Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition

Dates and Venues

Munster - 1st Nov - Maryborough Hotel Cork

Connacht and Leinster - 2nd Nov - Hodson Bay Hotel Athlone

Dublin - 7th Nov - Crone Plaza Hotel, Santry

Northern Ireland - 9th Nov - Radisson Blu Hotel, Belfast

All-Island Final - 22nd Nov - Crowne Plaza Hotel, Santry, Dublin

Judges 2017

Grainne Lennon profile photo

Ms Grainne Lennon

Type: ITI

Organisation: InterTradeIreland

Gráinne is an Operations Manager in InterTradeIreland with responsibility for the Succeed in Raising Finance programme. The programme provides supports to early stage companies seeking to raise venture capital and business angel investment and supports for more established SMEs seeking new funding from traditional and alternative funding sources.

Gráinne is a chartered accountant with a background in public and private sector finance. She has a wide range of experience gained from working in an executive capacity with a number of SME’s across the island. Her skills stretch from business planning to raising finance and financial control. She has worked with early stage/start up businesses and more established ventures.

Conor Mills profile photo

Mr Conor Mills

Type: VC

Organisation: ACT Venture Capital

Conor is an Associate with ACT, and a member of the investment team.

Prior to ACT Conor was a member of the corporate development team in Paddy Power Betfair PLC (LON:PPB), responsible for developing and executing the group’s global expansion strategy and assessing all strategic M&A opportunities. Conor worked closely on key components of the £6 billion merger of Paddy Power and Betfair, and co-lead the $48m acquisition of US daily fantasy sports operator Draft. Before joining Paddy Power Betfair, Conor worked in Commercial Banking and specialist Corporate Finance across, Technology, Life Sciences and Oil & Gas. Conor is a CFA® charterholder and holds a BA in business and economics from Trinity College Dublin.

Teresa Chambers profile photo

Ms Teresa Chambers

Type: BA

Organisation: HBAN

Teresa Chambers is an angel investor with the Boole Angel investment syndicate. She has over 20 years’ experience at Director Level, leading Supply Chain and Operations, in-house and at Contract Manufacturers, in the Pharmaceutical industry. She has led Global teams to develop and transform Business Strategy. She has represented the Parent company with Plato, facilitating a confidential business support network for owner managers of SMEs.

She holds a Degree in Engineering from NUIG and is a Business Coach.

She has Strong Business Acumen, developed through Leadership roles in multinational companies, while creating and managing her own property business. She has invested in, mentored and coached start-up companies.

Michael Dawson profile photo

Mr Michael Dawson

Type: Ind

Organisation: One For All Gift Vouchers

Michael Dawson is Founder and CEO of The Gift Voucher Shop (GVS) home of the One4all brand. A visionary and entrepreneur, Michael has made an impact and left his entrepreneurial mark across a diverse range of career paths, including youth work, politics, lottery, to the business he heads up today.

With The Gift Voucher Shop, Michael has led the business in the development of unique pre-paid products and innovative distribution markets within the gifting and corporate incentives space across markets in Ireland, The U.K. and Malta. Since 2006 he has moved his core technology focus from secure paper to electronic card products enabling the business to expand into the savings and loyalty businesses.

Following a 4 year campaign to promote his idea of a Cycle to Work scheme, the scheme was launched in 2009 by the Irish Government and has been an unprecedented success.

Winner of the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Award under the category of Business Going International, and won the Marketing in Innovation category at the AIM Awards in both 2009 and 2010. Most recently One4all has been recognised on the world stage having won three major awards at The World Prepaid Awards, including ‘Best Overall Gift Card Programme’.

Michael was one of 2007’s finalists in the Ernst &Young Entrepreneur of the Year programme and was named Fingal Business Person of the Year at the Business Excellence Awards 2010.

Michael is a Director of the Fingal County Enterprise Board, Fingal Tourism, Irish Center for Cycling, The Haven Foundation, the EY EOY alumni board and represents the SFA on the European Union Policy Committee with I.B.E.C.

Michael has served on the national judging panel of both the Inter-trade Ireland All-island Seedcorn Competition and the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards on many previous occasions.

Most recently, Michael has become involved with the Junior Entrepreneur Programme (JEP) as Partner for the North County Dublin/Fingal area. JEP is an entrepreneurial awareness and skills enhancement Programme for 5th and 6th class Primary School pupils. The innovative and accomplished programme makes entrepreneurial education available to every primary school in the area.

