Business disruption was the order of the day on Friday as the Marker Hotel played host to the Disruptors conference, a day packed with talks, discussions and workshops for those with businesses or ideas which are set to challenge industries.

“In the eyes of a disruptor, no one company is so essential that it can’t be replaced and no single business model too perfect to upend.”

That’s according to Forbes, and this conference was all about the challengers, those new kids on the block who are shaking up industries with their creativity and innovation, and putting a stick of dynamite under the status quo.

“Your industry is being disrupted. Are you ready?”

That was the question posed by the conference organisers, demonstrating that the day was not just for the disruptors, but also for those established brands and industries which now find themselves becoming disrupted.

There was a host of international speakers and experts on hand with advice on everything from crowdfunding to branding, social media to data driven marketing and lots more in between.

With two stages running throughout the day, it was impossible to see everything on offer, but attendees were sure to find what they needed with such a high calibre of speakers and experts available.

Under the direction of MC Margaret Molloy, the main stage kicked off with panel discussions on ‘Disruptive ecosystems’ and ‘Breaking Billion Dollar Monopolies’, whilst the workshop stage opened with a session on ‘Bootstrapping Silicon Valley Style’.

Claire Lee, Head of Corporate Venturing at Silicon Valley Bank took the stage around mid-morning to give an insider’s view of Silicon Valley. The Bank’s clients are THE Disruptors, boasting such names as Etsy, Twitter, Pinterest, Dropbox and many more. And with claims that 71% would rather go to their dentist than talk to their bank, Claire told us why banking is at the highest risk of disruption, and provided examples from both banking and education.

“Data will be just as critical as relationships in the future” – Claire Lee

Data is the new Bacon - Business Disruptors Conference slide Dublin

Joe Haslam of IE University in Madrid was a personal highlight for me. His talk was all about scale-up, not just start-up. In spite of technical difficulties with his slides, he’s the kind of laid back and straight talking guy that can hold the attention of the room with little effort. He talked about great Irish scalers, and the two different types of people it takes to really scale a business – the hunters, who find the ideas and find the space, and the farmers, who grow it.

His sound advice to Irish businesses was to consider the diaspora for insight, networks and opportunities to scale.

Funding of course had to have a place at the table on a day like this, and there were talks from the very impressive Raomal Perera, Insead Paris Professor and serial entrepreneur, Modwenna Rees-Mogg, Crowdfunding author, and Clay Herbert, Founder of Crowdfundinghacks. Crowdfunding is an area I admit I was uneducated about, so when this triumvirate of industry leaders were holding a crowdfunding workshop in the workshop stage, together with Samantha Kelly, IrishBizParty Founder, I abandoned the main stage to attend.

If you are considering crowdfunding for your business, this workshop was the place to be. Clay Herbert gave tips and advice you may spend years and millions working out for yourself. Modwenna Rees-Mogg demonstrated why she is a highly respected authority in this field, and I’d imagine her book, ‘Crowdfunding: How to Raise Money and Make Money in the Crowd‘ is well worth a purchase. It’s certainly been added to my reading list. Samantha Kelly told of her personal crowdfunding experience and gave tips and advice for small businesses hoping to achieve the same success she has. Raomal Perera joined the crowd in this one, and asked the right questions of the panel to get more valuable advice for those in the room.


Over lunch, I found out what I had missed from the morning sessions. It was all about Ed it seemed – Ed Kavanagh, Founder of Clear Preso Design. His workshop on building the perfect pitch deck seemed to be the highlight of the morning for those who attended. And it felt like every time I turned around, someone had Ed’s business card, not just stuffed into their pocket or amongst a pile of cards, they were taking his card out to show to others, so impressed were they by the tongue in cheek wit and personality. That’s how a business card should work for you – bravo Ed! I did get to speak with someone who had actually worked with Ed and it seems everyone’s a fan of this guy as he couldn’t have recommended him highly enough.

