Thought Leadership Club

On 23rd November, towards the end of our first semester, the Thought Leadership club organized its first event. We couldn’t have expected a better student organized event to start with. The club was really keen to organize the first event in the first semester itself. At the same time, with all the case studies, exams and assignments it was a really huge task.  Firstly to reach out to prospective speakers and then to organize the event and get others to attend the event. However, James Kelly (Full-time MBA) from our club actively reached out to Stephen Somers, co-founder of Marketplace SuperHeroes, an information product that teaches you how to start an international eCommerce business selling on Amazon, to share his experience as an entrepreneur with us. There was a lot of excitement in the full time MBA class, especially in the Thought Leadership Club, to organize and attend the event.
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Stephen Somers is a 30-year-old serial entrepreneur, who has developed multiple businesses in different industries. Before becoming an entrepreneur, he worked as a data processor with a government agency by day and a musician by night. However, having studied Business in college he also had an urge to start a business of his own. Therefore, when he was introduced by his aunt to Robert Rickey who owned an e-commerce business, he found a way to achieve his dream of starting a business.

With the philosophy of “The best way to start a business is to be in business” he worked in Robert’s warehouse for 9 months without pay so that he could learn and understand the nuances of an e-commerce business. This conviction, which I guess is one of the traits of a thought leader, helped him to take risks and believe in himself. Working in the warehouse he identified inefficiencies in the existing system and observed that there was a lack of well-defined process. He also observed that the products such as TV mounts that were sold by the business had a saturated market therefore a minimal growth prospect. Consequently, he removed inefficiencies, defined appropriate processes and looked for products with unsaturated demands. After working on all these improvements he decided to start online sales on e-commerce websites. Once the online sales business started doing well, he realized that a lot of other people were trying to do the same however without proper guidance they would inevitable either fail or give up. Furthermore, he noticed that numerous “How to make money online” courses in the market were scams. This motivated him to become a THOUGHT LEADER and share his knowledge of how to start a successful online sales business with other people through Marketplace Superheroes.

With Marketplace Superheroes, they teach people how to build a 5-7 figure global online selling business through eCommerce websites by selling simple, low-competition, high profit physical products without “risking it all”. Listening to Stephen, I found a practical implementation of a lot of theoretical concepts of marketing that I had learned in the class. He used direct marketing, through Facebook, for customer acquisition. Coincidentally two days prior, in our marketing class we discussed the importance of marketing channels in any business. He let us in on his secret to successfully selling on an ecommerce website which is “don’t create demand, instead fulfil the existing demand”.  Having had a business degree and having read loads of books about business he introduced us to some business concepts such as customer conversion and value proposition.

He told us how important it is to differentiate your products in an online selling business. He started selling products with a very unorthodox method i.e. by reaching out to people and selling products that did not exist. He reasoned that most businesses first put in 6 months to develop a product and then find out that there is no demand for that product, whereas he tries to identify demand and then address that demand through his products. He also stressed the importance of focusing on a limited number of products instead of too many products to keep the business simple and efficient.

Stephen Somers has demonstrated that being a thought leader in your business differentiates you from your competitors. While others in the business were just selling basic information on how to start an online business selling on e-commerce websites. Marketplace Superheroes was sharing information how to be successful at selling online on e-commerce websites, by proper market research and inventory management. Stephen Somers spoke about his journey and his business for about 50 minutes, however he took us through a very descriptive narration about how he came into business, how he struggled,  and then how he made it successful, and currently how he is utilizing his success and knowledge to help others become successful through his startup Marketplace SuperHeroes.

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At the end of the event, I realized how much these 3 months in the MBA have changed my perspective: I have developed a new way of looking at businesses. In the past 3 months I have been through numerous case studies, which have changed the way I absorb information about businesses and organizations. This change has been so significant that all through the presentation I was just relating information from Stephan Somers, about his businesses, to the concepts I had previously learned in class. Therefore, I am looking forward to finding out how the rest of the course will guide my thinking. Thank You!

