Use your UCD Smurfit MBA to pursue that dream.

Ciara O’Brien (weekend eMBA 2014), founder of iSave, recently joined UCC’s start-up accelerator Ignite.

My advice to new MBAs is to really make the most of every resource that’s available to you within the MBA system. While there’s lots to learn from your core modules and lecturers, don’t forget to look outside the curriculum to find other opportunities. Two years is quite a short time frame to achieve big things!

My only regret from the MBA is that I didn’t seek out those opportunities even sooner.  Starting the course is such an overwhelming experience – learning to deal with the teams, assignments and exams.

In year 2, once I kick-started my start-up idea, the various MBA structures were a huge asset. Michael McDonnell brought me the UCD Student Innovation Fund (which we subsequently won!), Brian Marrinan connected me with MasterCard’s start-up accelerator which was invaluable and Bruce Martin, entrepreneurship lecturer, supported me to refine iSave’s value proposition even though I wasn’t in his class!

This has all been key to our success in winning seed funding, acceptance to the Ignite programme and now a potential spot at The Summit’s APLHA programme for start-ups.

So whatever your goal: take the knock-backs in your stride, seek out people who believe in your idea and can help and don’t waste any of the resources that are available to you. If you have an idea you want to pursue this is probably the best time in your life to do it. It’ll all be over before you know it!

Ciara O’Brien, EMBA 2014 and Founder of iSave.

MBA Alumnus Awarded ‘Business Woman of the Year 2014’ at Network Ireland Dublin Awards

MBA graduate Mouna Kenazoui, the CEO and Founder of leading Irish recruitment agency Martinsen Mayer, has received this year’s ‘Business Woman of the Year (New Business)’ award, at the Network Ireland, Dublin Awards which were held on June 27th. Mouna graduated from the full-time MBA programme in 2010.

Mouna, who established Martinsen Mayer just last year, secured the win against strong competition from a host of entrants in the category. In a ceremony that took place in Dublin’s Marker Hotel, judges pointed out that Mouna was “an entrepreneur to watch with a strong vision for her company, she has a growth plan and isn’t putting up any barriers to corporate and personal success.”


Continue reading MBA Alumnus Awarded ‘Business Woman of the Year 2014’ at Network Ireland Dublin Awards

Well done to Ian Nolan on his success at LaunchPad

Recent EMBA graduate, Ian Nolan (2013), has won the NDRC’s LaunchPad 9 with his start-up, Legalshine.  Legalshine was one of 10 start-ups selected to take part last February.  It concluded last week at the pitching event called Lift-Off.  Ian’s pitch beat off all other contenders on the evening to win the overall prize of €30,000 in follow-on investment for future growth and development.

Legalshine has developed software for large organisations to control their legal costs. It takes data from legal bills around the organisation, understands the text, and uses benchmarking and analytics to eliminate waste.  Governments, Banks, Insurance Companies and Multinationals are the target market and Legalshine has already won new business.

Ian is the second major entrepreneurial winner this year joining current EMBA participant, Ciara O’Brien, who won the inaugural UCD Student Innovation Fund for 2014.

Time to think …

There is an element of the MBA experience that gets lost in the noise of commentary on hours, deadlines, hand ins and team meetings. The full time MBA gives you back some time in your life to think. To think about what you want to do, to think about what you have done and to think about what makes you tick. Any perspective student should know the amount of hours required on the MBA programme is a often overhyped. MBA graduates you will meet remember the pinch situations where they had to work until the wee small hours of the morning for three nights in a row, or they remember a chronic three week period in semester 1 where they had 5 projects hanging over them. But the reality of the situation is that this is the exception rather than the rule. There is a steady flow of work that (if you keep on top of) is eminently manageable. The MBA experience gives you more time out then your current career. It is NOT like having a fulltime job and there IS an element of reliving that college experience where you used to have time to think, chat and pursue some new interests and side projects.

As an entrepreneur I find this time invaluable. In the “real world” It’s hard to get time to think about new business ideas and exciting innovations. In the MBA bubble you can find that time again and more importantly, when you do find that time you are far better equipped to turn day dreams into realities should you choose to do so. You start refining your ideas from the minute they pop into your head, what are the barriers to entry? Is it an attractive Industry structure? What is the value proposition? How easily would this be imitated? Do you have access to resources required? It also helps that you now have 35 new people in your life that you can bounce ideas off and develop some thoughts you have had on your career, or a business idea or even a further course of study after the MBA (God forbid!).

So don’t let talk of “surviving the MBA”, the “divorce course” and “say goodbye to your family for a year” influence your decision complete an MBA. It is challenging but doable, and if you are at a bit of a crossroads in life, the programme will give you the time and resources to figure out the grand plan for you. That plan will change daily by the way but at least you will be thinking about it….

