives and refined sugar. Also, for every FEED you buy, we donate one meal to a child in the developing world through our charity partner Mary’s Meals, who provide over one million school meals each day to children in 12 nations.
– Shane Ryan, FEED