Devinder Sharma, Full-Time MBA 2017-2018

The Clark’s Sandwich – a comforting constant in a hectic MBA week

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I find myself in week four of the second semester of my 1-year full-time MBA. The weeks just fly by and one week does not resemble the next. With three electives on top of my core modules, I run from one thing to the next: I jump on a video conference with our Yale counterparts to manage a virtual plant as part of our Supply Chain module; try to negotiate a good deal to buy a new biotech manufacturing site in my negotiations elective; am torn between Friedman and Mackey on the purpose of business in my Business Ethics class; come up with a business model for a new venture in Entrepreneurship; juggle fixed, variable, direct and indirect costs in Management Accounting; create a ‘Elena 2030’ vision with my executive coach; take a breath and literally run to the next thing.

And yet, there is a comforting constant in the hectic MBA week. Every day, at 1.30pm on the dot, the door to the MBA room opens and ten very excited (mostly male) MBA students cannot wait for the highlight of their day: the sandwich and soup deal from the Deli around the corner. I have to admit that I do sometimes join in because you cannot beat a good sandwich for lunch – may my sourdough-loving German ancestors forgive me. The comforting thing about it is, however, not so much the sandwich itself (and the obligatory basil and tomato soup), it is the fact that no matter if you buy a sandwich, bring your own lunch or just enjoy a coffee after eating in the cafeteria – every day you get to spend a peaceful 30 minutes in the MBA room with a mix of interesting, genuinely nice people who always have a good story to tell.

An MBA is an intense experience and it is a tough and sometimes scary decision to leave a great job to go back to being a full-time student for a year. Building on what Cathal wrote in his blog entry below (check it out, well worth reading!), what makes this year a lot easier and very enjoyable is the people you get to spend it with. In Germany we say ‘geteilte Freude ist doppelte Freude, geteilter Schmerz ist halber Schmerz’, which translates to ‘shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is halved sorrow’. This definitely applies to an MBA. To make it a little less dramatic, let’s replace sorrow with stress. Sharing this experience with a great group of people is definitely double the fun and half the stress!

Elena Nock ~ Full-Time MBA

Herding Cats

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Peter Thiel once said “Tell me something you know, that nobody else understands”. What I know, is that Google is an old age pensioner and online advertising is old hat.

You see, 2 years ago I knew I wanted to work in Tech, IoT to be specific, and I knew I wanted to work in Advertising but I hadn’t yet had my lightbulb moment. Looking for change and a way to open doors or create options, I started an MBA. I was full of enthusiasm about the future but with a healthy dose of nervous anticipation. So what does this have to do with herding cats? I’ll get to that.

Year 1 passed in a busy blur of challenging learning and making good friends. If you have a natural curiosity and passion for learning, the MBA doesn’t fail to disappoint. But be prepared to work, and work hard. It’s certainly not easy, but it is extremely fulfilling. The quality of the lecturing is far beyond what I experienced previously, and everyone wants to do their part to not let their team down. Interestingly, I have since found that many of the qualities required for an MBA are the same qualities required from an entrepreneur; stubborn perseverance, a passion for learning, flexibility and intelligence to name a few.

I was always quite entrepreneurial; my mother loves gardening and when I was a child she taught me about the benefits of ladybirds on her roses (They eat Greenfly). I had an 8 year old lightbulb moment and proceeded out to the adjacent corn field, collected a box of Ladybirds and sold them door to door at 10p each for our neighbours’ gardens. I’d like to say I reinvested the profits or retained some capital, but Kearn’s sweet shop was my downfall! During Semester 1 of the MBA, a good friend of mine installed a home control system; I don’t have space here to tell the full story, but suffice to say that through really good timing, a twist of faith and a little bit of luck, I had a 35 year old lightbulb moment. I already had a 400 page business plan (I know!) completed when I approached the UCD Entrepreneur in Residence. Suffice to say she didn’t mince her words, the plan went into the bin and she quickly pulled me out of the rabbit hole and back on the right track.

