Women to Watch in Irish IT

Women to Watch in Irish IT
  • A look at some of the next generation of women making waves on Ireland’s tech scene.
  • We meet eight female leaders shaping the future of the Irish IT industry.


Distributing surplus food across the UK and Ireland

Co-founders Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien were students at Trinity College Dublin when they came up with FoodCloud, a digital platform that connects charities and businesses to facilitate the distribution of surplus food in the UK and Ireland. A pilot scheme with Tesco Ireland led to a rapid nationwide rollout, soon followed by expansion into the UK via a partnership with food waste charity Fareshare, as well as work with Aldi and Waitrose.

As of 2017, FoodCloud has a team of 18 staff. Ward believes inspiring confidence and minimising doubt is crucial to business success in tech: “One of my favourite quotes is from philosopher Michel de Montaigne: ‘There were many terrible things in my life, but most of them never happened.’”


Ensuring footpaths are safe and accessible

Natalia Shiel is CEO of data-driven company Pavanu Mobility, which uses robots and other tech to detect health, safety and accessibility risks on footpaths and pedestrian areas.

Last year, the company took part in the StartPlanetNI programme, Northern Ireland’s first equity-backed start-up accelerator, and raised £100,000 in funding at the New York-New Belfast Connect Conference.

Shiel studied business at Athlone Institute of Technology before working in a mix of retail and start-up roles for 10 years. In 2015, she founded Pavanu Mobility alongside two business partners with the motto: “We want to fix all the dents in the universe!”


Improving access to healthcare

Avril Copeland is CEO of TickerFit, a wearables app that allows patients to share data with doctors without travelling to a healthcare practice or hospital.

As a former physiotherapist, Copeland had first-hand experience of the difficulties those with impaired mobility face in accessing healthcare, which is what inspired her to found TickerFit back in 2011. “Technology can overcome so many barriers and help support the delivery of healthcare,” she says.

Today, TickerFit works with customers and users spread across Europe and North America, and has won awards from Ireland’s National Healthcare Conference and the British Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation. The company is backed by Enterprise Ireland, the venture capital arm of the Irish government.


Getting kids and computers to talk to each other

Patricia Scanlon is CEO of Soapbox Labs, which helps computers understand children through speech recognition. Before founding the company in 2013, Scanlon worked as a research engineer at a science firm for seven years. In this role, she became fascinated with machine learning and decided to pursue its potential to improve child literacy.

According to Scanlon, perseverance has been an important part of scaling up Soapbox Labs. “If there’s value in what you’re doing and you know there’s a market for it, you just have to stick with it,” she advises. Over the next 12 months, Scanlon expects to double the number of staff at Soapbox Labs from eight to 16.


Creating online communities from scratch

Samantha Kelly is a social media strategist working under the moniker TweetingGoddess, and founder of two annual conferences: the Social Media Summit Ireland and the Women’s Inspire Network for female-led Irish businesses.

Kelly’s previous start-up Funky Goddess sold gift boxes for girls having their first period. She sold the company soon after it was featured on the BBC series Dragons’ Den in 2012, but using social media for this business led to her next venture, where her talent for building online communities proved lucrative.

Today, Kelly has almost 40,000 Twitter followers, and runs her own team of social media managers. Modestly, she says: “I’m really just a mum who came up with an idea and worked hard to make it happen!”


Helping shoppers find the perfect fit

Dima Kfouri is CEO of Outfitable, an e-commerce platform that matches women with clothes to suit their body shape. Kfouri began her career in advertising and marketing, and faced a learning curve as she took on the challenge of building an IT solution.

Kfouri advises other entrepreneurs not to become too focused on their product, but to aim to solve real-world problems instead. “I’m working with two amazing developers and together we’ve shaped our product closely around market research,” she says.

Kfouri says her proudest moment so far has been getting Outfitable accepted onto the Female Founders Accelerator Programme, a National Digital Research Centre project funded by Enterprise Ireland.


Dispensing drinks the smarter way

Fionia Levie is CEO of Gigliotti, whose core product is an internet-of-things-enabled dispenser called Smartdrinx that takes drink orders from mobile devices and voice commands. The company recently signed a $1bn sales and distribution deal that will see 150,000 of their systems installed in Dubai hotel rooms over the next four years.

With a project management background, Levie describes herself as a techie by accident, though she oversees Gigliotti’s software development, and runs regular workshops and brainstorming sessions. She says: “A lot of my job is thinking about how to expand the potential of the innovation behind Smartdrinx. I love the fact that technology unlocks so much potential in the world.”


Taking doctors’ appointments remote

Mary O’Brien is co-founder of VideoDoc, an on-demand digital platform that allows certified doctors to see patients remotely without pre-scheduled appointments. Users simply log on and wait to be seen – which typically takes less than 10 minutes. The company recently announced a deal making its service available as part of the IT systems used by 90% of Irish GPs.

Over the decade before founding VideoDoc in 2013, O’Brien worked in the commercial pharmaceutical industry and then as a healthcare consultant internationally. She says that a ‘never look back’ attitude helped her recognise an opportunity to develop a telemedicine service for Ireland and then succeed in bringing it to market.


Comments 1

Tara De Buitlear on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 16:27

Delighted to see today's news, that one the Women To Watch, Patricia Scanlon of Soapbox Labs
( see above - Getting kids and computers to talk to each other) has won €1.5 million in EU funding today,


Delighted to see today's news, that one the Women To Watch, Patricia Scanlon of Soapbox Labs ( see above -[b] Getting kids and computers to talk to each other[/b]) has won €1.5 million in EU funding today,:D https://www.independent.ie/business/leading-irish-artificial-intelligence-startup-wins-15m-in-eu-funding-36491862.html
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