Irish Startup Founders embracing their Dyslexia

10 percent or 450,000 Irish people are said to have Dyslexia. Young people with Dyslexia are often given international examples of people like Richard Branson or Jamie Oliver who are successful business people with Dyslexia. However, there are plenty of examples of Dyslexic Irish business people who have started their own start-ups or small businesses. Here are just some of the examples:

Graham Brocklebank – CEO of PEER Technologies

Having struggled in the education system Graham returned to education later in life to study computer science. He realised that the assistive technologies offered to people with Dyslexia were the exact same as the ones offer to him 10 years earlier; and they were all frustrating to use. Graham developed his own text-speech mobile app to help him with his studies. That was the origin of Peer. Since then he has developed the platform to help all different types of neurodiversity, through speech to text software. Graham previously, was on the New Frontiers Program in association when Enterprise Ireland and now is on the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland – Impact Programme and recently awarded €20,000 investment from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

Bobby Byrne – CEO of The Sensory Pod

Bobby built sensorypod.ie a sleep and wellness pod for people on the autistic spectrum. Dyslexic himself, Bobby told ASIAM “The first pod was built for my son (who is dyspraxic): I wasn’t thinking about it in a business sense until I got parents messaging me. I struggle academically myself; I’m dyslexic and I use dictation programmes to help write emails, so I’m a firm believer in inclusiveness” We developed the first autism friendly university in the world , Bobby spoke to us saying “We just finished fit outs of sensory spaces at expo2020 in Dubai and are in the process finishing the new Etihad terminal in Dubai, My company operates in seven countries and 12 cities worldwide all exporting from our factory on Airton road in Tallaght . We fitted out over 400 inclusive spaces in 2020 also”.

Seán Fay – CEO of The Context Factory

Currently the founder of The Context Factory a Dublin based start-up making inclusion technology with a focus on ethical machine learning for more ‘just’ hiring. Prior to working in tech he was the was a career recruiter, from agency recruiter to founder of Mayfair based search firm focused on management / strategy consulting, in addition to roles inhouse such as head of IT recruitment at Vodafone UK. TCF are actively looking for companies to partner with them in relation to how technology can better nurture talent in an increasingly virtual work world. Their focus on this for ‘ND’ minds is called #NeuroAdvantage.

Robert James Gabriel – CEO of Helperbird

Having been diagnosed with Dyslexia at the age of 16, Robert qualified as a software engineer. While working at Teamworks, Robert developed Helperbird. The website states “Providing you text to speech, ad removal, Dyslexia support, dictation, immersive reader, overlays, reader mode, and more”. As of October 2020 Helperbird supports 320,000 weekly users hailing from over 110 countries.

Marcus Hunter – CEO of The U-Can Network

Leaving school with no qualifications – as a result of severe dyslexia and bullying, Marcus works as a global communications facilitator expert and leadership development mentor across a variety of sectors. He enjoyed an award winning 7-year career in the BBC both in front and behind the mic. Marcus has a 21-year career as a Drag Queen. With his work being impacted by Covid-19 Marcus created the The U=Can Network. Saying “it is here to help with a supportive safety net to guide, nobody should ever not reach there dreams, because of, age, race, grammar/spelling, tec confusions or funds!”  So far The U=Can Network as help close to 600 lives globally and its still in its 1st year” Marcus is finishing of a manuscript for his 1st novel ‘MINE!’ by reading his handwritten manuscript into word dictate and a little help from Alexa, who is his spelling PA, he really welcomes any one to reach out and say hi form anywhere in the world on any time zone and grab a zoom coffee, his philosophy is a stranger is only a friend you haven’t met!  

Nicola James – Founder of Lexxic

Chartered Psychologist Nicola established Lexxic in 2007, to work with public and private sector organisations to help them better understand Dyslexia and neurodiverse conditions in order to get the best out of their employees

Gearoid Kearney – CEO of Discoverspaces.ie 

CEO of Discover Spaces Neurodiversity advocate, Gearoid Kearney openly speaks about his Dyslexia and Addison’s disease which has directly led to him co-founding businesses intended to make the workplace better for neurodiverse people.

Andrew Keogh – CEO of Aristo

Andrew is an International Speaker and Speakers’ Coach with over 20 years’ experience in the area of Business Coaching and Personal Development. He recently wrote a blog about how his Dyslexia influences his writing style and how English changes with cultural and language differences, which makes it even more confusing!

Brendan Morrissey – CEO of iDyslexic

A serial entrepreneur, Brendan started out in music and then became a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 investments currently. Once his son Ben was diagnosed with Dyslexia, Brendan realised that he was dyslexic as well. Ben felt like he was the only one he knew with the condition so Brendan built iDyslexic a social network for people with Dyslexia to prove to him that he wasn’t.

James Northridge, CEO of UrAbility.com

Having struggled in school because of his Dyslexia, James dropped out of university. However years later he went back and got a degree in business and a masters in disability studies. Since then he went to Marie Curie Fellowship in Umass medical school in Boston. He created Urability in an effort to empower people with Dyslexia to improve their education with assistive technology. They now have assistive technology, workshops, summer camps and online tutorials for those with the condition.

Ross O’Neill – CEO of KaraHousewares 

Having left school at sixteen due to his Dyslexia, Ross went to work for The K Golf Club for five years. Having spent time travelling the world, Ross set up Kara Housewares for international premium brands in the Irish houseware market and R-GON Customer Insights which measures customer and brand satisfaction for businesses. Both businesses are now highly successful in their fields. 

Jayne Ronayne – CEO of Trailvest

CEO and co-founder of successful analytical firm Trailvest, Jayne stated “I worked out that being dyslexic doesn’t mean I can’t learn – it just means I learn differently. Dyslexia gave me the ability to look outside the box and in many ways I believe that a massive part of where I am today has been down to thinking differently. And knowing, and more importantly understanding, that sometimes unexpected bumps can occur along the way to your destination”

Carlene Jackson – CEO of  Cloud9 Insight 

Carlene’s company has provided more than 700 UK businesses with cloud-based CRM software systems. Carlene said of her Dyslexia “Many people think Dyslexia is all about word blindness or being unable to read. But I can read and write pretty well. I passed all of my exams before leaving school – including maths and English. Dyslexia affects how the brain processes information — we tend to need more time. So, for me, things like remembering names and faces take a huge amount of effort and is something that I really struggle with.”  Having started out in catering, she tried to become an air traffic controller but failed the final test of telling left from right.

Matthew Toman – CEO of BankHouse Productions

Having left school at 16 due to his Dyslexia Matthew became a tradesman installing  air conditioning and refrigeration. He was successful in the area and opened a number of businesses and bought a house. But the 2008 recession hit Matthew hard and he lost all of the businesses and the house. Being unemployed, he started interning in a production company. He then opened his own production company BankHouse Productions. The multi-award winning production company now specialises in documentaries such as The Homeless World Cup

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