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You see, I realised that the future of Advertising is the Internet of Things, but not in the way everyone else seems to understand it. Thus I reached a crossroads, one of those very rare moments in life where you can do something huge, something global that will change the world forever. This is one of the most significant things about the Smurfit MBA that nobody ever mentions; it gives you what I like to call with admiration an ‘American attitude’. A belief that no challenge is too big and no matter what you want to achieve, the world is your oyster and you can do it. Being surrounded by really capable, driven people, breeds a belief in yourself and a belief in others. A belief that hard work and perseverance will prevail. I started talking to prospective customers and with my partner Manuela formed Promo Pads. And I jumped in! Thus began the cat herding.

Over the last few months the business has pushed ahead at an incredible pace, and I switched into survival mode on the MBA. People talk about the intensity of start-ups, but you don’t really understand it until you live it. A Global tech start-up only amplifies this further. When we’re not building sales leads speaking to customers or project managing with our development team, we’re planning our International expansion strategy or optimizing our market positioning and financial forecasts. Everything needs to be done yesterday, but the MBA gave me a basis of knowledge for areas where I previously had no experience. Every minute of life is filled with either MBA work, incubator work or now vastly more importantly, real business. I have developed a new level of disdain for procrastination, because I simply don’t have any time. Keeping everything balanced really is like herding cats. In fact, I’m writing this blog in my car for a short break before a business meeting. But yes, we’re building something amazing and loving it.

So I launched into MBA Year 2 with the business ramping up into what feels like 7th gear, and having secured a place on an incubator. You see, anything I’ve ever had to do, I’ve always just got on with it. Procrastination frustrates me. However, the MBA has provided new insights about the ways that other people like to work; it turns out that not everyone wants to get the 5 week assignment 90% finished in week 1, just so it’s off the desk. But it also turns out that ‘getting on with it’ is what a start-up needs. If you have a start-up idea, the best advice I can give you is stop thinking and start doing. It won’t build itself and if you truly believe in it, then the train is leaving the station no matter what.

I would like to think that without being on the MBA, I’d be in the same position I am now. But realistically it was the overall environment of UCD Smurfit that prepared me mentally for this. In an ideal world the business would have been started after the MBA, but once-in-a-lifetime opportunities don’t tend to wait around.

I come from a military background. In the military, leaders sometimes have to be tactically clever, sometimes they need patience, and sometimes they need to charge headlong down the middle of the battlefield with nothing but smoke for protection. A good business analogy is Uber’s headlong rush to global domination. Well, I always did like smoke…although mirrors are a good complement. So back to what I know and nobody else understands; I’m unashamedly using this blog to plant Promo Pads flag at the top of the hill. Hello Google. We’re coming.

Diarmaid Murphy ~ Executive MBA

A Smurfit MBA’s Startup – Hospital Contact

Dr Joe Sheehan, Radiologist Registrar,Ger Bowens from MSD, and Dr Donal Reddan pictured at the launch of the WNWHG App outside Galway University Hospital. Photo: Reg Gordon
Dr Joe Sheehan, Radiologist Registrar,Ger Bowens from MSD, and Dr Donal Reddan pictured at the launch of the WNWHG App outside Galway University Hospital. Photo: Reg Gordon

As a 22-year-old with two Bachelors of Science degrees to my name and 1 year of medical school under my belt, joining the MBA class of 2009 at Smurfit was the greatest risk of my very early career. That risk turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. For the first year of the MBA, the Celtic tiger was still roaring and I got a first-hand look at how not to do business. In the classroom, we were learning the bedrock principles of business and outside the walls of the school that bedrock was being broken by far too many people. To this day I can almost pinpoint when I realised it was all about to crash. We had just gathered for our first lecture on a sunny spring Friday and I was reading the cover of the financial times to see that RBS had announced a rights issue. I asked our economics professor about it and we then spent the first twenty minutes of class discussing what a rights issue was and what it all meant. From that point on, we had a separate Harvard business case study being played out in real life on a weekly basis. I remember thinking to my myself at the time that this is the best learning experience of my life and to this day I still believe that.