Trish Dromey profile photo

Ms Trish Dromey

Type: Press

Organisation: Freelance journalist

Trish Dromey is a freelance journalist contributing business and property articles to the Irish Examiner. She has been writing company profiles, mainly on startup companies, since the 1990s. A former bank official, she is a graduate of UCC and UCG and is currently studying accountancy part-time.

Connacht and Leinster
Margaret Hearty profile photo

Ms Margaret Hearty

Type: ITI

Organisation: InterTradeIreland

Margaret is responsible for leading the development and delivery of InterTradeIreland’s suite of programmes and business services. InterTradeIreland provides financial assistance and support to businesses across the island. InterTradeIreland’s support is centred around Trade and Innovation including helping companies to access new markets, develop new products and processes and raising early stage finance.

Margaret is a business and marketing graduate. She completed an MBA in 2004. Margaret’s career to date has focused on supporting the development of SME’s and early stage companies. She led the development of InterTradeIreland’s Equity Network Programme. She was appointed to her current position in December 2009.

Richard Morton profile photo

Mr Richard Morton

Type: VC

Organisation: Egmont Management

Experienced investor spanning both management and investment positions in Ireland’s technology and high growth sector: from start-up, early and growth stage companies to international holding company (plc), as an advisor / mentor, investor, director and senior management (CEO and CFO) level.

John Mullen profile photo

Mr John Mullen

Type: BA

Organisation: HBAN

John started his career in the IT department of ESB where he met fellow Version 1 founder Justin Keatinge. Since 1996 John has been involved in driving the growth of Version 1 originally as Technical Director, then in Business Development and most recently as Innovation Director. John is also involved in mentoring and investing in start-ups and he chairs the Angel Investment Syndicate "West by North West" which focuses on funding startups in the Western Region of Ireland.

Louise Grubb profile photo

Ms Louise Grubb

Type: Ind

Organisation: Q1 Scientific

Louise Grubb is the CEO and Founder of Q1 Scientific which was launched in 2013 to provide a world-class Environmentally Controlled storage facility servicing the Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences industries. It is the first Irish company to specialise in the provision of a Stability Storage service and meets the highest-international standards, as required for these highly-regulated industries. In 2015 Q1 Scientific won the Irish Pharma Industry ‘Start-up Company of the Year’.

Prior to Q1 Scientific, Louise was the Founder and Managing Director of Nutri Science Ltd, which develops and manufactures nutraceuticals for the veterinary healthcare market. Established in 2000, the company has veterinary products licenced in Europe and Canada and was a former winner of the Irish Exporters Award. The company was acquired in 2010. Louise holds honours BSc in Nutrition, a Master’s Degree in Business Studies (International Marketing) and is a graduate of the Irish Marketing Institute. Louise was a finalist in last year’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year.

William McCulla profile photo

Mr William McCulla

Type: ITI

Organisation: Invest NI

William is a chartered accountant and trained with Ernst & Young. Following qualification, he worked for a manufacturing company in County Down where he was Finance Director, General Manager, and a shareholder.

Since 2005, William has worked for Invest NI, with a short period in 2008/9 where he was Director of Corporate Services at Down District Council.

He took up his current role in 2009 and has led a team which has put in place an equity and debt funding continuum of £185m which seeks to ensure that companies with high growth potential are not held back because they cannot access finance. He also leads the Invest NI Property team which helps Invest NI qualifying businesses reach their potential and exploit their growth opportunities through a number of property interventions.

Neil Simms profile photo

Mr Neil Simms

Type: VC

Organisation: Clarendon Fund Managers

Neil is Finance Director at Clarendon Fund Managers Ltd, who manage Co-Fund NI. Over a 16 year period he has either led or been heavily involved in negotiating and completing multiple investment rounds and exits in over twenty Northern Ireland based SMEs, across a broad range of sectors and he represents the Funds’ interests on the boards of several portfolio companies.

These include a number of innovative and successful bio-tech and med-tech companies; such as Cirdan Imaging Ltd, Sisaf Limited , and previously, Heartsine Technologies Inc. (acquired by Physio-Control Inc. in September 2015) and Path XL Ltd (acquired by Philips in June 2016).

Neil has a BSc (Hons) in Economics and Econometrics from Nottingham University and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland, having trained and qualified with Ernst & Young in Belfast.

Mike Irvine profile photo

Mr Mike Irvine

Type: BA

Organisation: Halo NI

Mike Irvine is an FCA with 20 years’ experience, the last 16 of which have been spent in Corporate Finance and Private Equity. Mike trained with PwC in London before joining KPMG in Belfast where he ultimately became Director responsible for the M&A team in Northern Ireland. In 2007 Mike set up the Northern Ireland operations of Davy Stockbrokers, successfully establishing the Davy brand in Northern Ireland and growing the client base from a standing start.