Business Disruptors Conference Better Call Ed


Kelly Hoey, CMO of Curio was another name people were talking about over lunch, this vibrant American had taken the main stage just before the break to talk about creating a hot team, and it went down a treat.

So, after all the Ed loving, a light lunch and some networking, it was back to business.

The afternoon started for me with the main stage’s round table discussion on disrupting regulated industries, with Colm Lyon, CEO of Realex Payments, Joe Haslam of IE Business School, and Evan Burfield, Founder of 1776. In terms of entertainment, this may have given me the most chuckles of the day, with the characters on stage not only telling their own stories and dishing out valuable advice, but also allowing for a bit of banter and more lively discussion to stave off the post lunch lull.

Margaret Molloy, CMO of Siegel & Gale Global gave a talk on Investing in your Brand. Margaret’s take on branding and the power it can harness for your business is one which I whole heartedly agree with, and I preach regularly to clients and business owners. A brand is not just a logo, a name, a strapline, there’s so much more to it, and getting your branding right could make the difference between success and failure. Simplicity was the key message here.

Margaret Molloy Slide on Richard Branson and Branding from BizDisruptors Conference Dublin


Mat Morrison, Social Media Strategy Director for Starcom MediaVest Group was my afternoon highlight. His presentation was entitled “Is the Social Media Free Ride Over?” – short answer was yes. His focus was on the Facebook algorithm changes which have been happening over a period of several months, which means organic reach has been in steady decline for businesses. Mat certainly gets the award for best paraphrasing of the day. When paraphrasing Facebook’s rationale as to why they feel the need to limit what is seen by their users, Mat’s words were,

“Because if we didn’t do this, your newsfeed would be full of shit.”

That’s the nutshell version clearly, but his candour was refreshing.

Mat continued to impress in a discussion on data driven marketing chaired by Margaret Molloy, where she asked the panel to keep answers to 140 characters. In fact, her challenge to summarise data driven marketing today in 3 words allowed Mat to demonstrate more of his frank wit with the response, ‘Shocking Senior Ignorance”.


Mid-afternoon saw me step away from the main stage to attend another workshop – this time, a Twitter Hacks workshop with Samantha Kelly, Founder of IrishBizParty and self-styled Tweeting Goddess. This was a very practical session, where Samantha gave every day tips for those who needed to either start or grow their Twitter presence. And in true Tweeting Goddess style, it turned into an open discussion forum where everyone was contributing freely. It was certainly the most interactive session I attended throughout the day.

Caroline Casey, Founder of Kanchi and Social Entrepreneur was the last of the speakers, and she rounded off the day in fitting style with a powerful and inspiring talk on Pushing Past Limits. Caroline’s Ted Talk is well worth a watch and will give you a sense of what you missed out on at the conference. You only need to check the Twitter feed to see the impact Caroline’s words had:

Twitter Response to BizDisruptors talk by Caroline Casey

And a well deserved standing ovation finished proceedings.

Before I called it a day, I spent a little time finding out about what I missed and meeting some of the speakers and attendees. Kelly Hoey’s name came up again, with her workshop on networking proving popular. I got to meet Kelly and could understand straight away why she’d made such an impression on people – she’s infectiously energetic and captivating, and a lot of fun too.

Paul Hayes, CEO of Beachhut PR was another speaker which seemed to have a memorable impact with those who caught his talk on Guerrilla PR, with tweets such as this from Claire Lee highlighting just how valuable his advice was.

Business Disruptors Conference Tweet about Paul Hayes PR Tips

So it was a day filled with valuable insights into the world of the disruptor, jam packed with advice and stories, and one which will be long remembered. The full line up can be found on the Disruptors site, and if you check out the hashtag #BizDisruptors on Twitter you’ll find lots more feedback and links to some of the presentations on Slideshare. I’ll look forward to seeing the video and refreshing my weary mind. If only it were possible to be in two places at once I could have captured everything on the day. Alas, that could not be, but I’ll certainly be looking out for the next Disruptors event and would recommend you do the same.


Connect with the author:

Aine Bermingham of Utter Digital (@UtterDigital)


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