Since graduating from the MBA, I have gone on to finish medicine and am nearing completion of my training as a Radiologist in Galway. I have continued to use the skills I learned in the MBA on a daily basis as a director on the board of the Galway Clinic and as a co-founder of a company called Hospital Contact. Hospital Contact is a start-up and is the place where my MBA has been most useful. As a student, I concentrated heavily on entrepreneurial studies and took all the electives the school offered. Those classes opened my eyes to the fact that a start-up is hard work with little early payoff. But I also realised, through that second year of MBA discussions, that the company that sticks it out through the hard times will flourish in the good times. Hospital Contact makes healthcare related smart phone apps with our flagship app used by over 10,000 healthcare professionals in Ireland. The world of tech is full of ups and downs, but as my start-up now begins to flourish I know that without my Smurfit MBA the company might not have lasted through the past two years. Thank you Smurfit for the great education and happy 50th birthday to the Smurfit MBA.

Joe Sheehan ~ Executive MBA 2009

Global Network Immersion Week – IE Madrid

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It was in mid-October that many students from the class set sail for the four corners of the world, or at least Europe and North America, for Global Network Immersion Week (GNIW). This is a week where MBA students from all over the world, which are part of the Global Network of Advanced Management (GNAM – as was so artfully recreated at the wine-tasting in the photo above), exchange schools for a week. The goal is to allow the students to immerse themselves in the culture of the host school, and to meet, network with and learn from students from different schools, countries and backgrounds. Each school hosted a different business topic for the week, where the students could discuss and debate relevant issues that are happening in the world at present.

While some of the class traveled to Yale, Vancouver and Istanbul, my adventures took me to Madrid and IE business school, along with four of my classmates. The topic covered for the week was ‘Europe at a Crossroads’, covering some of the major economic and political issues affecting Europe at present, such as the Eurozone Crisis, the rise of nationalism, and the competition coming from emerging economies. IE provided some of their finest lecturers to provide some insight on the various issues faced by Europe, with a particular emphasis on the recent struggles Spanish economy. In line with this we had a pair of company visits to a start-up accelerator and an innovation centre, which are part of the process of sowing the seeds of growth for the economy in the future.

As a treat they also provided us with a lesson on the Spanish wine industry, followed by a wine-tasting of some of the finest wines Spain has to offer, along with a Flamenco show. This turned out to be a highlight of the week, and everybody enjoyed the frivolities well into the evening, and in some cases, night.

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However, it wasn’t all fun and games. We were divided into teams of five, and at the end of the week each team had to make a presentation on a different issue faced by Europe. I was joined on my team by people from China, Mexico, Colombia and Canada, and we had to present on ‘The Rise of Nationalism in Europe’. While Scotland and the Basque people’s calls for independence are widely known, it surprised me to discover just how many other parts of Europe are facing the same issues at present.

Overall, I would say that the week spent in Madrid was an incredible experience, a view shared by my colleagues that accompanied me on the trip. While we didn’t quite manage to solve all of the crises facing Europe, we did take away some valuable learnings that we can draw upon in our academic endeavours. Even more so, we made some connections throughout the week that we can call upon in future, in both a professional and personal capacity.

Patrick Farrell ~ Full-Time MBA 

What is the Secret to Being a Successful Entrepreneur?

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What is the secret to being a successful Entrepreneur? This is probably the question I am most eager to find the answer to during my MBA programme. So many students raised hands when asked whether they want to start up their own business. I believe they are just looking for the recipe for success like me.

I started to look for the answer by joining the Entrepreneurship Club. The experience of planning and organising the club event was so exciting and I hope to use the MBA Blog as a continuous discussion on entrepreneurship and as a means to promote the Entrepreneurship Club.

