Dr. Neil Ferguson Appointed New Programme Manager of Blackstone LaunchPad

Blackstone LaunchPad is delighted to welcome Neil to the team as Programme Manager. Neil will oversee the day-to-day operations of the LaunchPad and use his experience to mentor, coach and advise students, staff and alumni on commercialising their innovative ideas.

He joins the LaunchPad team from Science Foundation Ireland’s Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM) which is a national research centre based in NUI Galway. Neil was Business Development and Industry Programme Manager. During his successful tenure at CÚRAM, he initiated and managed 20+ commercial partnerships with medical device companies and over €9M in investment. Neil also initiated and lead CÚRAM’s Future Innovators Training programme which provided entrepreneurial training to CÚRAM researchers.

Neil comes to LaunchPad with 20+ years of experience in business development and technology commercialisation in both Ireland and the USA. He has also held several management positions at NUI Galway’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO). While there, he was instrumental in generating a large portfolio of patents, commercial agreements and spin-out companies.

Neil holds a PhD from NUI Galway. “I am thrilled to be part of the Blackstone LaunchPad team. My entire career has been spent supporting the development teams and commercialization of innovative technologies. I look forward to continuing that tradition by providing all our students, staff and alumni with the tools and techniques required to identify, validate and develop opportunities that can make an significant impact on our society.”

Competition Poster

€10,000 Prize Fund For New Ventures!

Blackstone LaunchPad, in partnership with EXPLORE, are excited to announce that we are launching a competition with a €10,000 prize fund!
Click the poster to learn more!


Blackstone Charitable Foundation launch new initiative – #WeAreEntrepreneurs – to celebrate entrepreneurs everywhere!

Blackstone LaunchPad at NUI Galway are delighted to support and spread this initiative campus-wide. We will be hosting events and social media campaigns over the coming weeks to celebrate entrepreneurship at NUIG. We encourage students to share their entrepreneurial stories and insights by using the hashtag #WeAreEntrepreneurs and on Twitter @LaunchPadNUIG.

To learn more about this initiative, click here!

Startup School copy

NUIG EntreSoc Startup School

Blackstone LaunchPad are delighted to support Startup School in partnership with the NUIG Entrepreneurship Society and Local Enterprise Office. Startup School is where all students are welcome to pitch ideas, form teams, and build amazing startups over the course of five weeks. Watch these aspiring entrepreneurs make their ideas a reality for a chance to win money!
Find out more about this exciting opportunity here.

LaunchPad: Year in Review – 2017

Students from NUIG scoop top prize at Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards 2017Paddy MacDonagh Wins Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award

NUIG Commerce students Paddy MacDonagh, a Blackstone LaunchPad student intern, and his co-founder Chris Bogues, won the overall Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award and were named ‘College Entrepreneur of the Year 2017’ for their innovative startup Coachbook. Their project developed  as part of the ICE module at the J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics this year and was also supported by Blackstone LaunchPad. Coachbook is an online platform providing the facility for coaches to train athletes in real-time through the use of live video streaming. This eliminates the geographical restrictions currently faced by athletes, particularly horse riders, while also providing a marketplace for coaches to promote themselves. Paddy and Chris were awarded €10,000 to further develop their startup.
Read more about his award here.

Natalie WMBBlackstone LaunchPad Executive Director Natalie Walsh Wins Boots WMB Empowering Women Award

Natalie Walsh, the newly appointed Executive Director of Blackstone LaunchPad at NUI Galway, was awarded the 2017 Boots WMB Empowering Women Award at the Women Mean Business (WMB) awards ceremony in October. The award recognises the initiatives made by companies and/or individuals to facilitate and encourage the progression of women in their careers through mentoring schemes, training supports, networking events and personal development. Natalie has been an integral member of LaunchPad since its inception and plays a key role in building strategic plans to attract and develop student entrepreneurs. Natalie is also a WMB Gender Diversity Ambassador and previously a 2016 finalist for the award.
Read more about her award here.

Josh ResearchfestVenture Coach Joshua Chao Crowned ResearchFest Champion 2017

Joshua Chao, one of our venture coaches working with Blackstone LaunchPad, was crowned the 2017 Researchfest champion at Inspirefest in Dublin last July. Inspirefest is one of Europe’s leading science, technology, and arts festivals and PhD students were tasked to communicate their research in 3 minutes or less, without PowerPoint slides, to a non-scientific audience. The finals took place at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and Josh won both the judges’ and audience vote with his three-minute rhyming soliloquy about his PhD research — using stem cells as a therapy for critical limb ischemia. Josh is a final-year PhD student at NUI Galway working with the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) and Orbsen Therapeutics Ltd.
Watch his video and read more about his award here.

