Sync NI's People of 2017

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  • Over the past 12 months, the Sync NI team has been fortunate to cross paths with the very best of Northern Ireland’s tech sector. As 2017 draws to a close - and to highlight the work taking place across the local economy - we’ve put compiled a list of just some of the people whom we feel left a big impression on the year that was.

    Nuala McAllister | @Nuala McAllister

    Politically, the year got off to a poor start with the collapse of Stormont in mid-January. The silver lining? Belfast’s  “liberal and inclusive” Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister deftly stepped in to fill the leadership gap. She represented Belfast, and our tech sector, to potential Foreign Direct Investors at a time of considerable uncertainty in the post-Brexit climate.Read our two-part interview with Nuala McAllister here and here.

    Andrew Cunningham | @_andrewaac

    We met few people this year as busy as Andrew. In addition to working for SaltDNA and TheAppBuilder, Andrew found time to study for a Masters In Engineering, co-found an award winning start-up (Evy) and even write for Sync NI. Andrew’s article on the challenges he faced as a gay man in Northern Ireland proved to be one of our most-read (and popular) articles this year. The article also celebrated the support he had received from his co-workers at SaltDNA. Read our Q&A with Andrew in the run-up to this year’s Invent final.

    Nuala Murphy | @nualafmurphy

    Few groups become movements. Those that do tend to have founders willing to gift their considerable energy into mentoring a new generation of leaders. And this is precisely what Nuala Murphy achieved this year at Lean In Belfast - whilst simultaneously launching her own start-up Moment Health. Little wonder that Moment Health, which seeks to protect maternal mental health, attracted advisors of the calibre of Square’s Sarah Friar. Read Mary McKenna’s op-ed article, and interview with Nuala following her fireside chat with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg here.

    Gareth Quinn | @garethjquinn

    Most people would have been content to create and run the juggernaut that is Digital DNA. Yet 2017 saw Gareth Quinn step into the role of Chief Strategy Officer at tech company Beezer whilst Digital DNA also announced plans to expand internationally. Read our coverage of the Belfast Partners trade mission to London featuring Beezer here.


    Dr Helen McCarthy | @PhionTX

    Dr McCarthy’s drug delivery company Phion Therapeutics made a huge impact this year, scooping wins in major competitions such as Invent and Seedcorn.  Yet without Dr McCarthy’s resilience none of this success would have been possible. As she told the audience at Seedcorn, it took more than 50 grant application submissions before one was eventually approved. Now Phion is poised to help revolutionise the way drugs are delivered into the body. Read our Q&A with Dr McCarthy about Phion’s technology here.

    Kris Jones | @krisjones4

    Even the toughest of critics sing the praises of Secure Broadcast CTO Kris Jones. Having used Secure Broadcast’s rapid video broadcast system we too can not speak highly enough of the team that created the tech behind this user-friendly system. Read our previous spotlight on Kris Jones here.

    Deepa Mann-Kler | @deepamann_kler

    Few people manage to pull off one successful career change, fewer still, two. Yet Deepa Mann-Kler has gone from authoring a major post-ceasefire report into racism and exclusionand has exhibited her art around the world. She has also recently launched tech start-up Neon which is developing virtual reality solutions to help people manage chronic pain.

    Seamus Cushley | @seamuscushley

    This year we saw a lot of presentations but nobody quite held the room like Seamus Cushley. An industry-leading expert in his field, Seamus is playing a major role in positioning Belfast as a global hub in fintech technology. Director of Blockchain, Fintech & Digital at PwC, he also leads the company’s Digital Delivery Centre. Formerly senior executive at CyberSource and Bitnet Technologies, Seamus has over 15 years’ experience in fintech. Read Seamus Cushley’s foreword to our summer magazine here.


    Marion Rybnikar |@danskebank_UK

    Danske broke new ground this year by appointing Marion as its first-ever Head of Data. Marion stepped into the role having previously held senior positions at NYSE and Chain Reaction Cycles. In collaboration with QUB, she plans to bring together a team of 10 to 12 data analysts, engineers and scientists to create an optimum operating model for utilising the bank’s data. A WIBNI Excellence in IT award winner, Marion is also an in-demand speaker having contributed to Digital DNA, Big Data Belfast and this year’s Women Tech Makers conference.

    Phil McIntosh | @getairanywhere

    The creator of Jumpack - a portable sports ramp for BMX, Mountain Bike, Snowboard and Stunt Scooters - Phil has applied his innovative mindset to scaling his business… and all without losing any equity in the business. Jumpack has already won over the stars of the extreme sports world and, with an 80-country distribution deal in place, 2018 promises to take the “get air anywhere” founder to still greater heights. Read our interview with Phil McIntosh on his plans for 2018 here.

    Victoria McCallum | @v_mccallum

    Changing careers is tricky. Victoria with humour, honesty and self-depreciation lifted the lid on her own (ultimately very successful) career change and move into tech. Her presentations along with others by fellow career-changers such as BT’s Amanda Tomlinson helped turn an abstract concept into a practical option for many. Read our tech educator’s list featuring Victoria here.

    Andi Jarvis | @andijarvis

    This year saw Andi launch his own digital marketing company, compere at Digital DNA and found Wifi Refugees - a genius creation whereby businesses meet a digital expert at a local coffee house, get some advice and make a donation to a charity engaged with refugees. Read our story on Wifi Refugees here.


    The Co-Founders of THI3TEEN | @rhsyoungenterpriseteam

    No Two Stars Are The Same’ is one of the most beautiful books we have seen in a long time took. Launched with much success at YENI’s Big Market this December, this gem shines a light on the challenges that autistic school-age children face. The team behind the project - 13 pupils from Regent House - also plan to launch an e-book version on Amazon early next year. A portion of the book’s proceeds has been pledged to Autism NI. Read our coverage of YENI’s Big Market event here.

    The Ormeau Baths Co-Founders | @ormeaubaths

    In addition to launching one of our most popular co-working spaces and venues without a penny from the public purse, the four founders of The Ormeau Baths managed to shift the nexus of Belfast’s start-up and tech community within a few short months. Staying true to its roots, the co-founders have ensured that the event space at The Baths can be booked free of charge by local community groups. Read our coverage of the official opening here.

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