Trevor Whelan

Full-time MBA 2014


EMBA year 2 entrepreneur wins grant from the UCD Student Innovation Fund

Congratulations to Ciara O’Brien of the EMBA Weekend year 2 class who won a €5,000 grant on March 27th from the inaugural competition for funds from the  UCD Student Innovation Fund to assist with funding her Start-Up, “iSave”.

Ciara’s winning pitch, iSave, is for a new online/mobile product which enables consumers to manage multiple savings targets via a single interface. The product is aimed specifically at the 18 – 35 demographic as these consumers have lost faith in mainstream banks and are looking for more contemporary, flexible ways to manage their finances. Working with the Credit Unions of Ireland, it was found that there is a significant opportunity to partner on this – they are looking for new ways to connect with younger savers, bringing their core values into a more contemporary setting. The UCD Student Innovation Grant will now be used to build a beta launch version of the product to share with a number of Credit Unions.

The UCD Student Innovation Fund in partnership with UCD Students’ Union (SU) awarded a combined sum of €15,500 to student-run Start-Ups, as part of a new initiative by UCD to invest in student entrepreneurs.

The panel of judges heard pitches from 33 Start-Ups in total and following delegation decided to allocate specific sums of funding to the ideas they felt deserved the backing.

A special word of thanks to Bruce Martin who has been a key support to Ciara in winning this prize.



Ciara triumphant




Taking action is really the key in getting that job.

After the rush of adrenaline while on the UCD Smurfit MBA, Playing Grownup (my post MBA start-up), and the UCD Smurfit Student of the Year award, it was difficult to switch into job hunting mode.   I made all the rookie mistakes starting out- applying for random jobs online, sitting in front of a computer rather than actively networking. Fortunately the wisdom of the UCD MBA and Brian’s preaching on networking allowed the light bulb to go off thinking back to his tennis swing analogy and doing something you love hitting that sweet spot on the racket and swinging without thinking all led me in a better direction.

First, I reached out to a local non-profit called DurhamCares to help them with a project interviewing businesses and using readings from the MBA to help them create a framework. This started to get me in front of local business leaders and build up a local reference from the non-profit who actually got me an interview with a local company that I declined because I had another offer from CrossComm. I went from getting no responses to multiple offers all starting from this decision to get involved in a cause that I loved and could add value so that started the momentum.

I learned about CrossComm through Amy, my better half, who did some part time book-keeping for them and before I knew it I received a job description for a Chief Business Development Officer position for this small  mobile app development company. The reason I think this will be of interest to the current class is that instead of creating a standard cover letter I submitted a 100 Day Plan. It impressed the CEO enough to hire me and made me more confident it would be the right fit having taken the extra time to present my ideas for the role and what I would try to accomplish in my first three months. And to wrap the story up with a bow – my first marketing sponsorship was with DurhamCares non-profit in a campaign they are doing locally so getting involved and taking action is really the key!

Justin Thomas, FT MBA 2012.



UCD Smurfit MBA Entrepreneurship Club kicks off a new season in Google HQ.

The UCD Smurfit Entrepreneurship Club put together an introductory event on 8 October. Over 35 current and recent MBA participants attended. The event was hosted at the Google Docks building on Barrow Street with an incredible line-up of speakers and club member who stepped up to make it happen. When you see them, thank these incredibly generous individuals who provided the substance to the event and helped to coordinate everyone and everything on a VERY short timeline.

One of our own, Mathilde Miravete EMBA 2015, did a fantastic job securing Google as the venue and also MC’d the panel. Michael Culligan pulled double duty on the panel, providing an introductory overview and discussing the types and availability of funds in Dublin. Eamonn Sayers provided an overview of the Incubator environment at the Guinness Enterprise Centre (GEC), discussing the benefits of close working environment for entrepreneurs. Our NDRC representative, Gary Leyden, discussed his LaunchPad programme and that an Accelerator slightly differs from an Incubator by focusing on projects closer to viable start-up status. individuals who provided the substance to the event and helped to coordinate everyone and everything on a VERY short timeline.

Bringing social responsibility to the discussion was Darren Ryan from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI). He gave us an overview of how SEI is working to make a difference through entrepreneurs and redefining success by social impact. Brendan Cremen provided an academic supported Incubator at NovaUCD, which leverages the school’s researchers, leaders, and investors.

Our attendees found the event an incredibly useful introduction to the entrepreneur landscape. Pawel Ostropolski enjoyed that a “broad range of the entrepreneurship landscape” was covered from physical products, to IT solutions, and process change through social process reform ideas. Sundar Balasubramani enjoyed the chance to meet and network with Gary and Eamonn. David Keirnan found that “The discussions outlinedpractical steps to take a business concept to reality. Advice on the do’s and do not’s for start-up enterprises was given by highly experienced people working in the field.”