I would like to share stories of Chinese entrepreneur legends, founders of the two biggest internet giants in China; “Baidu” and “Alibaba” (Same business as Google and eBay respectively). It might be interesting to the people who are curious about what is happening in China and to people who are looking for inspiration on the way to building their commercial empire.

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With the recent world record $150 Billion IPO filing of Alibaba, Jack Ma became the name known across the world. Jack Ma is the founder of the E-commerce giant Alibaba and is a stakeholder at Alipay, its sister company. He is now officially the richest man in China. Alibaba processes more goods than eBay and Amazon combined!

Jack Ma failed the university entrance exam three times, then graduated in 1988 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Hangzhou University (a university has never been notable before Jack became famous). In school, Ma was elected student chairman. He became a lecturer in English and International Trade after graduation.

At first he started building websites for Chinese companies with the help of friends in the US. At a conference in 2010, Ma revealed that he has never actually written a line of code nor made one sale to a customer. He encountered a computer for the first time at the age of 33.

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Robin Li (Li Yanhong) is the co-founder of the Chinese search engine Baidu and is ranked as the seventh richest man in mainland China with a net worth of US$9.6 billion as of September 2015. He is ranked as 119th richest man in the world.

Li studied information management at Peking University (the Top one University in China) and the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. In 2000 he founded Baidu. Li developed the Rankdex site-scoring algorithm for search engine page ranking, which was awarded a U.S. patent. He later used this technology for the Baidu search engine.

From the stories of these two achievers in business in China, maybe we can make a conclusion that the education background and the knowledge are not the determining factor for success. Entrepreneurship is something beyond that. It is about grabbing the opportunity, being insistent, and turning an idea into a profitable business.

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Talking about insistence, I couldn’t forget to mention the most admirable Chinese businessman for me – Chu Shijian.

Mr. Chu is the China’s former “tobacco king” who built a struggling tobacco firm into the country’s largest and most profitable cigarette producer in the 1980s. Chu, however, was jailed for life on corruption charges in 1998. After he was released on medical parole in 2002, Chu started growing oranges on 160 hectares of land in the mountains of southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

The “Chu’s Orange” is named after 85-year-old Chu Shijian. Today, his fruit farm produces 8,000 tons of oranges a year, generating 30 million yuan (US$ 4.95 million) in annual profits. Most of Chu’s oranges are sold online (a sample successful story of e-commerce as well).

I cited this story to show that the success of an entrepreneur could be temporary, failure and setbacks can happen along the way. True entrepreneurs will have the power to re-start and embrace the success again.

Ying Wu ~ Full-Time MBA

Congratulations to Grainne Barron winner of MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award 2014

Word has reached us from London that Grainne Barron who graduated from the EMBA programme in 2007 has been awarded the prestigious MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award from the UK based Association of MBAs.

Andrew Main Wilson, AMBA Chief Executive: ‘This is the 2nd time in three years that UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School has won our MBA Entreprenurial Venture Award, which clearly indicates the quality of their MBA programme and its focus on creativity and entrepreneurship. This year’s winner, Grainne Barron, CEO and Founder of Viddyad, has demonstrated just how successful women in technology can be.

Grainne is CEO and Founder of Viddyad and is responsible for commercial product development internationally. She is a recognized expert in video advertising technology and has been interviewed on Bloomberg TV, TechCrunch, USA Today been quoted in the WSJ where Viddyad was listed as ‘One to Watch!’

Further information on Grainne can find it at – Profile of Grainne from Smurfit Alumni

Further information on the AMBA AWARDS event, click here.



The view from Week 6

I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see (Amazing Grace, John Newton 1725-1807).

This is how it feels after six weeks of the E-MBA programme. The fog of confusion in which I have lived for the last few years is starting to clear. What makes a company stand out from the crowd? What are they doing differently? Why do their employees enjoy going to work? Where is the meaningful information in an Annual Report? All of these questions and more are being addressed simultaneously in our first semester. There are more questions each week but at least I feel they are starting to resemble intelligent questions.

