This semester I made my first ever visit to the United States of America, to visit Boston, Massachusetts. Travelling with me was my friend Oliver Burke. Last year, we started a company together, Crono Labs (cronolabs.com), a technology startup that creates hardware for gamers. The last year has been a fantastic experience, and has been full of opportunities and events, such as our trip to Boston.

During my first year of college, studying Business Information Systems, I became involved with Blackstone Launchpad: a campus-based program that helps students, staff and alumni come up with ideas, or to help them progress their current ones. During the summer Blackstone LaunchPad announced that two startups would have the opportunity to travel to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in Boston and meet the students from other Blackstone Launchpads in the United States. They held a video pitch competition, and we placed second, winning a trip to the States for the event.

The calibre of people at the event was incredible. While drinking coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, we chatted to an Indian developer who sold his last company to Google! The event had four different stages for different topics, and speakers talked on various subjects. It was good to see, and we heard some interesting talks. It was really interesting to network and speak with other attendees at the event. We played a bizarre game, involving throwing bean bags at wooden planks, with software developers from Canada.

The best part of the trip, hands down, was meeting the students in startups from the American Blackstone Launchpads. Hearing about their ideas, challenges, teams and views was a fantastic experience. Up until then we had really only interacted with other entrepreneurs in Galway; here we got a much broader view of the global startup community. We all met for an event in the Hard Rock cafe in Boston, and listened to six of the top startups who got to pitch and win cash prizes. The range of businesses was staggering: a company selling custom shoelaces, glasses for the hearing impaired that takes in voices and puts the words in front of the user, an electric trickable skateboard, a new device for oil refineries, the list goes on! We went for dinner each night with different students and chatted about how they’re finding the balance between working on their ideas and studying for college.

My first taste of America has left me itching to visit other cities and states, and I hope to be over again soon!

Ruairi McNicholas

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