Cork entrepreneur: Dream big and keep your feet on the ground

MD of QuickMinutes.com, Knocknaheeny native Danny O’Donovan — a graduate of the IGNITE programme at UCC, which nurtures startups from concept to commercial reality — believes Cork’s northside is a potential hotbed of entrepreneurial spirit
Cork entrepreneur: Dream big and keep your feet on the ground
Danny O'Donovan of QuickMinutes.com, took part in the IGNITE programme, UCCPic: Brian Lougheed

MD of QuickMinutes.com, Knocknaheeny native Danny O’Donovan — a graduate of the IGNITE programme at UCC, which nurtures startups from concept to commercial reality — believes Cork’s northside is a potential hotbed of entrepreneurial spirit

GROWING up in the northside of Cork city is what I would consider to be one of the greatest starts in life. A humble, loving community built upon loyalty, respect and hard-work.

Yet when you arrive at other segments of society, third level, the workforce, etc, you are exposed to a different perception of life on the northside of the River Lee.

Corkonians have become accustomed to the rhetoric that there is something disadvantageous about growing up or simply living in the northside. One of which couldn’t be further from the truth, if you just dig a little deeper. Certainly, on the surface, the number of disadvantaged schools are greater, as well as having a lower average of secondary school graduates who go on to third level education. But statistics are just that, statistics and I am on a mission to encourage young people to realise that they are more than just a statistic.

For over five years now, I have run my own software company QuickMinutes.com — a software as a service business, which is not only revolutionising the operational management of committees and meetings, but is also having a positive impact on the environment through facilitating paperless meetings, with customers across Ireland and the US, we are reaping the rewards of our hard work.

To me, this is simply a product of my upbringing and family values. Striving for the best, with a consistent effort to remain patient in the face of many obstacles.The truth is that adversity breeds a stronger mindset, which makes an individual capable of taking on maximal challenges, whilst maintaining a humble outlook, this also is the case for so many of my fellow Northsiders.

Danny O'Donovan of QuickMinutes.com who participated in the IGNITE programme, UCCPic: Brian Lougheed
Danny O'Donovan of QuickMinutes.com who participated in the IGNITE programme, UCCPic: Brian Lougheed

Take for example, my co-founder Martin Bullman who is also from the northside of the city. Martin faced the seemingly insurmountable task of picking up the pieces after having to wind up his scaffolding business during the last economic downturn. But adapting to the challenge at hand, Martin decided to shift gears and study computer science as a mature student in University College Cork (UCC). Through the years of hard work, dedication and a perpetual willingness to learn, Martin is hands down one of top 10 developers in the country, and is the key to the ever-growing success of our company.

Cork as on whole is a very encouraging place to start a business with various supports in place through CIT, UCC, Cork City LEO and well-versed advisors who are quite active in the business community.

I first started my journey in the CIT Rubicon, I then progressed on through the IGNITE program in UCC. Here we received office space, access to a network of other start-up businesses and expert mentorship along the way. We also formed some very valuable business development links during our time in IGNITE which paved the way for an early customer in the UCC College of Medicine & Health.

The latest round of applications for third-level graduates to apply to the IGNITE at UCC programme is underway. I would encourage any third-level graduate with a startup idea to apply before the February 14 deadline.

On a more macro level, Cork is certainly a city which is growing exponentially. We have 10 of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies located here, as well as being leaders in the food and beverage, manufacturing and cybersecurity spaces. We are also pegged to be the fastest growing country under the Government’s Project Ireland 2020 initiative. What does this mean to the average Corkonian? It means a whole host of opportunities to innovate within an increasingly prosperous city.

To my fellow northsiders, I would say that you have a distinct advantage. There is a certain edge to growing up in the northside which is not to be underestimated in business. If you are willing to work hard, be clear in your goals and be unforgiving in chasing them then you have no limits.

An added string to the bow for me in my journey was travelling. I completed my college placement in California, where I was exposed to a different way of thinking. A melting-pot with liberal leanings brings about a culture founded on individualism and free thinking. This leads to some of the most innovative companies in the world coming from this region. I believe I took some of that home with me, and combined with my northside roots, it allowed me to dream big, whilst keeping my feet firmly on the ground.

The truth is that there will always be inequalities in the world. It is the simple matter of human existence. Don’t look at a glass and wonder if it’s half full or half empty because by the time you’re done thinking about it, you might have just filled it up. If you look at many successful entrepreneurs the world over, they are absolute anomalies in every way, whether it be their way of thinking,or their backgrounds. Your diversity makes you just that — diverse. An individual capable of leaving your own unique impact on the world.

The people of the northside of Cork city are capable of great achievements. Drawing from the example set by many others before us presents an opportunity to increase the total number of high achievers coming from the area. Fundamentally this comes down to investment but mostly encouragement, so that we can give every citizen of our city the best opportunity to excel, regardless of which side of the river they were raised.

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