Being Google, we also got some swag in the form of stickers, diary pads, and pens. After the formal Q&A everyone enjoyed canapés with wine kindly sponsored by the MBA Office.

In all, a great introductory event that provided everyone a feel for some of the major players in the Entrepreneur scene in Dublin in such a beautiful setting overlooking Dublin city from Google headquarters.

The next meeting of UCD Entrepreneurship Club is scheduled for 31 October at 7:30p in the Pillar Room.


Pete Kloehn,  MBA Entrepreneurship Club Chair 2013-14.

FTMBA 2014.

Bizworld comes on campus to run their first summer camp.

UCD Smurfit hosted a unique entrepreneurial summer camp onsite last week in conjunction with the UCD Smurfit MBA.  Children aged between 7 and 11 were brought through the entire entrepreneurial cycle from company formation, applying for jobs in their newly set-up companies to conducting market research. Members of the UCD Smurfit MBA, both students and staff, visited the camp and participated in the market research and also acted as venture capitalists while children pitched their ideas in return for seed capital (BizEuros) for their business idea.

The children’s companies designed, produced, marketed and sold their unique product. In Bizworld’s case, it is a short animated movie. It culminated in parents and students visiting the ‘box office’ to view the marketing campaigns and purchase tickets for the desired movie on the final day of the week-long workshop. Children balanced the books and kept ledgers during the entire process.

Bizworld Ireland is a group of educators and business people who have come together to inspire and empower children aged 10-13 to learn about money management, critical thinking and enterprise in a fun and creative way.

Bizworld sows the seeds so children can grow their future….and the UCD Smurfit MBA is delighted to be involved!

For other stories on our involvement with Bizworld, please click here.



Michael McDonnell, MBA Programme Manager.

Alum Dave Byrne uses UCD Smurfit MBA as platform to set up “Buzzoo”.

The June 2013 Business eConnect magazine (official e-zine for UCD Business Alumni) features one of the FT MBA ’12 students…

In Profile: Dave Byrne FT MBA ’12

Taking a year out to do a full-time MBA helped fill in the gaps in Dave Byrne’s (MBA 12) business knowledge and gave him the space to come up with the idea for and set up his online music technology company Buzzoo. For Byrne, the company – a social music service for bars and retailers that play background music – is the perfect combination of his dual interests in technology and business.

Byrne’s primary degree was a bachelor of science in computer applications in DCU, which he graduated from in 2001. “That really sparked an interest in technology for me,” he says. “Ireland had become a major player in IT so it was an exciting degree to be studying at the time.”

After graduating, he joined PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as a management consultant. “It sounded like it would be an interesting job and the graduate induction programme involved a three-month training programme in Florida. It was a fantastic experience and a great way to kick off my career in consulting.”

He spent two years with PwC, before the consulting arm was bought out by IBM. After two years with IBM, he moved on to Accenture for the next six years. “I had the opportunity to work with some really talented people over the years and to learn a huge amount from them,” he says. “I saw consulting as ideal for my early career because it allowed me to work across a vast array of projects in a variety of roles. Every project started as a bit of a trial by fire but you quickly adapt. I always viewed them as very good learning opportunities and the constant challenge and change kept the work very interesting.

“Consulting really teaches you to figure out how things currently work and how they can be improved. That’s the basis of most of the projects. The work brought me to some interesting locations like Arizona and South Africa.

“Consulting can be pretty demanding so I took a six-month career break in 2008 to travel around the world with my wife. It was a once in a lifetime experience and really helped to recharge the batteries.”

While technology consulting offered a good mix of technology and business, he felt there was a lot he still needed to learn. “I’d always wanted to do an MBA to fill in the gaps in my business knowledge, to learn about things like strategy, marketing, accounting and entrepreneurship. The MBA at UCD Smurfit has a great reputation so I was thrilled to get a chance to do it. I guess it was a difficult decision to leave a very good job at a very good company but I’m glad I did.”

That decision was helped by the fact that he was awarded a full scholarship. “I was on the fence up until then. I decided to go for the full-time programme to really throw myself into it and get the most out of it.”

He describes the experience of taking a year out to go back to college after 10 years of working as refreshing. “It opened up a lot of opportunity outside of what I’d done previously. I think the MBA really helps you to think about business at a higher level, to think more strategically and have more of a commercial focus. It’s a great way to look at opportunities outside the area you have worked in to date and maybe to bridge into a different career in a different area. As a learning experience, I would say it’s second to none and I think anyone in a professional career is really lucky if they can get the chance to do an MBA.

