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Spotlight Series: Rhona Togher, CEO & Co-Founder, Lios

hona Togher, CEO & Co-Founder, Lios

ARTICLE SUMMARY

We sat down with Rhona to discuss her journey as a female tech entrepreneur, what she hopes to achieve in the future and on making it to the final of 2023’s European inventor awards.

RHONA TOGHER IS THE CEO AND CO-FOUNDER OF LIOS.

She has been leading the company since 2009 with her passion and determination to innovate. Her background in physics has given her a unique perspective and the ability to develop groundbreaking products that have garnered the attention of the global market. With her strategic approach, Rhona has successfully secured €3.7 million in funding and filed patents, allowing Lios to advance its SoundBounce technology from concept to a fully-functional prototype product. Under her leadership, the company has experienced tremendous growth. She manages all aspects of the business with a keen eye for detail, ensuring that every aspect functions smoothly and efficiently.

Rhona has shared the story of the Lios journey, and her thoughts on the evolution of the industry at conferences and events globally in Riga, London, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Boston, Singapore, Paris, and many more. She has also been invited to speak at internal events by corporations like BT, EY, Accenture, and Google.

In addition to her duties as CEO, Rhona is an active participant in the global startup community. She is an ambassador for Irish female entrepreneurship working with Enterprise Ireland, the iWish foundation and the Ada Lovelace initiative to empower and support women in the tech sector. She is a board member of Scale Ireland, an independent nonprofit that works to secure a more supportive policy environment for Irish innovation-driven enterprises.

For her outstanding achievements and contributions to the tech industry, Rhona has been recognised by several noted awards, including She Loves Tech Global Winner, INAM Advanced Materials Competition, JEC Startup Booster, Hello Tomorrow New Materials Prize, and the Irish Times Innovation Awards, and  Business Post 30 Under 30. She has been featured and interviewed by prominent media outlets, including TechCrunch, Irish Times, Business Post, and Tech Node.

WE SAT DOWN WITH RHONA TO DISCUSS HER JOURNEY AS A FEMALE TECH ENTREPRENEUR, WHAT SHE HOPES TO ACHIEVE IN THE FUTURE AND ON MAKING IT TO THE FINAL OF 2023’S EUROPEAN INVENTOR AWARDS.

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED?

During her time at secondary school, Rhona Togher and her co-founder, Eimear O’Carroll, made a remarkable breakthrough by creating a sound therapy that effectively alleviates tinnitus. Their groundbreaking innovation earned them prestigious recognition at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition in Dublin, where they secured a top position in 2009. Overwhelmed by the public’s positive response to the sound therapy, Rhona and Eimear, with help from the Local Enterprise Office, founded Lios in 2009. Rhona took on the role of CEO in 2011, after studying physics at University College Dublin.

WHAT’S YOUR PLANS IN 2023?

The next step in bringing SoundBounce to the world is pilot production. We are currently seeking manufacturing partners to help us scale up the technology and meet the market demand. We have executed pilots with industrial leaders all over the world and are in the process of integrating SoundBounce into their product specifications. To complement pilot production, we’re fundraising and growing our team in 2023.

This year, we doubled down on sustainability and are determined to impact the environment positively. As we move towards pilot production, we are developing sustainable processes and solutions to help our clients reduce their environmental footprint.

We are excited to continue our journey towards a more sustainable future and encourage others to join us in this important mission.

In addition to being a finalist in the European Patent Office Inventor Award, we won SheLovesTech in late 2022. Our team was proud to be a part of this event and to have the opportunity to share our work on preventing noise pollution.

DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY.

I’m very fortunate that there’s great variety in my day to day job. There can be anything from intellectual property, to fundraising, to pitching at an event, to a meeting with our research team at the lab. 

I spend a lot of time with all the various stakeholders of Lios, that includes our team, investors, suppliers, and customers, communicating strategy and making sure we’re all working together on our key company goals.

I love that I get to work with an amazing bunch of people, trying to create a quiter world.

DOES YOUR JOB ALLOW YOU TO HAVE A LIFESTYLE YOU ARE HAPPY WITH?

My job allows me to work on something I’m extremely passionate about, helping people with noise damaged hearing and trying to prevent it happening to others. It is a privilege to be able to do that every day. 

My work has brought me amazing opportunities to meet wonderful people and see far flung parts of the world.

Eimear and I have been best friends since we were teenagers. It’s a joy to still work side by side all these years later. Work is made so much better when you’re working on something you care about, with people you care about.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST REWARDING EVENTS IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?

Lios is a young Irish company, and we are proud of how far we’ve come from a small team of originally two, with now over 15 employees.

Another notable highlight has been our involvement in the space industry and the development of advanced materials in the sector.

A 12 month Phase 1 development contract between ESA and Lios finished in 2022. Through this work, we successfully demonstrated the acoustic insulation performance of SoundBounce. This project focused on the low-frequency noise and vibration generated during the launcher flight’s launch and separation phases.

Our team has been awarded the Phase 2 contract for this large-scale collaborative project, valued at almost one million euro in co-funding with ESA. The renewed ESA contract will support advanced material innovations for the future of acoustics in space. Working on this project has been hugely rewarding.

HOW WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE MORE WOMEN TO BECOME STARTUP FOUNDERS OR JOIN THE TECH SECTOR? WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER FEMALE FOUNDERS?

The Lios team is a big supporter of women who want to get into tech or start their own business.

We are strong supporters of events and initiatives promoting female entrepreneurship. The team strives to provide visible positive examples of women entrepreneurs in highly technical or STEM areas. Uplifting and inspiring the next generation of young women to pursue their dreams in entrepreneurship and STEM is at our core.

We suggest going to tech or entrepreneurship-focused events as one way to dip your toe in the water and meet like-minded people. 

We think being a founder mainly requires finding the best in people and encouraging them to collaborate and excel – whether that’s your team or potential customers. And running a startup takes a lot of perseverance and passion; it’s important to believe in yourself and your mission, as this is your main source of motivation sometimes.  We encourage someone interested in being a founder to get a variety of experiences and work with many different types of people. And hone your communication skills

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