Tony McEnroe Discusses Deep Tech, IP Protection and More

The CEO of a company behind a groundbreaking ‘soft x-ray’ microscope used in disease research and drug discovery has revealed how he turned his university spin-out company into an award-winning business.

Tony McEnroe’s company SiriusXT specialises in technology designed to offer very high-resolution images of the internal structure of biological cells.

Building a Spin-Out Business | R&D, Protecting IP, Deep Tech & Business Growth With Tony McEnroe

Building a Spin-Out Company

He began his ProfileTree interview by explaining how the ‘SXT System’ microscope works.

“We spun the company out of University College Dublin.

“The technology we spun out is essentially a source of very bright light. Every microscope you use today, whether it be a visible light microscope or our soft x-ray microscope, needs a source of illumination.

Building a spin-out business with Tony McEnroe

“We came on the name SiriusXT because Sirius is the brightest star in the sky and it helped enhance our brand as we have a very bright source of soft x-rays to illuminate the biological sample that we’re imaging.”

How has Tony grown the business since the decision to spin-out?

“The company was spun-out from UCD at the very end of 2015.

“My technical co-founders have actually worked on this technology for the best part of 15 years as postdoc researchers in the physics department.

“These guys are nerds, they’re deep scientists, they understand soft x-ray illumination.

“I guess it got to a stage where they had to spin-out and let the baby grow into a company.”

Tony outlined the how, and why, of his role in the SiriusXT story.

“I became involved as I’ve worked pretty much my whole career in helping companies to spin out of universities and grow and commercialise.

“This is venture number five for me, I joined the guys at the end of 2015. We raised some venture capital funding, we got some funding from Enterprise Ireland and a few months later got some funding from the EU.

“That allowed us to build the company.”

Thanks to this university research and commercial spin-out process, how is SiriusXT’s microscope now used by scientists?

“Our group discovered that there was an opportunity to build a microscope that could see through biological cells.

“That’s not an easy thing to do. If you take a red blood cell that’s about eight microns in diameter, eight microns is about a tenth of the diameter of a hair.

“We resolve that cell down about a thousand times to see the structure inside the cell, what we call the organelle.

“Being able to measure the size and shape of those organelles is very important to cell biologists who are working in cancer research or Alzheimer’s research to try and understand what’s happening inside a biological cell that causes DNA mutations.

“To be able to do that they need to be able to image the whole cell. These soft x-ray wavelengths that we produce have the perfect wavelength to be able penetrate a full cell and can do that without needing any contrast enhancement.

“We’re able to image a whole cell in a natural state and give them a very high-resolution, high-contrast image for them to interrogate and to analyse.

“This is the only technology that can do that.”

How is R&D used to make success stories like SiriusXT happen?

“The first step in any R&D is to develop a concept and then to protect it.

“IP protection is a really important part of growing a high-tech company, because the last thing you want is to develop something that’s really innovative and then have some company copy it.”

Tony shared some insights into the fortunate position SiriusXT holds in its sector.

“Every now and then some new disruptive technology appears which allows a small companies like ourselves to enter what’s already a mature marketplace. Our customers are already buying other types of microscopes that aren’t really suited for this application.

“What we have now is an opportunity to develop market share as we’re doing something different from what’s already out there.” More articles to check out on the topic of business growth:

Understanding Business Strategy in the 21st Century

Digital Agencies: An Ultimate Guide to Digital Agencies

To discover more about Tony’s work and SiriusXT, explore our full interview.

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Different Types of Spin-Outs: Unpacking Technology, Product, and Market-Based Ventures

Spin-outs are a powerful engine for innovation and growth, but not all spin-outs are created equal. Understanding the different types can help you identify the best path for your entrepreneurial venture. Here’s a breakdown of three key types:

1. Technology Spin-Outs:

  • Focus: Leveraging proprietary technology or intellectual property developed within a larger company to create a new, independent venture.
  • Examples: Google’s Verily (life sciences), Siemens’ Enlighted (IoT solutions), Intel’s Mobileye (autonomous driving technology).
  • Key Traits:
    • Often based on cutting-edge research or breakthrough advancements.
    • Require significant investment in R&D and technical expertise.
    • Target high-growth markets with disruptive potential.
    • Face challenges in commercializing complex technology and navigating regulatory hurdles.

2. Product Spin-Outs:

  • Focus: Taking a successful existing product or product line from a parent company and establishing it as a separate entity.
  • Examples: General Motors’ OnStar (vehicle communication systems), Procter & Gamble’s Folgers Coffee (acquired from P&G), Kraft Heinz’s Oscar Mayer (acquired from Kraft Heinz).
  • Key Traits:
    • Leverage existing brand recognition and established customer base.
    • Benefit from streamlined operations and dedicated resources.
    • May face challenges in competing against the parent company or navigating internal bureaucracy during the spin-out process.
    • Focus on enhancing the existing product or expanding into new markets.

