Niamh Bushnell steps down from TechIreland to join start-up

Former start-up commissioner to join Soapbox Labs as chief communications officer

TechIreland chief executive Niamh Bushnell is to step down as head of the organisation to take up the role of chief communications officer with start-up Soapbox Labs.

Headed up by Dr Patricia Scanlon, Soapbox Labs is a speech recognition start-up focused on applying the technology to help children.

Ms Bushnell said she had always intended to return to industry by 2019, describing Soapbox Labs as “one of Ireland’s most exciting deep tech companies”.

“It was my ambition to return to industry during 2019 by joining a world class Irish company,” she said. “So when Martyn Farrows had this great idea and Trish Scanlon called me to explore it the timing suited perfectly.”


Ms Bushnell will take up her new role with Soapbox Labs from May 1st.

“Voice as an interface is an exploding global market opportunity, and Soapbox Labs has established itself as a market leader when it comes to children’s speech recognition,” said Dr Scanlon. “ We’re at the cutting edge of innovation in this space, and developing a strong and creative communications strategy has become absolutely key to telling our story and seizing the moment. I honestly couldn’t think of a better person than Niamh to develop and drive forward this strategy.”

John O’Dea will take over as interim chief executive from April 30th, and there are plans to expand TechIreland’s mission in the coming months. The initiative, which officially launched in 2017 with Ms Bushnell at the helm, aimed to compile a new public database providing a detailed portrait of Ireland’s start-up scene, mapping, tracking and showcasing innovation across the Republic to give a full overview of the Irish technology ecosystem.

"The story of TechIreland is a wonderful one. It started as a raw spreadsheet in mid 2016 and became its own not for profit tracking over 700 companies in January 2017," Ms Bushnell said. " Today over 2,000 software, hardware and platform based companies are showcased on our live database and through interactive maps, infographics, blogs, and campaigns like the €100M Campaign for female founder funding."

Ms Bushnell took on the role as head of the initiative following a two-year term as Dublin’s first start-up commissioner. It was during that time she said she realised the story of Irish innovation needed to be highlighted more.

“That the impressive story of homegrown Irish companies gets lost in the shuffle is no surprise given our continued success at attracting the world’s most prestigious global players to come and set up large bases in Ireland,” she said. “TechIreland provides the data and the content to ensure that Ireland’s own story remains in the spotlight here and internationally.”

She said TechIreland’s progress in two years has been swift, and expected the organisation to continue to deliver on its mission as it evolved.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist