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Derya Kianda TechnologiesNew Frontiers programme alumna

Alumni profiles: Breaking the code, building the dream

By New Frontiers blog

Derya Kianda TechnologiesNew Frontiers programme alumna

Just one in two hundred people knows how to code. That’s a lot of people around the world relying on a small pool of programmers! This knowledge gap is something Derya and Osvaldo Sousa were intent on solving when they developed their no-code application platform, Kianda Technologies, in 2017.

The dream to develop their own tech startup was 16 years in the making, but back then – as a young couple studying in Portugal – it was difficult to see how they could make it a reality. “It was a bit risky for us back then. There wasn’t a lot of support. We didn’t have great examples and so it just faded away,” Derya says.

They moved to Ireland in 2007 and worked as IT consultants. Every evening, they went home and talked about what they were working on. They realised it was similar projects for similar companies, developing the same types of system over and over again from scratch. Wanting to simplify things for businesses and create a ‘no-code environment’, they came up with a new type of process automation software that would build custom workflows using a drag and drop interface.

“Less than five years ago, we had the idea and thought it was the right time for us to start,” Derya says. “The biggest risk was quitting our jobs and in terms of income, how were we going to manage? We had some of our own savings, but of course, that wasn’t enough.”

She was also on maternity leave with their second child, who was just four months old at the time. But they felt it was now or never. “We said, if we don’t do this now, we won’t do it again,” Derya says. We have to try. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We’d have to accept it. But we had to try. So we bit the bullet.”

The couple quit their day jobs and spent the first year working from their living room, building their platform while taking on some freelance work to help with living expenses. It was when they were completing the product build and seeking office space that the New Frontiers programme was suggested to them by the team at the LINC centre at TU Dublin – Blanchardstown.

“We have to try. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We’d have to accept it. But we had to try. So we bit the bullet.”

“There were so many unknowns, so many things we weren’t aware of, it opened up so many opportunities for us,” Derya says. “Seeing other like-minded entrepreneurs, what stage they were at, seeing their journeys. Some of them were similar to me, some of them were just starting, and wanted to validate their idea.”

Derya found the programme very practical, “in terms of financial modelling and in terms of marketing, fundraising, networking, and hearing from the mentors.” It also helped navigate the Irish start-up ecosystem and to find out what support was available during and after the programme while receiving a €15,000 stipend.

“The mentors we had were really good. Lots of them were really insightful. It was all really practical. Real-life issues were covered. The pitching sessions were really good. Nerve-wracking but good.” She adds that she pitches “all the time” now.

It also helped build her confidence. “When we were both starting we heard some negative thoughts from other people. It really helped to build my confidence in terms of my own skills in running a business,” she says. Kianda Technologies was launched in November 2017. The company is growing quickly and has recently experienced a 40% increase in its customer base. The aim is to triple the team by the end of 2021.

Having taken the leap, Derya would encourage others to follow their dream. “It’s worth it, so worth it. If you think it’s the right time and it’s the right idea. People might say no, be prepared for it. But don’t let it stop you. Get the support that’s available, having people who have gone through a similar journey helps a lot.”

To learn more about Derya’s company, visit

Ivan Tuohy Great Visitor Experiences New Frontiers programme alumnus

Alumni profiles: Unlock your potential, back your dream

By New Frontiers blog

Ivan Tuohy Great Visitor Experiences New Frontiers programme alumnus

For hospitality expert Ivan Tuohy, it was a trip to Alcatraz that proved the key to unlocking the potential of a dream that had languished for years.

“It really hit me that the challenges that I had in my own workplace in Ireland were actually the same challenges that many attractions and museums had all around the world,” says Ivan, founder and CEO of Great Visitor Experiences. A hotelier by trade, he was working as a general manager for one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland and had recently completed an MBA at the University of Limerick.

It was 2018 and new innovations in technology were transforming user experiences across various sectors, but tourism operators were still relying on traditional tools like audio guides, maps, leaflets, in-person tour guides and stand-alone signage to engage their visitors; even in the biggest tourist attractions in the world. The tools were outdated. It was the cause of much frustration for Ivan and there was no obvious fix.

For international visitors, there was also a language barrier, with about 20% of visitors unable to understand audio guides or maps. “We had limited communication with the visitor, pre-arrival, onsite and after arrival,” Ivan says. “We didn’t have any tools in place from a digital point of view to capture that data. There was no real-time commercial information to drive onsite business.”

Ivan began to look for a digital solution that would immerse the customer in the visitor experience at every touchpoint, from start to finish and beyond. It didn’t exist. He was told he could source an augmented reality app but no app could integrate all their existing assets into one place. He thought, “No way, it needs to be bigger than that. We needed to build an ecosystem with just one omnichannel where attractions, museums and activities could all live together.”

“The New Frontiers programme was a fantastic first step. It really allowed me the time to focus on the idea, and to build some structure around it.”

The tentative steps towards developing Great Visitor Experiences, an interactive app that enables operators to engage with visitors, source data, tell stories and sell more, were underway. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Ivan felt that he had the relevant skills to make it as an entrepreneur. But there were fears.

“The first big problem was not believing in myself, in my own ability. And the other real problem was quitting the job and not having a salary,” he says. “It was a case of, I might have a good idea but how am I actually going to commercialise it and bring this to reality? I might take a chance on myself, but can I really do it?”

Ivan sought support and applied to New Frontiers. Once accepted, it all became very real. The programme put him on the path towards backing himself and his dream.

“The New Frontiers programme was a fantastic first step. It really allowed me the time to focus on the idea, and to build some structure around it.” It also brought out Ivan’s competitive spirit. “You’re in the room with 12-15 people, all with very good ideas and all coming from a problem from different angles. That support, that peer-to-peer network is great. But you’re dealing with people who want to succeed. It’s fairly competitive. It was a case of, I want to help people, but I also want to do well myself.” As for the mentors, “They really challenge you. They challenge you in a way you wouldn’t challenge yourself.”

Since launching in 2018, Great Visitor Experiences has scooped major innovation awards. The company works with leading attractions across Ireland and recently launched an All-Ireland Destination Guide. The team is working closely with operators to help them get access to the platform with the choice of a subscription or ticketing partnership model as they navigate COVID restrictions.

For anyone thinking of taking the leap and following their dream, Ivan has some advice; “Don’t be afraid.” He adds, “No one is going to back you until you back yourself. So if you can back yourself, and be open to listening to people, go for it.”

Want to learn more about Great Visitor Experiences? Visit their website.