Disruptive Innovation Talk: When not playing by the rules is a good thing!

L-R: Ciaran O'Shea, Fintan McGovern, Aileen Butler, Bryan Hickson, Vincent Cooney, Kieran Harte, Pooja Dey, Sreekanth Nagabhushana
L-R: Ciaran O’Shea, Fintan McGovern, Aileen Butler, Bryan Hickson, Vincent Cooney, Kieran Harte, Pooja Dey, Sreekanth Nagabhushana

On Wednesday 17th of February the Smurfit MBA Thought Leadership Club hosted a talk on Disruptive Innovation to provide students a better view of current disruptive trends and how they shape the fourth industrial revolution that is arguably well underway. Three distinguished industry leaders addressed the audience: Bryan Hickson, Senior Manager, IT Advisory at EY, Kieran Harte, General Manager, Marketing at Uber, and Fintan McGovern, CEO, Firmwave (Smurfit Exec.MBA, 2012). They provided valuable insight on how they felt the industry was shaping up to the changing economic landscape, what they were doing to ensure their firms remained at the leading edge of the innovation curve, and what the future has in store. Two current students, Ciarán O’Shea (Exec.MBA 2017), and Sreekanth Nagabhushana (Full-time MBA 2016) welcomed speakers, hosted the evening, and facilitated a lively panel discussion and Q&A.

Bryan Hickson from EY kicked things off by talking about cloud computing initiatives in his organisation and how the cloud was creating lean and agile software architecture, and compressing solution delivery lead-times from months to weeks. As a techie myself, I had expected Bryan to extol the virtues of cloud computing and how it is going to be the way of the future, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him provide a reasoned argument about how the cloud computing needs vary based on system and security requirements, and I wasn’t aware of the regulatory challenges associated with going ‘cloud only’. It is not often that I hear consultants provide such a balanced view without championing the current trend ruling the industry; Bryan’s impartiality really increased his credibility and the effectiveness of his talk.

Kieran Harte told us the story about how two friends were able to turn a language barrier in a foreign city into a $60 billion business. His savvy and eloquent presentation about the origin of Uber in Paris, and the true purpose of Uber—to increase car utilisation from an average of 4%, and to ultimately make personal vehicles obsolete had the audience enthralled. Kieran claimed that Uber were not disrupting the taxi market, they were creating a more flexible public transport system, especially in markets with unreliable or undeveloped public transport services. He also pointed out that the shared economy business model will change the way people work and think about business, which was definitely a point to ponder for future executives and budding entrepreneurs in the audience.

Our final speaker for the evening, Fintan McGovern is yet another success story from the Smurfit MBA. Having completed his MBA in 2012,  Fintan spoke about globe-hopping post-MBA, including stops in Mozambique and St.Lucia before starting his own venture in Dublin. Today Firmwave is going strong and is growing from strength to strength in the ‘Internet of things’ space and shortening development by enabling rapid prototyping. Fintan spoke at length about his company’s vision and mission, and how by ‘sitting on the edge of cloud’ and engaging in ‘edge analytics’ they are helping clients increase their competitiveness. The talk was inspiring for students who want to beat their own path after completing their degrees.

After the presentations guests engaged in a lively and interactive panel discussion and Q&A with an engaged audience. The impact of regulation was a recurring theme. Kieran spoke further about Uber’s plans for the future and regulatory challenges Uber has faced in Ireland, and about the looming threat posed to its service by copycats and driverless cars. Bryan spoke further about how organisations could leverage cloud computing technology to make software development a much faster and agile process. Ultimately, all speakers highlighted how strategies employed always placed the customer at the centre of solution development and delivery.

We would like to thank all the speakers for taking out time and sharing their knowledge and opinions with us, and we hope the audience can apply some of the inspiring and motivating ideas in the future.

Arka Banerjee & Vincent Cooney ~ Full-Time MBA

AMBA Student of The Year Awards

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Lindsey Nguyen Full-Time MBA 2015, Highly Commended Nominee

As one of the six finalists for the Independent MBA Student of the Year Award, I was invited to attend a face-to-face interview with the Judges on 28 January 2016 at the Association of MBAs (AMBA) offices in London. I was already honoured by the nomination from UCD Smurfit, but it was so exciting to be a finalist as well!

Seriously, after a year on the Full-Time MBA and six months diving head first into the Irish start-ups scene, I never stopped to think about the year! Last week was a great opportunity for me to reflect on everything that I was able to accomplish with my cohort. From re-establishing the Social Outreach Society’s mission and vision, creating and fostering a more collaborative experience, and translating our learning into action that adds value it was a hectic and crazy year that I’d happily do all over again.