3. Market-Based Spin-Outs:

  • Focus: Identifying and addressing a new market opportunity that falls outside the core focus of the parent company.
  • Examples: GE’s Synchrony Financial (consumer finance), Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon (surgical devices), Google’s Fiber (internet service provider).
  • Key Traits:
    • Capitalize on emerging markets or unmet needs not addressed by existing players.
    • Offer greater flexibility and agility to adapt to market changes.
    • Require strong market research and understanding of the target customer.
    • May face challenges in building brand awareness and establishing a competitive edge in a new market.

Choosing the Right Type:

The best type of spin-out depends on your unique circumstances, resources, and goals. Consider these factors:

  • Strengths and expertise: What are your core skills and the technology or product you possess?
  • Market opportunity: Is there a clear and unmet need in the market?
  • Investment needs: How much capital is required to launch and sustain the venture?
  • Competitive landscape: Who are the existing players and how can you differentiate yourself?
  • Parent company support: Will the parent company provide resources and expertise during the spin-out process?

By understanding the different types of spin-outs and carefully considering your options, you can choose the path that best positions your venture for success and unlocks the true potential of your entrepreneurial spirit.

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Spin-Out Ventures: Unveiling the Boom and Bust

Spin-outs, the entrepreneurial offshoots of established companies, can be catalysts for innovation and growth. But like any venture, they come with their own set of advantages and challenges. Let’s delve into the potential rewards and roadblocks you might encounter on your spin-out journey.


  • Market Opportunities:
    • Untapped Territories: Spin-outs can access niche markets often overlooked by larger corporations, offering a chance to carve out a unique space and establish a strong foothold.
    • Disruptive Innovation: Freed from the constraints of the parent company, spin-outs can pursue innovative ideas and develop disruptive technologies, leading to significant market impact.
    • Agility and Adaptability: Smaller size and leaner structures enable spin-outs to quickly adapt to changing market dynamics and customer needs, giving them a competitive edge.
  • Funding Options:
    • Venture Capital: Spin-outs with promising technology or market potential can attract venture capital funding, providing the necessary resources for growth and expansion.
    • Corporate Partnerships: Strategic partnerships with other companies can offer valuable resources, expertise, and access to new markets.
    • Bootstrapping: For some spin-outs, bootstrapping and focusing on organic growth can be a viable option, especially if they have a clear revenue model and established customer base.
  • Challenges:
  • Funding Gaps: Securing funding, especially in the early stages, can be challenging for spin-outs, particularly in competitive markets with high-tech products.
  • Brand Recognition: Building brand awareness from scratch can be difficult and expensive, especially when competing against established players with strong brand recognition.
  • Talent Acquisition: Attracting and retaining top talent can be a challenge for smaller ventures, particularly in specialized fields.
  • Common Pitfalls:
  • Underestimating Market Demand: Thorough market research is crucial to ensure your spin-out addresses a real need and not just a perceived one.
  • Inadequate Planning and Execution: A well-defined business plan, strong execution strategies, and a clear vision are essential for navigating the complexities of a spin-out.
  • Neglecting Parent Company Relationship: Maintaining a positive and collaborative relationship with the parent company can be beneficial for accessing resources and expertise.

To Navigate the Boom and Bust:

Carefully consider the potential market opportunities, funding options, and challenges before embarking on your spin-out journey. Conduct thorough research, develop a robust business plan, and build a strong team with the expertise and passion to advance your vision.

Remember, success often lies in navigating the boom and bust of spin-out ventures by capitalizing on the advantages and strategically overcoming the challenges.

Successful Spin-Out Case Studies: Unveiling Lessons from the Innovation Battlefield

Spin-outs aren’t just hypothetical concepts; they’re real-world engines driving innovation and growth across diverse industries. Let’s dive into two inspiring case studies and uncover the key lessons learned from their success stories:

1. Xero – From Accounting Software Orphan to Accounting Giant:

  • The Spin-Out: In 2002, Xero was spun out of accounting software giant MYOB, initially targeting the underserved small business market.
  • Key Lessons Learned:
    • Focus on a niche: Xero identified a gap in the market for user-friendly accounting software for small businesses, leading to rapid adoption and growth.
    • Prioritize cloud technology: Early adoption of cloud-based solutions gave Xero a competitive edge, enabling scalability and accessibility for their target audience.
    • Embrace mobile-first: Xero’s mobile app focus resonated with modern business owners, further solidifying their market position.
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2. Genentech – From Biotech Incubator to Biotech Powerhouse:

  • The Spin-Out: In 1976, Genentech was spun out of pharmaceutical giant Roche, pioneering the use of recombinant DNA technology to produce human insulin.
  • Key Lessons Learned:
    • Nurture disruptive innovation: Genentech fostered a culture of scientific exploration, leading to groundbreaking discoveries and transforming the biotech landscape.
    • Build strategic partnerships: Collaborations with established players like Lilly and Roche provided Genentech with crucial resources and market access.
    • Prioritize intellectual property: Genentech’s strong patent portfolio protected their innovations and fueled their financial success.