The group work is great – Carlsberg don’t do groups but if they did it would be Group 2, EMBA Weekend 2014! It is like early morning training on a Saturday, you might not want to do it, but you are not going to let the team down. Being in a team drives you to do more. You don’t want to be that person everybody talks about during the Intro Week – The one who doesn’t pull their weight, the weak link in the chain, the slacker. Although when I look around my class I am left thinking this fictitious creature must be taking the mid-week course? This person is like a unicorn or an elf, they are the subject matter of great stories but we all know they don’t really exist.

The Entrepreneurship Club – I went to my first event at the Google HQ last night. For me it was fascinating. There were talks from industry experts who explained the available supports for start-up ventures, from pre-seed capital right through to International scalability. This is not an area I have any previous experience in so I am looking forward to future events.

Now all I need is a lightning bolt moment where I think of a concept that will change the world. Maybe I will leave that to the end of Semester 2!

Barry Griffin

EMBA Weekend 2014-2016

UCD Smurfit MBA50 Celebrating Entrepreneurship

On Tuesday 2nd of September, the MBA Programme Office were delighted to host a Celebrating Entrepreneurship Event in the Hibernian Club on St. Stephens Green in Dublin.

After a brief introduction by Prof. Pat Gibbons, MBA alumni and current students were treated to some rare insights from Claire Lee, head of Corporate Venture at Silicon Valley Bank.

This was followed by a soap-box challenge which involved a number of MBA alumni and students show-casing their start-up companies within a two minute time-frame.

List of participating start-ups:

Brendan Cunniffe, Apica Cardiovascular

Dave Byrne,  Buzzoo

Mick O’Dwyer,  Envirotech

Donal Ryan,  Equinome

Ian Nolan,  Legalshine

David Larkin,  LogoGrab

Paul Manning, Novo Grid

Eamonn Sayers,  World Sports Team

Steve Kelly,  young Horizons


After a thoroughly enjoyable series of presentations, all present got the chance to mingle over a glass of wine.

Below is a short synopsis of this showcase of innovation and something for our budding entrepreneurs to reflect on.

MBA Mentoring Programme 2014

Katharine Slattery, Director of Peer Mentoring Resources

This year Katharine Slattery, the Director of Peer Mentoring Resources was delighted to be involved in co-ordinating the inaugural MBA Mentoring Programme in conjunction with the MBA Careers Manager. Through this mentoring programme, the full-time MBA students were given the opportunity to meet with professionals who have completed the MBA and have the benefit of hindsight and experience in making the often-challenging transition to ‘real-world’ industry and entrepreneurship. Thirty-five MBA alumni volunteered to take on the role of a mentor for a full-time MBA student and mentors were matched with mentees who had common career interests and/or professional backgrounds. Mentors and mentees met initially in March, with further meetings taking place up until the end of the programme in July. Mentees were encouraged to set specific goals for the process, and both parties completed online reports after each mentoring meeting.

Formal feedback has been gathered from all participants, and some very positive reports on the programme from both mentees and mentors has been received including the following: ‘This is a truly excellent process…It is incredibly reassuring to know that there is somebody there, with your best interest in mind, to offer advice and support on a range of topics, but in particular on career progression.’ ‘I feel it offers a valuable source of support in negotiating the next step in my career. The mentor can provide advice or just act as a sounding board and understands the situation well.’ ‘My mentee has a positive outlook and has embraced the process and I think both of us have enjoyed the dialogue.’ Katherine really enjoyed working with MBA staff, students and alumni on this programme and would like to express her thanks to those involved for the energy, commitment and time that they have given to it.

Katharine Slattery is the Director of Peer Mentoring Resources, who provide consultancy, training and resources for organisations and businesses who wish to provide further support for their students or staff through the framework of a mentoring programme.