He left Davy to establish Cordovan Capital Management, a private equity investment firm, in October 2011. Cordovan Capital Management acts as lead investor and manager of Cordovan Capital Partners a private equity investment Syndicate which invests in deals of between £500k and £5m with a particular focus on Northern Ireland businesses. Mike is also a Founder and Director of Rockpool Acquisitions Plc which is a cash shell, Listed on the LSE and is seeking a reverse takeover of a strong Northern Ireland-based company.

Judith Totten profile photo

Ms Judith Totten

Type: Ind

Organisation: Upstream Working Capital

Judith is currently Managing Director of Upstream Working Capital Ltd, a company she established in 2011, as an independent provider of working capital funding, trade and supply chain funding and credit management support to businesses across Ireland. She has had a lengthy career in banking, starting as Sales Manager within the Invoice Finance function of Danske Bank (Northern Bank Ltd) and then Bank of Ireland for a short period, before returning to Danske and progressing latterly to setting up a new bank business acquisition team for the Bank. Judith is involved in mentoring and advising small businesses locally. She is actively involved in the Angel investment network in NI and currently chairs the Economic Affairs Committee for the CBI in NI. As a small business owner / employer herself, Judith is a passionate supporter of small business and is totally committed to the creation, growth and regeneration of business and jobs across Ireland. She does not hold any other public appointments.

Judith brings a wealth of understanding of business development, finance and corporate structure to SMEs and experience in strategic thinking and finance to the table.

Paul O’Donoghue profile photo

Mr Paul O’Donoghue

Type: Press


Paul O’Donoghue is a reporter with business news website, a sister website to The He previously worked as a business reporter for the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent, as well as a news reporter for the Irish Mirror. He won the award for ‘Upcoming Journalist of the Year’. at the 2016 UCD/Smurfit Business Journalist Awards. He graduated with a BA in Journalism from Dublin City University in 2014.

Northern Ireland
Donnchadh Cullinan profile photo

Mr Donnchadh Cullinan

Type: ITI

Organisation: Enterprise Ireland

Donnchadh heads up the Growth Capital & Banking relations team; this team engages with companies, Angels investors and local and international VCs to ensure that Enterprise Ireland Clients can access external capital appropriate to their stage of development and growth. As part of his time with the Enterprise Ireland Software team, Donnchadh managed a portfolio of clients that focused on supplying solutions to the financial services industry. In addition, Donnchadh has a wide breadth of investment appraisal experience having worked on a large number of investments into companies across a range of industry sectors.

Prior to joining Enterprise Ireland, Donnchadh spent several years in Ireland and the US working in electronics hardware design and manufacture for a number of multinationals.

Helen McBreen profile photo

Ms Helen McBreen

Type: VC

Organisation: Atlantic Bridge Ventures

Dr Helen McBreen is Investment Director at Atlantic Bridge, Ireland’s largest and one of Europe’s top performing growth technology funds investing in companies in Europe, the US, the Middle East and China. Today, Atlantic Bridge has over €600m assets under management across six Funds and has a proven international investment platform that has been applied to build global companies such as Movidius, Metaio and Swrve.

Launched in June 2016, Helen manages and operates The University Bridge Fund which is a €60 million fund specifically for early stage companies with global potential that are built from world class research generated at University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and other Irish research universities and institutions. Over the next five years the University Bridge Fund will invest in high potential spin-outs and startups emerging from the Irish third level ecosystem to build global companies of scale across key growth sectors.

Since graduating from UCD in Electronic Engineering in 1998 and earning a Ph.D. in Engineering from The University of Edinburgh, Helen has built her career growing innovative technology companies leading software teams in Ireland and Japan before moving into commercial roles as Sales Director at Celtrak and Investor at NDRC. In these positions Helen has built a track record of early stage technology investing and brings this expertise to the University Bridge Fund and Atlantic Bridge.

Andrew White profile photo

Mr Andrew White

Type: BA

Organisation: HBAN

Andrew White is a seasoned and widely-experienced business leader and technology executive having spent 30 years helping organisations around the world achieve results by leveraging technology solutions.

He was a founder shareholder and member of the Executive team at Avanade that scaled the business from a startup in 2000 to a $2B global technology services company with more than 25,000 professionals by 2015. Before joining Avanade, Andrew worked his way up through the ranks to equity partnership at Accenture where he held leadership positions in Justice & Public Safety, Business Change and Logistics in addition to his client leadership responsibilities in Consumer Products and Public Service.