Beyond the Case Studies:

These success stories highlight the potential of spin-outs to disrupt industries, but they also offer valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs:

  • Identify a clear market need: Understand your target audience and their unmet needs to ensure your spin-out has a viable market.
  • Embrace innovation and agility: Be willing to adapt and experiment, staying ahead of the curve in your chosen field.
  • Build a strong team: Surround yourself with passionate and skilled individuals who share your vision and commitment.
  • Secure adequate funding: Develop a compelling business plan and secure the necessary resources to fuel your growth.
  • Manage the parent company relationship: Maintain a positive and collaborative relationship with the parent company, leveraging their expertise and resources where possible.

By studying successful spin-outs like Xero and Genentech, and applying the key lessons they offer, you can increase your own chances of navigating the challenges and reaping the rewards of your entrepreneurial journey. Remember, the spin-out landscape is dynamic, so continuous learning and adaptation are crucial for success.

So, you’ve got the spark of a groundbreaking spin-out idea. Now comes the exciting (and sometimes daunting) journey of turning that spark into a thriving venture. Fear not, aspiring entrepreneur! This roadmap will guide you through the crucial steps of planning, executing, and achieving post-launch success for your spin-out.

Phase 1: Planning – Laying the Foundation

  1. Market Validation: Dive deep into your market research. Is there a genuine need for your product/service? Who are your target customers, and what are their pain points?
  2. Business Model Canvas: Craft a clear and concise roadmap for your business. Identify your value proposition, revenue streams, key partnerships, and operational structures.
  3. Intellectual Property (IP) Assessment: Identify and protect your unique technology, processes, or branding through patents, trademarks, or copyrights.
  4. Financial Projections: Develop realistic financial projections, including funding needs, operational costs, and potential revenue streams.
  5. Team Building: Assemble a passionate and skilled team with expertise in your target market, technology, and business development.
  6. Parent Company Relationship: Establish clear communication and collaboration channels with your parent company. Secure their support for resources, expertise, and potential investment.

Phase 2: Execution – Setting Your Spin-Out in Motion

  1. Legal & Regulatory Compliance: Ensure your spin-out complies with all relevant legal and regulatory frameworks. Secure necessary licenses and permits.
  2. Fundraising: Secure funding through venture capital, angel investors, or debt financing. Present a compelling pitch that showcases your market potential and team strength.
  3. Product/Service Development: Focus on developing a minimum viable product (MVP) that meets your target customer’s core needs. Prioritize rapid iteration and feedback loops.
  4. Marketing & Branding: Develop a targeted marketing strategy to reach your ideal customers and build brand awareness. Craft a unique and memorable brand identity.
  5. Operations & Infrastructure: Establish efficient and scalable operational processes for your business. Invest in necessary technology and infrastructure.

Phase 3: Post-Launch – Igniting Sustainable Growth

  1. Customer Acquisition & Retention: Implement effective marketing and sales strategies to acquire and retain customers. Focus on building long-term customer relationships.
  2. Performance Tracking & Analysis: Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) like customer acquisition cost, customer lifetime value, and revenue growth. Use data to inform continuous improvement.
  3. Team Development & Scaling: Invest in ongoing learning and development for your team. Scale your team and operations to accommodate growth while maintaining your company culture.
  4. Adapting to Market Dynamics: Stay agile and responsive to changing market trends and customer needs. Be willing to pivot your product/service or business model as needed.
  5. Building a Sustainable Ecosystem: Foster partnerships and collaborations with other players in your industry to create a mutually beneficial ecosystem for your spin-out’s long-term success.

Remember, this roadmap is a starting point, not a rigid script. Adapt it to your specific circumstances, industry, and business model. Embrace challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. By staying focused, dedicated, and agile, you can navigate the exciting journey of launching your spin-out and achieve sustainable success.


Q: How long does the spin-out process typically take?

A: The timeline can vary significantly depending on factors like your industry, funding needs, and regulatory requirements. Generally, expect the planning phase to take 3-6 months, followed by another 6-12 months for execution and launch.

Q: What are the most common challenges faced by spin-outs?

A: Securing funding, building brand awareness, attracting and retaining talent, and navigating the parent company relationship are some of the key challenges.

Q: What are some resources available for aspiring spin-out founders?

A: Numerous resources can help you on your journey, including government startup programs, incubator and accelerator programs, online communities like Startup Nation, and educational platforms like Coursera.

Q: Do I need a legal background to launch a spin-out?

A: While legal expertise is not essential, consulting with a lawyer experienced in intellectual property and startup law can be highly valuable.

Q: What are some indicators that my spin-out idea might be successful?

A: A strong market need, a differentiated product/service, a passionate and skilled team, and a clear path to profitability are all positive indicators.


Launching a spin-out is an exciting yet challenging journey. By following the roadmap outlined in this article, focusing on the key phases of planning, execution, and post-launch growth, and continuously learning and adapting, you can increase your chances of success.

Remember, the spin-out landscape is ripe with potential for innovation and disruption. So, take the leap, embrace the challenges, and chart your course towards building a thriving venture that leaves a lasting mark on your industry.

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