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Thinkers. Doers. Been-there-and-done-thaters. We’ve assembled a team of entrepreneurial experts who know what it takes for your innovation to succeed.

Steve Orr

Steve Orr

Director

As the co-founder and Director of Connect at Catalyst Inc, Steve is responsible for developing the support ecosystem for entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland, to create and scale innovation companies. Steve spent ten years prior to this in California where he co-founded Kineticom Inc, a San Diego, California-based technical talent firm in 2000. The firm ranked #33 on the Inc 500 list of the fastest-growing, privately-held US companies in 2006. Steve graduated from University of Northumbria with a degree in Business Information Technology.

Elaine Smyth

Elaine Smyth

Head of Programmes

Elaine Smyth is Head of Programmes for Connect. Elaine brings a strong combination of operational management and investment experience from her previously held roles in companies including Apion, Aepona, E-Synergy Ltd, KANA and Pentech Ventures LLP.

Elaine is committed to supporting the growth and success of NI based entrepreneurs and early stage companies.

John Knapton

John Knapton

Director of Springboard

John has responsibility for Connect’s flagship programme, Springboard. John is a Chartered Director Ambassador and qualified executive coach, with over 25 years’ experience in sales, marketing and international business development, within the technology sector. John has worked around the world with industry-leading firms at board level, he has built companies from the ground up and managed growth within multi-national conglomerates. A long time member of the IEEE and fellow of the Institute of Directors. John also has a BSc in Marketing and Engineering.

Trudy Parry

Trudy Parry

Business Development & Membership Co-ordinator

Trudy co-ordinates business development, membership engagement and the contribution provided by NI’s entrepreneurial community to direct, deliver and improve Connect. She also produces our Annual Report and organises special projects for Connect. Trudy returned to NI after working in production in the BBC and project management in the NHS in London for 20 years. She has a BA (Honours) degree in English from Queen’s University Belfast.

Sonya Kerr

Sonya Kerr

CEO Peer Support & Co-Founders Wanted Programme Manager

Sonya brings 20 years’ experience in Marketing and Communications from large public and private sector organizations. She worked in in marketing and student recruitment for both Queen’s University and South East Regional College and gained valuable insight into the tech sector during her 8 years at Allstate Northern Ireland as Head of Marketing and Communications.
She has a Postgraduate in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a BA (Hons) Degree in Management from Ulster University and completed the Business Leadership Programme with the William J.Clinton Leadership Institute.

Tierna Byrne

Tierna Byrne

Digital Marketing Coordinator

Tierna is responsible for the Connect digital marketing strategy and specialises in creative content creation. Tierna previously spent several years working as a graphic designer for one of the world's largest law firms and brings a strong offering of Design and Marketing to our team. She has a degree in Design for Visual Communication from Ulster University and a CIM professional qualification in marketing.

Emily Mc Daid

Emily Mc Daid

Editor – TechWatch

Emily is the editor of our TechWatch fortnightly newsletter, for which she writes about all the fascinating technologies being developed in Northern Ireland. Emily has worked in technology communications since 2001, in Boston, MA, London, Birmingham and now Belfast. She started her own company in 2008 and has created PR and marcomms strategies for brands including Nokia, Virgin Media and Microsoft. She specialises in straightforward, impactful articles that generate awareness for growing technology companies.

Laura McCarry

Laura McCarry

Springboard Programme Co-Ordinator

Laura graduated from Ulster University in 2015 with a degree in Business with French and joined Connect in December 2016 as the Springboard Programme Co-ordinator. She is responsible for the co-ordination and organisation of the Springboard Programme.

Kerry McGarvey

Kerry McGarvey

Invent Programme Manager

Kerry is responsible in showcasing and rewarding local innovations through the delivery of the INVENT Programme. Kerry has over 10 Years experience in Event Management working within both the private and voluntary sectors. She has worked with a range of industries including agriculture, youth and sports. She graduated from University with a Bachelors Degree in Leisure, Events and Cultural Management and a diploma in Industrial studies.

Jessica Caldwell

Jessica Caldwell

4IRC Programme Manager

Jessica is responsible for our 4th Industrial Revolution Challenge and previously worked in the arts sector as an Events Manager with a leading venue. Jessica has experience working with clients from all sectors including arts, government, business and tech.
She has a Masters in Arts Management and an undergraduate degree in Law with Politics, both from QUB. She is an alumna of the Washington Ireland Program.

Diane Morrow

Diane Morrow

Generation Innovation & Frameworks Programme Manager