Since 2016, Andrew has focused on mentoring, consulting and investing in Irish technology startups and early stage companies.

He has a 1st Class Honours Degree in Computer Science for Trinity College, Dublin.

Nicola McGrath profile photo

Ms Nicola McGrath

Type: Ind

Organisation: Eugene F Collins

Nicola is a Partner in the Corporate Law Department. She specialises in company and banking Law dealing in particular with corporate restructuring, equity fundraising, joint ventures, mergers & acquisitions and employee share schemes.

In addition, Nicola advises clients on company law and corporate governance compliance, including directors loans, purchase of own shares and capital maintenance.

Admitted as a solicitor in 1997
B.A. in Natural Sciences (1992) Cambridge University
Associate of the Institute of Taxation (1997)

Achievements and Endorsements
Nicola has contributed to a number of articles on corporate governance, taxation, mergers and employee schemes.

Gary McDonald profile photo

Mr Gary McDonald

Type: Press

Organisation: Irish News

Gary McDonald (52) has been business editor of the Irish News since January 2000, having previously spent nearly four years as editor of Ulster Business magazine.

He began his career in journalism as a trainee reporter with his home town newspaper, the Banbridge Chronicle, in 1979 before moving to the Ulster Star in Lisburn in 1986.

He served as editor of the Mid-Ulster Mail in Cookstown between 1989 and 1996, after which he was editor of Ulster Business magazine. He later had a stint as Ireland sub-editor of the Press Association before moving to the Irish News.

Gary has been named by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) as Northern Ireland's Business Journalist of the Year on four separate occasions - 2000, 2006, 2009 and 2010 – a feat which is unequalled in the history of the awards.

In both 2008 and 2009 he also won the Northern Ireland category in the UCD Smurfit School Irish Business Journalist Awards in Dublin.

Aside from his role at the Irish News, Gary is editor of the Ulster-Scots newspaper, which is published 10 times a year and has a circulation of 38,000. He also commentates for BBC Northern Ireland radio on the sport of men's hockey.

His hobby since a teenager is playing the highland bagpipes, where he has competed successfully at World, European and All-Ireland Championship level.

The highlight of his musical career, however, was performing at the opening ceremony of the World Special Olympics in Dublin in June 2003 before a televised audience of 400 million, when he shared a stage with U2 at an event attended by Nelson Mandela, Muhommad Ali and Arnold Schwarzenegger among others!

All Island
Patrick Joy profile photo

Mr Patrick Joy

Type: ITI

Organisation: InterTradeIreland

Patrick Joy is the founder of Suretank Group and was the 2013 Irish EY Entrepreneur of the Year. He is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer (University College Dublin, 1974) and also has an MBA (Trinity College Dublin, 1988). Married to Mary, they have 5 children and three grandchildren and live in Baltray, Co. Louth.

Patrick sold two thirds of his business in 2013 and has now stepped back from his previous full time role of Chairman and Managing Director. He devotes his time to mentoring and investing in new start-up businesses and he is a director of a number of companies, including Suretank Group where he still retains a significant shareholding. He is a council member of the Irish Exporters Association, and a board member of Intertrade Ireland and The Mill, Drogheda’s Enterprise Hub.

Outside of his business interests, Patrick is a member of Engineers Ireland, Boyne RFC, Royal Dublin Society and Co. Louth golf club.

Peter Sandys profile photo

Mr Peter Sandys

Type: VC

Organisation: Seroba Life Sciences

Peter Sandys is Managing Partner of Seroba Life Sciences Limited, was a co-founder of Seroba and has held many directorships in the fund management, technology and financial services industries.

Peter was previously Managing Director of ABN Amro Corporate Finance (Ireland) Limited where he had responsibility for the firm’s capital markets and venture capital businesses. Prior to joining ABN Amro, Peter worked in Corporate Advisory Services for Ernst & Young (E&Y) in London and Dublin. During this period, Peter was also seconded to 3i venture capital. Prior to joining E&Y, he worked for KPMG.

Peter has a BBS degree from TCD and is a Chartered Accountant. He is the current Chairman of the Irish Venture Capital Association. Peter was formerly a member of the Irish Stock Exchange’s New Issues Committee and the committee of the Irish Bio Industries Association. He was also formerly a member of the Securities Institute, a Registered Stockbroker and a member of the Institute of Taxation in Ireland. Peter sits on the board of Quanta Dialysis Technologies.

