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DIT Hothouse showcase the next generation of entrepreneurs

Posted: 21 September, 2017

Over the summer months, six exceptionally talented young entrepreneurs completed, I-Cubed, a three-month Incubator programme for student startups designed by DIT Hothouse to nurture young innovators helping them to turn early-stage concepts into pitch-ready businesses.

Left to right - Professor Brian O'Neill, DIT; Neal O’Gorman, Leader of I-Cubed at DIT Hothouse; Brendan O’Neill (Leeg); Micheál Slattery (F-SaaS); Helen O’Shea (Makes the Grade); Darragh Hughes (HappyHaler); Michael Keane & Cathal Mac Reamoinn (ReFocus Technologies).

Five business ideas were presented during the I-Cubed 2017 showcase to a group of distinguished guests from the research, business and academic world.

I-Cubed leader and Director of the Dublin chapter of the Founder Institute, Neal O’Gorman, explains why the startup programme is so valuable, “This programme is a wonderful opportunity for students to explore the commercial viability of their college project. Participants receive equity-free-funds to work on their projects and attend diverse workshops and mentoring sessions focusing on areas, such as methodologies for validating ideas, assessing their personal strengths and weaknesses and understanding the relevance of their core story when it comes to pitching their startup.”

DIT Hothouse Incubation Centre Manager, Bernadette O’Reilly agrees, “I-Cubed is in its second year and offers students a unique startup experience with a small group size that ensures each participant gets a powerful package of supports over a three-month intensive programme. And you can see how this concentrated approach has paid off with this year’s group of exceptional student businesses.” 

This year’s winner of the I-Cubed Start Up Award was Darragh Hughes with his design the HappyHaler, a child-friendly asthmatic spacer. An asthmatic himself, Darragh says the inspiration came from childhood memories of how terrifying conventional products were, so he designed the innovative product for his final year project in Product Design at DIT. Speaking at the I-Cubed Start up Award ceremony, Darragh says, “Before I started this programme, I knew HappyHaler was a great business idea, but I didn’t know how to get out there and start talking to people about it. I-Cubed allowed me to get to the core of my story and get investors as excited as I am about HappyHaler.”

Darren Hughes of HappyHaler

Other participants in this year’s I-Cubed showcase were Michael Deane and Cathal Mac Reamoinn, founders of ReFocus Technologies, a company that has designed a system for cinematographers, which eliminates the need for a two-person camera team whilst allowing filmmakers to create shots not previously possible with solo work. Joining Michael and Cathal was Micheál Slattery, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of F-SaaS, a company providing a software solution for restaurants, bars, and pubs to help them keep track of employee food safety.

                         Michael Deane & Cathal Mac Reamoinn           Micheál Slattery with Prof. Brian O'Neill

Another food business idea presented at the event was by Helen O’Shea, Founder of Makes the Grade, a startup turning surplus apples and carrots into a tasty marmalade named Caroola. A young entrepreneur also hoping to make the grade, but in the sporting world, was Brendan O’Neill, Co-Founder of Leeg, an app designed to help manage sports leagues and scoring tables.

                                Helen O'Shea with Prof. Brian O'Neill                          Brendan O'Neill

Commenting on the final showcase Neal said, “All our I-Cubed participants have made significant progress. Watching their final presentations was a testament to the fact that they're continuing to push beyond their own perceived limits, they're getting out of their comfort zones and are striving to reach their true potential to achieve success for the businesses they so passionately believe in. It's that passion, along with grit, determination and a continued willingness to learn from others which will help them succeed.”

Applications for the 2018 I-Cubed Incubator programme for student startups are now open. For more information visit