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Cancer drug innovator is Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur for 2019

Minister Heather Humphreys announces winners of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur Awards

A 34 year old former accountant was named Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) for 2019 at today’s awards ceremony in Dublin. 

Sharon Cunningham, co-founder of Shorla Pharma, who are supported by Local Enterprise Office Tipperary, took home the top award at today’s event after also winning her national category Best Start-Up Business and securing a total investment fund of €40,000

The programme, which is run by the network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) in local authorities nationwide, funded by the Government of Ireland and supported by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and Enterprise Ireland, attracted over 1,600 applicants in 2019 with an investment fund of €2million.  Already through the programme, 186 entrants have secured investments of between €3,000 and €15,000 each. 

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, T.D., made the announcement in front of 360 guests at the IBYE National Final, held at Google’s European Headquarters in Dublin today.

Sharon Cunningham, a Waterford native, started Shorla Pharma with her former EirGen colleague Orlaith Ryan based out of Tipperary.  A qualified chartered account, Cunningham founded Shorla in 2018 after identifying a significant issue in the pharmaceutical industry.  The company focuses on improving existing treatments for children’s and women’s cancers making them more user friendly.  Their first product is the redevelopment of a children’s cancer drug from a difficult to swallow capsule, into an oral solution. 

The other IBYE National Final category winners were Martin O’Reilly of Output Sports (Local Enterprise Office Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown) who won the Best Business Idea category and Sean McGarry of Showergem (Local Enterprise Office Mayo) who won the Best Established Business category. 

Martin O’Reilly’s Output Sports, who are supported by Enterprise Ireland, are working with professional athletes around the world, including Leinster’s Adam Byrne and Kilkenny hurler Cillian Buckley.  They are developing a sensor system that streamlines off-field performance optimisation, testing speed and strength offering unrivalled accuracy in exercise analysis.      

Sean McGarry’s Showergem was an invention borne out of gap in the bathroom fixture market.  Showergem is a shower caddy that attaches to shower walls to hold bottles and razors, using a durable glue that ensures no suction or drilling issues.  A recent participant on BBC’s Dragons’ Den, Sean received investment from three of the Dragons to help their continued growth.  Showergem is also a current Enterprise Ireland client.  

The runners-up in each of the categories were Elizabeth McGloughlin of Tympany Medical (Local Enterprise Office Galway) in the Best Business Idea category, Brendan Maloney of Skillko (Local Enterprise Office Mayo) in the Best Start-Up Business category and Devan Hughes of Buymie (Local Enterprise Office Dublin City) in the Best Established Business category.  The winner of the Google Best Online Promotion of Business Award was Devan Hughes and Buymie.  

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, T.D., said; “Irish entrepreneurs are among the very best in the world. That’s because we have huge talent in every region and community in Ireland. Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur is about celebrating that talent. The €2 million investment by Government in the competition has ensured that 185 entrepreneurs have not only received investment, but also mentoring, advice and peer-to-peer learning.  

“This year’s winners and wider group of finalists are the cream of the crop. They are our future business leaders, and I am delighted that we are celebrating and supporting them through the competition. They are also central to the success of Future Jobs Ireland, our whole-of-Government plan to prepare our businesses and workers for the future.”

Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen T.D., said;

“These entrepreneurs represent the very best of talent that exists within Ireland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Many of today’s finalists have developed businesses that are already well known.  The others, no doubt, will be the stars of the future.  Getting to today’s final is validation for all of finalists that they are following the right path.  For our winners, we congratulate them.  Today is a day to celebrate with their family and friends, but from tomorrow onwards, they can apply the valuable experience that participation in IBYE has given them to bring their businesses to even greater heights. They can be assured that my Department will be there to support them every step of the way on their entrepreneurial journey.”

Oisin Geoghegan, Chair of the Network of Local Enterprise Offices, said; “Congratulations to this year’s winners and finalists.  The quality of Finalists is a reflection of the quality of businesses and ideas that are coming through the Local Enterprise Offices across the country.  They have been working closely with their LEOs, getting advice, mentoring, speaking with previous IBYE participants and tapping into that network and this will stand by them.  They know that the Local Enterprise Office is an open door for whatever business issues they encounter and is their first port of call when they need to overcome a hurdle.  We look forward to continuing to work closely with the winners, finalists and all of those who have participated in this year’s IBYE and helping them to grow.     

Mark Christal, Manager, Regions and Entrepreneurship, Enterprise Ireland, said; “Every year the quality of Finalists in IBYE is outstanding and this year is no different with entrepreneurs from every region across the country represented.  Their ideas and businesses continue to improve and their ideas are not limited by being Irish.  Their ideas are international, our entrepreneurs have global ambition engrained in their psyche and they are not limited by borders.  The IBYE programme is an excellent way for these entrepreneurs to hone their skills, tighten their ideas and improve their businesses and they are now in a better place to push forward, to look to new international markets and the Local Enterprise Offices together with Enterprise Ireland will help them get there.”   

The judging panel for this year’s Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur was co-chaired by Paddy Flynn, Director of Trust and Safety, Google and Brian Crowley, Founder of TTM Group.  The other members of the panel were Thomas Murray, Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Eoghan Hanrahan, Enterprise Ireland, Louise Ward, LEO Roscommon and Sarah Doyle, CEO of Kinesense, while broadcaster Claire Byrne was the Awards host.

The winners of the 2018 Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur awards were former Connacht rugby player Conor O’Loughlin of Glofox who won the Best-Established Business and the overall IBYE Award for 2018.  Alan Hickey of Vromo (formerly WeBringg) in Fingal, Dublin was the Best Start Up Business winner, while Brendan Boland of Loci Orthopaedics in Galway won the Best Business Idea for 2018.  For more information on the competition go to and for additional information on Local Enterprise Office supports and programmes go to   


For further information:

Declan Lee – Enterprise Ireland – 087 695 7451 /

Sarah Bohan – Enterprise Ireland – 087 653 9936 /


Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur 2019 – Facts & Figures

  • The programme provides a €2million investment fund with targeted business development supports
  • 3 categories; Best Business Idea (Pre-Trading), Best Start-Up Business (up to 18 months) and Best Established Business (Over 18 months)
  • The programme is run by the network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices across the country and supported by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and Enterprise Ireland
  • Over 1,600 entrants applied to be Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur for 2019
  • Over 400 places were provided at Business Bootcamps for entrants
  • 186 local winners and runners-up sharing investments between €3,000 and €15,000
  • 8 regional finals were hosted across the country
  • An investment fund of €100,000 was provided for the National Winners and Runners-Up

Overall Winner – Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur 2019


Category Winners

Best Business Idea

  • Winner – Martin O’Reilly (Output Sports), Local Enterprise Office Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown
  • Runner-Up – Elizabeth McGloughlin (Tympany Medical), Local Enterprise Office Galway 

Best Start-Up Business

  • Winner – Sharon Cunningham (Shorla Pharma), Local Enterprise Office Tipperary
  • Runner-Up – Brendan Maloney (Skillko), Local Enterprise Office Mayo 

Best Established Business

  • Winner – Sean McGarry (Showergem), Local Enterprise Office Mayo
  • Runner-Up – Devan Hughes (Buymie), Local Enterprise Office Dublin City