For RedZinc founder Donal Morris, perseverance paid off

Innovators need to be able to rebound from failure and pivot to contend with new opportunities and realities

Donal Morris is the founder of software company RedZinc, which has carved out an international reputation in the field of video telemedicine for doctors, nurses and paramedics on the move. Recently and closer to home, RedZinc was part of the Health Service Executive’s response to Covid when the company’s technology was used to create virtual medical consultations to avoid spreading coronavirus through unnecessary in-person hospital visits.

His career as an entrepreneur started in school, where he used to buy and sell stamps and run football pools. Apart from a six-year stint as an academic researcher, he’s done his own thing ever since. But life as a tech entrepreneur has not been easy. RedZinc is his “third-time lucky” start-up.

Morris is an electronics engineer whose technical and academic pedigree has been both a help and a hindrance in his business life. On the plus side, he knew how to tap into EU research funding and, over the course of his career, has raised more than €40 million for various projects. On the downside, his insider knowledge of new technologies was so far ahead of the market that he struggled to get buy-in from customers. As a result, his first two start-ups (in mechatronics and broadband services) didn’t go the distance.

Morris says that Red Zinc was also ahead of its time. But 18 years later, it is still here and poised for major growth as the demand for telehealth services takes off.


RedZinc is a story of its founder’s perseverance but also of his willingness to adapt and grasp new opportunities. This has taken the form of several pivots that have seen the company segue from telecommunications to telemedicine along the way.

“The first pivot happened when RedZinc was involved with an international telecoms consortium to create priority pathways on the internet – like a bus lane on the internet to bypass congestion,” Morris says. “Over dinner one night in Germany, a telecoms expert asked me if this approach could somehow be used to save a life. It struck me that this was an opportunity to turn our technology towards something far more immediate; saving lives through early interventions at the scene of medical emergencies.

The idea behind the funding is to bring something from technology-readiness level zero – an idea – to level 10, where you have a product ready for market

“We started with an idea for a real-time video camera for paramedics that would connect them to remote expert support such as a doctor in an ED department,” Morris adds. “What we have since developed is BlueEye Handsfree, a camera that gives the medical expert point-of-view vision of the emergency situation, allowing them to make immediate decisions about treatment. Video telemedicine can improve patient outcomes, reduce waiting lists, save on immediate and long-term costs and reduce carbon emissions, all while providing quality healthcare.”

RedZinc worked with Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) on an early prototype of the camera system but this was only the first step for a technology that would take time and deep pockets to commercialise. This is where familiarity with EU funding mechanisms paid off. Morris raised €2.8 million under the Horizon 5G public-private partnership to develop the BlueEye technology.

“The idea behind the funding is to bring something from technology-readiness level zero – an idea – to level 10, where you have a product ready for market,” Morris says. “In our case the camera is the bit people see, but it’s just one element. Behind it is a whole cloud video system, because you have to be able to distribute the video material instantaneously in a secure and private way.”

RedZinc is based in Dublin, where it has a small assembly facility. Towards the end of last year, the company completed a fundraising round of €364,000 through the Spark Crowdfunding platform and is now looking to raise €750,000 from private investors.

“We’re a bit unusual in that we have never taken angel or venture capital investment. We’ve always used Horizon to fund our R&D,” Morris says. “We thought Spark was a good way of introducing our business to investors and tuning up to become investor-ready. In fact, the initial round was oversubscribed.”

In terms of where RedZinc goes from here, Morris says the focus will be on exploring all use-case scenarios for BlueEye Handsfree and BlueEye Clinic. “Every time we talk to people there are new possibilities. For example, in urban search-and-rescue,” he says. “Another emerging area is medical education, because Covid caused a backlog in training. Our system is already being used for this in Ireland, Finland and Spain.

“Also, in relation to our wearable paramedic video, the telecoms companies have identified it as a unique, added value product they can resell to their customers. However, as the European market for emergency services is very fragmented, we will partner with the telecoms providers as the fastest way in.”

Morris adds that the company’s BlueEye Clinic teleconsultation for outpatients is also evolving rapidly because of ongoing congestion in hospitals.

“Respiratory virus is on the rise and if intensity levels continue it will bring more congestion to hospitals in winter,” he says. “Video is central to the idea of the ‘home hospital’, which in itself is revolutionary because it will take a whole cohort of patients out of hospital settings and free up beds.”

Asked whether he ever felt like quitting as an entrepreneur, Morris quotes Apple’s Steve Jobs: “About half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”