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Catalyst CEO Steve Orr speaks at the Presidential Address.

Today, Catalyst CEO Steve Orr had the honour of speaking at the presidential address at Ulster University where he spoke about the legacy of the Good […]

April 12, 2023

Today, Catalyst CEO Steve Orr had the honour of speaking at the presidential address at Ulster University where he spoke about the legacy of the Good Friday Agreement and the rise of Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurs.

Building upon the legacy of former Catalyst CEO Norman Apsley and support from Mary Walshok, Steve talked about creating opportunities for future generations.

Read the full speech below:

Distinguished guests

I am honoured to speak today about the real legacy of the Good Friday Agreement, the rise of Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurs.

I moved to California two months after the Good Friday Agreement was signed. The years I spent there shaped me as an entrepreneur, learning from the best in what truly is the world’s capital of possibility. But what changed me as a person was the civic leadership I witnessed every day by so many successful people who felt it their duty to pay it forward; volunteering to help entrepreneurs for free as they had been helped themselves.

Yet, surfing nearly every day in the perfect climate, something had always bugged me. I loved home, Northern Ireland, and I could not stop thinking that the people at home were as good if not better than the people from anywhere else in the world so it was my duty to try to do something to help.

Because of the courage of Northern Ireland’s political leaders twenty-five years ago, I returned home in 2007 to a place that had normalised and found a non-profit, science and tech hub called Catalyst, itself established as a Good Friday Agreement project, where Norman Apsley and many others shared the belief in the untapped brilliance of our people. Catalyst then agreed to become the home where we would develop the platform for Northern Ireland’s most experienced and successful people to pay it forward to help our most promising entrepreneurs.

Today, more and more Northern Irish entrepreneurs and their companies are becoming world leaders in their field. The entrepreneurs do it, not just for self-determination, but out of a love of Northern Ireland and a dream of creating opportunities for our people. If you want to witness what fearless looks like, just talk with any of the young entrepreneurs who are here today. They put it all on the line for a brighter future every day….. I know you, our political leaders today, can too.

The contribution of the United States to Northern Irish entrepreneurship over the last fifteen years has been profound but did not come about only due to government-to-government or even institution-to-institution relationships.  It came about through the generosity of US individuals, many of whom were world leaders in their field who just wanted to pay it forward to help us, none more so than Mary Walshok of University California, San Diego.

As we look to the future, most leaders in Northern Ireland now share a common vision: Opportunity for all from world-leading innovation. This part of the world used to lead the world in five industries and we will lead the world again. Only this time we renew our pledge to pay it forward so that the opportunities created will be accessible to everyone, especially those furthest from opportunity.

Thank you

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