So after the intense 30 minutes of interviews, we then attended the MBA Gala & Awards 2015 at The Langham Hotel the following evening. We all had a lovely dinner and great speeches preceded the highly anticipated awards: The Independent MBA Student of the Year Award, MBA Innovation Award, and MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award.

As a quick recap – the purpose of the Gala Dinner is “to recognise the talents and contributions made by accredited schools and their students to the MBA arena and the wider community, AMBA presents three annual awards to outstanding business schools, start-ups with MBA founders and MBA students who represent the true value of accredited MBA programmes.”

It all happened so fast as I was pretty nervous standing there with my fellow nominees who are equally amazing and impressive! Thank you to the Judges, AMBA, and The Independent for their consideration as well as Orla, Michael, and the Smurfit MBA Programme Office for their support! I am very pleased for the recognition as ‘Highly Commended Nominee’ with my fellow runner-ups! Congratulations to ALL finalists!

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Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full-Time MBA Class of 2015

MBA Start-Up – Zeeko – Helping You Protect Your Children Online

Joe Kenny - Founder & CEO Zeeko (Photo Credit: Paul Sherwood)
Joe Kenny – Founder & CEO Zeeko (Photo Credit: Paul Sherwood)

Zeeko empowers parents to educate their children to stay safe online. Joe Kenny (MBA 2013), who, as the father of a young son, sees the internet as a fantastic resource, but one that children need guidance to navigate. Joe was concerned by stories in the media about the negative impact that online chat rooms were having on the lives of young people and felt there had to be a better way. Joe invested his own funds and has since received backing from Enterprise Ireland to set-up Zeeko.

Like all start-ups, they have a small team who are focused on the ultimate goal for Zeeko which is to help protect children as they explore the digital world and to provide parents with peace of mind through education and technology.

Joe had the initial idea for Zeeko when he was studying for his MBA. Initially he thought the solution was a technical solution, but quickly realised the solution had to be through education, essentially turning the business on its head. One of Joe’s motivations for starting this business was to consolidate the formal learning from the MBA with a holistic practical business experience. When ask how his MBA skills had benefited him is his professional life, Joe replied “there is not a day goes by that I do not apply a learning from my MBA, whether it is designing a compensation system for our sales team or what is the key information in our management accounts. The key learning I apply is to seek other peoples’ opinions, as diversity is the foundation for creative solutions that will maximise mutually beneficial outcomes”.

Zeeko currently provide Internet Safety Seminars to children, parents and teachers in primary schools throughout Ireland. They are developing a safe communication app to help parents introduce their kids to online communication. The app allows parents to oversee every person that their child is connected with and every message they send and receive. They have also written a book on internet safety, titled the Zeeko Internet Safety Guide.

On January 4th 2016 Zeeko are launching a crowdfunding campaign to fund the publication of the Zeeko Internet Safety Guide. They are asking people to back their campaign to get a digital copy of the guide into every primary school in Ireland. They need to raise €5,000. Anyone who backs the campaign will receive a reward e.g. €15 pledge receives a printed version of the guide. 

Find out more information at www.zeeko.ie

Follow Zeeko on Facebook

Well done to Joe on this fantastic initiative and best of luck to Zeeko for the future!

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Marketing & Events 

Newstalk SaaS Bootcamp Winners


Dublin Commissioner for Startups, Niamh Bushnell, today announced the participants for their Newstalk Saas Bootcamp.

They were looking for 8-10 scaling companies who had the ambition and the ability to go global fast. They found 11 in total and are taking them all.

The participants are:

Bizimply, Edgescan, Learnupon, WorkCompass, LogoGrab, Legalshine, Pulsate, Initiafy,NewsWhip, Xsellco, Viddyad.


Congratulations to the winners, particularly to our UCD Smurfit MBAs – David Larkin of LogoGrab and Ian Nolan of Legalshine.


Day one is December 9th and they are starting with sessions from some of the best in the business – IntercomQualtrics, and Hubspot. You’ll be able to follow the bootcamp as it happens on saasbootcamp.co.


Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Marketing & Events 

A busy day in Smurfit sharpening the ‘Executive Edge’

We thought things would quieten down here this week as all the current MBAs both full and part time make the most of study week and prepare for their semester 2 exams next week.  Today was busy though with the Schools Executive Education “Executive Edge’ day running on campus and some of the current students are using it as an opportunity to add to their learning experience and do a little networking at the same time.  Trust MBAers to make the most of all opportunities wherever they find them.

Damien McLoughlin holding forth at the Executive Edge day in 2013