Sheelagh Brady is a former Garda who left the force in 2012 to work with the UN as a Senior Security Analyst in Abuja, Nigeria. There she advised organisations such as Unicef, the World Health Organisation and the World Food Programme on the security environment, threats and managing risk when implementing their programmes on the ground. This was followed by a spell working with the EU in Libya before she decided to go out on her own in 2014 and set up SAR Consultancy together with business partner John Roberts.
Whilst continuing with her consultancy business, Sheelagh also began a PhD with DCU’s School of Law and Government in 2016 to explore possible similarities in the push and pull factors that influence people to become involved with terrorist groups, gangs and the military. Whilst studying in DCU, she heard about the UStart programme and realised that it presented an opportunity to develop a new, more scalable aspect to her business.
“When I started SAR in 2014, we were providing risk management services to international organisations and charities – typically providing research in advance of an organisation delivering an aid programme on the ground in a developing country. I would advise on the situation and possible threats that may hinder them successfully implementing their programme. I also conducted research on criminal justice and rule of law issues.
I had good connections and the business took off, I wouldn’t say rapidly but consistently. We were getting plenty of business but it wasn’t scalable. We needed more people to grow but we couldn’t guarantee we would have enough contracts to sustain them – I suppose you could say we were in a Catch 22 situation.
Working on a project for a client, we had an idea to create a platform where people can access real time security information, monitor those in the field and issue emergency alerts if required, whether people were working abroad or just travelling. UStart has really helped me to further develop this concept, S-Man Security Travel Platform, to create a multi-user platform for use by corporate business travellers, development agencies, governments and philanthropists. We have some competitors but our idea will improve the quality of information and the user experience available. Furthermore, through the inclusion of two unique factors, we believe we will be in an excellent position to disrupt the market.
While this is a business idea, I also see it as a venture for good. Our work will enable NGOs to enter and work within conflict zones to deliver badly needed aid and will also enable businesses and service providers to be confident to enter such areas quickly, which can have significantly positive impacts on rebuilding in post-conflict zones.
Joining the UStart programme has really helped me to see myself as an entrepreneur and to understand that it’s not an innate skill. UStart has given me greater belief in myself and my idea and has shown me a formula to take this idea and make it into something real and tangible.
I had some worry areas coming into the programme, particularly when it came to financial and legal skills but the UStart presenters were very adept at making the topics understandable and less of a minefield for us.
The speakers who came in to mentor us and share their experiences also really helped to demystify the whole start-up process. It was great to hear from investors about their perspectives as well as from successful start-ups that had been sold. Coming into UStart, I didn’t think our product would be attractive to investors but that has definitely changed and I am definitely more aware of the different funding streams that I can tap into from both the State and private sector now.
UStart has been a great support and experience for me but the best thing has perhaps been the sharing of information and knowledge between the participants on the programme – that has been nearly as good as all the other supports put together.”
Sheelagh is hoping to have a minimum viable product ready for testing by Spring 2018 and to have a functioning product live by the end of 2018.