Irish Early Career Awards 2017. Photo Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography

Student Entrepreneur-in-Residence Edel Browne Wins Irish Early Career Special Recognition Award

Edel Browne, our student entrepreneur-in-residence and founder of Free Feet Medical, won the Irish Early Career Special Recognition Award at the Mansion House in Dublin last November. The Irish Early Career Awards, in association with KBC Bank Ireland and Lincoln Recruitment Specialists, celebrate excellence and recognise the achievements of brilliant young professionals in Ireland.
Read more about her award here.

She also delivered a TEDx talk describing her fascinating and accidental journey into entrepreneurship. Well worth a watch!
See her video here.

Techstars MistCalls Geec

Two Student Ventures from LaunchPad Awarded Opportunity to Attend Techstars Training Camp & Demo Day in New York City


MistCalls’ and ‘the Geec’ — two student ventures at NUI Galway supported by Blackstone LaunchPad — were awarded the opportunity to attend and participate in the Techstars Training Camp & Demo Day in New York City last October. Blackstone LaunchPad, Blackstone Charitable Foundation, and Techstars partnered to create an intensive two-day workshop to support top performing student ventures across all 20 LaunchPad campus sites across the world.

Teams met with renowned startup founders and entrepreneurs, various Techstars managing directors, Blackstone employees, and most importantly, had the opportunity to meet and network with other student entrepreneurs. The rigorous and densely-packed schedule featured talks ranging from “Fundraising & Finances 101 + Bootstrapping Risk vs Traditional Capital” to “How To Effectively Market” to “Diversity in Technology & Building Successful Accelerators”. Teams then underwent one-on-one sessions with various mentors to help them effectively manage, scale, and launch their startups.

Des Dolan, a PhD student in Sustainable Engineering at NUI Galway, co-founded MistCalls, an early-stage technology company based in Co. Galway and Co. Roscommon. MistCalls is an innovative mobile call management platform aimed at business users, where a missed call could be a missed opportunity. Des’ startup provides a suite of analytics, context and organisational features to mobile calls to help professionals prioritise and manage the calls that matter most. Ultimately, MistCalls acts almost like an intelligent personal secretary to your mobile calls.

Des and Shane, co-founders of MistCalls, describe their experience here.

Laura Drudy and Niamh Keogh pilot the Geec — the Galway energy-efficient car, an eco-car designed and built by NUI Galway engineering students. Already Ireland’s most energy efficient car, the Geec has the capability to travel from New York to Chicago for just 16 cents worth of electricity, over 500 times cheaper than any average diesel car today. The team now wants the Geec to become the world’s most energy efficient vehicle and competes annually at the Shell Eco-Marathon, the world’s top ultra-efficiency competition aimed at finding the world’s most energy efficient cars.

Laura and Niamh, two drivers of the Geec, detail their experience here.

Hear About 2017 From Our Student Ventures

“In 2017, at Free Feet Medical, we focused on prototyping and growth. As a final year student, I also took time away from the business to focus on my studies. I was honoured to be named in the Sunday Business Post 30 under 30, and the Journal.ie’s 20 under 20 lists for 2017 and was also the youngest ever recipient of the Special Recognition Award at the Irish Early Career Awards. We are looking forward to a busy and productive 2018.” — Edel Browne, 4th year Biotechnology, Co-Founder of Free Feet Medical

“After my first year of Business Information Systems (BIS) in NUI Galway, I took a gap year and expanded my list of clients, improved my skills and spent several months working for a software startup in GMIT. During this time I met Michael Coyle, a BIS graduated who had started his own marketing business, Concordi. Together with him and another NUI Galway graduate, Cian McLoughlin, we transformed Concordi from an online marketing business to a fully-fledged digital agency offering online marketing, social media management, web and graphic design, photography and video, and IT consultancy. It’s been a great few months so far and I’m looking forward to the future with Concordi!” — Ruairí McNicholas, General Manager and Head of Web Design at Concordi

“Last year was a very successful year, with solid sales and a growing online presence – website and social media. This year, I’m working on developing new products using alternative materials to expand my market reach.” — Conor Lynch, 3rd year Mechanical Engineering, Founder of Conor Lynch Woodturning

“Since we first approached Blackstone LaunchPad with the initial idea, the MistCalls team has grown to five. We’re recently back from our trip to NYC with Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars and we are just finishing the EI New Frontiers Phase 2 program with our initial product in Beta. We have big and exciting plans for the next 12 months. Right now, our current focus is on launching our initial product and making sure it’s a product our customers can’t live without!” — Desmond Dolan, PhD student in Sustainable Engineering, Founder of MistCalls

“APB Software and Hardware Ltd. grew significantly in 2017 taking on three major new clients. Our annual revenue grew by 210%. This is due to a continued and focused effort towards customer satisfaction and product quality. 2018 promises to be a bumper year with our main goals being the expansion of our team and continued partnerships both inside and outside of NUI Galway.” — Aidan Breen, PhD student in Computer Science, Founder of APB Software and Hardware Ltd.

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