Niamh Donnelly, Akara Robotics – A finalist in the Expleo WMB Woman in Technology Award category
28th March 2022
Over the coming weeks, we will be introducing you to our WMB Award Finalists. Ultimately there will be one winner in each of our five Award categories, to be announced at our Conference & Awards on May 16th. If you’d like to attend our Conference & Awards, you can book now>>
Title and Company Name
Co-Founder and Chief Robotics Officer (CRO), Akara Robotics
Sector & size of operation
Robotics Startup with 15 people
You originally hail from
Single or relationship
Engaged and waiting to get married since 2020!
What is the best part of your job
The best part of my job is working with users. As a startup co-founder, I have a very close link to our users. My job often required that I interact directly with the people closest to our technology. And not only that, but I get to find out first-hand what they like (or don’t like) about the technology. I remember at the beginning of the pandemic we were on the ground in hospitals trying to figure out ways that our disinfection robots could help. That was really rewarding to feel that we were making a real impact in keeping frontline workers safe.
And the most challenging
Working at a robotics company, there is a long list of most challenging aspects to choose from. One aspect which stands out in particular is the fact that robotics is still a relatively emerging field, which presents both technical and commercial challenges, which can put off some investors who prefer to invest in areas that are more mature and less risky. Nonetheless, thankfully we were able to close our first investment round last March, and we are making good progress on raising our seed round currently.
Your definition of success
I think delivering meaningful positive impact is critical. When I completed my masters degree in AI and Machine learning, there were so many lucrative job opportunities out there. However, I’m not sure if I had taken many of these jobs that I would have been able to make a real difference in people’s lives.
I had heard of the phrase ‘Tech for Good’ – the idea that we can solve the world’s biggest, climate, social, economic etc problems using technology – and I think being able to do this is my definition of success.
I am an optimist, even when things don’t look great I try to find a positive way of looking at the situation. This is a very important trait at a start-up!
I can get a little too emotionally invested in things!
Biggest ‘win’ to date
Definitely being featured on the cover of Time magazine in November 2019.
Who inspires you most
My Dad. He was the first in his family to go to College. He studied Engineering and went on to start his own successful environmental monitoring company which was recently acquired by a large US corporation.
Ever since I was young, my dad would create little engineering projects that we would work on together, he was always encouraging me to think outside the box and I learnt how to be creative from him.
Name two things on your ‘bucket list’
Start up a Robot cafe in Dublin, not one where robots serve people but instead the cafe would showcase robots throughout history (from good designs to bad ones!)
Start a greyhound rescue and just keep all the dogs I rescue.
What does it mean for you to be a woman in business today
I feel such a sense of comradery amongst women in business today, almost anyone I encounter in the tech industry has been through similar situations as myself and understands how difficult it can be to find your footing in a male dominated environment.
I think that this has led to a very supportive environment where we help one another and this is what I feel means to be a woman in business.
Best advice to pass on.
Don’t be so afraid of making a wrong decision, they can sometimes turn out to be the best ones!