Ger Goold profile photo

Mr Ger Goold

Type: VC

Organisation: Kernel Capital

Ger is Chief Operating Officer & Partner with Kernel Capital. Ger’s investment focus is on Early Stage and Series A investments. Recent led investments include Amartus, Corlytics and Tapastreet and directorships include MPSTOR and BioAtlantis. Prior to joining Kernel Capital in 2009 Ger spent six years with KPMG where he managed services to a range of clients, from quoted multinationals to Irish tech start-ups; he has also worked in the energy sector with the Stanwell Corporation in Queensland, Australia.

Ger is a graduate of University College Cork from which he holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in Economics (2001). He is also a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland and is a Kauffman Fellow (Class 17) with the Society of Kauffman Fellows in Palo Alto, California.

Jeff Wylie profile photo

Mr Jeff Wylie

Type: BA

Organisation: Halo NI

After graduating with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University Cambridge, Jeff qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Ernst & Young in London and has worked in corporate finance, venture capital as CFO/COO of five international software companies.

He has had a unique perspective into growth businesses, having led numerous fundraisings, business expansions and successful exits in various roles as corporate finance adviser, investor and CFO.

In his career to date, he has been directly involved in M&A transactions with a combined value of over $1 billion, including KANA Software’s $511 million acquisition by Verint Systems in February 2014, Meridio’s sale to Autonomy in 2007 and Amacis’s disposal to Primus in 2003.

He is currently non-executive director at Catalyst Inc (formerly Northern Ireland Science Park) and Repstor Limited.

Stephen Twaddell profile photo

Mr Stephen Twaddell

Type: BA

Organisation: HBAN

Business Leader in fast moving consumer goods; start-ups and entrepreneur led enterprises

General Management and Sales & Marketing background

Qualified business coach with an Advanced Diploma in Personal & Executive Coaching - currently working as a coach at Facebook, LinkedIn, Paddy Power, Microsoft, Lidl & Bord Bia

Chair HBAN Food Group and a Board member of three fast growing food and drink businesses

This is a few lines on me, my past experience and what I love to do…..

  • 28 years of experience in commercial leadership and CEO roles in both international blue chip consumer focused businesses and start up entrepreneur led enterprises.
  • Track record of building sustainable revenue and profit growth in both developed and emerging markets.
  • Passion for helping develop leadership and breakthrough performance through coaching
  • Love to see people and teams develop and grow – deliver outstanding results and at the same time live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives.
  • Joined Kellogg’s back in 1986 in Northern Ireland had great opportunities to do many sales, marketing and CEO roles across EMEA eventually becoming President of Europe in 2010.
  • Now working with start-ups and entrepreneur led enterprises. I am currently Chair of Java Republic (tea & coffee); Board member of Motiv8 Performance Excellence (performance development in sport & business); Wicklow Wolf (craft brewing start up) & East Coast Bake House (biscuit manufacturing start up).
  • Chair of HBAN Investor syndicate in the Food & Drink Sector
  • Coach in a number of businesses in a wide variety of industry sectors to help senior leaders and teams in their endeavours to unlock their full potential.
  • Focus my coaching on building leadership, developing strategic insight, unlocking personal performance. I endeavour to bring an open, consultative style.
  • Educated at Queens University of Belfast where I got a BA degree in Economics and Social History and a Diploma in Business Administration
  • Originally from Ireland and have lived across Europe and UK at various times – I am now based in Co Dublin. I live in Malahide with my family

Olive O'Driscoll profile photo

Ms Olive O'Driscoll

Type: Ind

Organisation: Aventamed

Olive is the CEO and co-founder of AventaMed, a medical device company which is focused on revolutionizing Ear, Nose and Throat surgery. AventaMed’s first product is the Solo TTD; an all-in-one device which places a patented and pre-loaded ear tube (grommet) quickly and easily in patient ears, without the need for a full general anaesthetic. Having invented and developed the Solo TTD, Olive set up AventaMed with John Vaughan in 2013. AventaMed was crowned Seedcorn’s Overall Winner for the Best Early Stage Company in 2014. Since then, she has led AventaMed through two investment rounds, securing more than €3m in funding from HBAN Angels and Enterprise Ireland. They have a growing team based in Cork and have completed clinical studies, achieved CE Mark regulatory approval and recently launched the device in Europe.

Charlie Taylor profile photo

Mr Charlie Taylor

Type: Press

Organisation: Irish Times

Charlie is a business journalist with The Irish Times, which he rst joined in 2005. Charlie has also written for other Irish news, business and technology publications, and worked as a communications consultant advising companies and public sector bodies.