He came into the programme without definite plans around his future direction. “I was quite open. I knew that as part of the MBA I needed to spend the year exploring the opportunities and trying to figure out what it was I was going to do afterwards.

“I’ve always felt I like to work with business and technology, which is quite a broad scope so I was looking for something that would marry those two together.”

Beginning Buzzoo

The idea for Buzzoo came to him during the year. “One day we were in a bar complaining about the music that was playing in the background. I noticed that we had our smartphones on the table in front of us and suddenly wondered if we could solve this problem with our smartphones.”

The solution itself is aimed at any business that plays background music, including bars, restaurants and retail. “It enables everyone on the premises to control the music by using their smartphone,” says Byrne. “It’s like moving the jukebox onto the smartphone so that the crowd becomes the DJ.  You can vote up the tracks you like and vote down the ones you don’t like.” The product as it is now includes an admin application that allows venues to schedule and play music from any location, while a smartphone app allows visitors to influence the playlist.

Byrne asked two of his fellow MBA classmates to come on board and, as part of the entrepreneurship module, the three developed a business plan which ended up winning the UCD business plan competition for 2012.

Byrne says that new job opportunities that came up during the course of the year made it a tough decision to launch the start-up after the MBA. “It was a bit of a risky decision, but the challenge and the excitement of it was too much to resist,” he says.

After graduation, Buzzoo was accepted onto the National Research Centre Launchpad Accelerator programme. “The programme provides investment and mentorship to help early stage digital technology companies to get their business off the ground. They’ve a top team of mentors and you’re surrounded by likeminded people going through the same process.”

Over the last year, Buzzoo has also received EnterpriseIreland support and been accepted onto and completed the Irish Times Fusion programme. In January 2013, it was selected as a finalist in the Best Irish Startup category at the Europa Awards. Most recently, the company won bronze in the Food & Drink Entrepreneurial Startup of the Year category at the Startup Awards 2013.

“We’ve built out a really solid team,” says Byrne. “We’ve built the minimum viable product and we have some great partners and customers lined up.”

Alpha-testing has now been carried out in a couple of bars in Dublin and a commercial launch is planned in the next couple of months. “We’re looking at Ireland as a bit of a testbed and the hope is that we can go to a couple of key reference sites in Ireland and then start looking at overseas markets. We’re working with a big drinks company on a proposal that would see a fully branded version for one of their products rolled out in 10 bars on a pilot. So we have the ability to offer a fully branded version of the application as well.”

Future developments of the product may include integrating video, he adds.

Outside influences

Byrne says that learning has always been a key driver for him and that he has learned the most from the people he has worked with. “My family is also a big influence on me. I’ve a great wife and I’ve two fantastic girls and they’re very important to me. Between my family and some of the guys I’ve worked with, they would be the key influences rather than a public celebrity.”

His advice for anyone considering starting a business is not to be afraid of taking risks and to give new things a shot. “If you fail, it’s no big deal. You’ll still learn from it. Sometimes the things that scare you the most are the things that are most worth doing.

“With regard to starting a new business, the first thing to do would be to talk to lots of potential customers and sketch out a one-page overview of the business using a business model canvas. Get advice from people in the know, figure out what gaps you have, build a strong team and go for it.

“I think it’s important to be as lean as possible so you can give yourself as long a runway as possible. And I think you need to experiment and be prepared to pivot the business as required.

“I’ve no idea what the future will bring but that keeps things interesting I guess. As long as I’m doing something that has a focus on business and technology I’ll be happy.”

More about Dave’s experiences on the MBA Programme

FT MBA 2011 alum, Brandon Chatreau, and Canadian start-up Dashbook

FT MBA 2011 alumn, Brandon Chatreau and Canadian start-up Dashbook which just graduated from from Montreal accelerator FounderFuel is featured today on Venture Beat – Congratulations Brandon!!

MONTREAL — What if you could take Flipboard, Pulse, or Google Now and platformize it?

That’s exactly the question Dashbook, a 12-week-old startup graduating today from Montreal accelerator FounderFuel recently asked. Very recently, apparently.

“The world is bigger than Google now,” co-founder Brandon Chatreau told me this morning. “And it’s more open.”

The premise behind apps like Flipboard and Pulse is aggregation of all the information you care about from social sites and media, and presentation in a beautiful, integrated app. Google Now takes a similar concept — bringing key information together — and takes a more task and local-oriented tack, bring you weather, appointments, news, and traffic information.

Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2013/07/11/dashbook-take-flipboard-or-google-now-and-make-a-platform-out-of-data/#LsJlLXVsDsL8zRxp.99