Donal Nugent, journalist

As artificial intelligence (AI) makes the leap from science fiction to everyday applications, debate about the technology’s pros and cons has intensified. A recent survey in the US by Forbes found 75% of people to be concerned about AI causing job losses, yet 45% of those polled said they were already planning to use the technology to reply to texts and emails, in both social and business contexts.

The opportunity for an on-demand personal assistant at home and in the office is fuelling a fresh wave of tech innovation and, according to technology market intelligence platform Tracxn, there are already 223 AI start-ups in Ireland alone.

‘Clearword was born out of a frustration with online meetings and a need to make them more productive’



Co-founder and CFO, Clearword


Financial controller and global asset management lead, Sophos


Director of finance,


Accountant, Daniel J Coleman & Co.

Among them is Cork-based Clearword, a company harnessing the power of AI to tackle a pain point familiar to anyone who has ever hosted an online meeting: the need to accurately capture the points discussed, decisions made and follow-up actions required.

‘Clearword was born out of a frustration with online meetings and a need to make them more productive,’ co-founder and CFO Clodagh Monks FCCA explains. ‘Prior to Covid, our co-founder, David Coallier, had the experience of managing a number of teams remotely for his businesses and had long recognised the issues. When the pandemic struck and the market for meeting platforms exploded, the opportunity to do something about it surfaced.’

A new dimension

Set up in 2021, Clearword’s goal to ‘make meetings better’ resonated with investors and it secured pre-seed investment of US$3.15m in 2022. Initially, AI had not been in the frame, but the rise of large language models such as ChatGPT, which understand and generate text in a human-like fashion, offered the potential to bring a new dimension to the offering.

Now available through the company’s website, Clearword is a meeting platform that generates transcripts, summaries, decisions and action items directly from a meeting, with no note taking or additional inputs required. Bloom is a recent addition which takes the AI functionality further by carrying out the agreed actions, and is expected to boost productivity by two or three times compared with a 10-20% productivity increase as Clearword originally provided.

‘We are a small effective team, which means there are a lot of hats to be worn by everyone’

‘Many of the action items that result from a meeting are based directly on the conversations that took place – for example, the need to send a follow-up email to a colleague or to write the specification for a new role in the company,’ Monks says. ‘Bloom is effectively the PA that will carry out these tasks for you.’

The company is currently identifying the industry sectors that it believes will be most receptive to its offer while also expanding its user base and building public awareness. ‘In terms of headcount, we are a small effective team, which means there are a lot of hats to be worn by everyone, including me. Our users are growing month-on-month and we have a lot of people on a free trial model as we develop awareness of the product. So it’s still very early stages but we are very happy with where we are going,’ Monks reports.

Second start

This is the second start-up Monks been part of, both involving serial entrepreneur Coallier. In 2015, she joined Coallier’s cybersecurity start-up, Barricade, as director of finance. When that company was subsequently acquired by Sophos in 2016, Monks stayed on board, playing the role of financial controller and global asset management lead with Sophos until 2021.

‘As a CFO in a start-up, you are always learning and growing’

Second time round, Monks says that experience informs her approach. ‘There’s a kind of gold standard that you strive to achieve in your first role that becomes the starting point for you next time round. As a CFO in a start-up, you are always learning and growing. It’s not just finance; there are legal issues, compliance issues and HR decisions that you play a part in. There’s also definitely a significance to being co-founder that means you strive for the company’s success no matter what. It is your baby and you want it to give it the very best start you can.’

Eye for detail

Monks’s eye for detail wasn’t developed primarily with business in mind. After leaving school, she studied printmaking at Limerick Institute of Technology. ‘I have always loved art and I think it’s a calling that’s embedded into you, you’ll never really walk away from it. During Covid times, I started going back to painting in a big way and I found pastels to be a medium that worked really well for me. I paint landscapes mainly. It’s my downtime and my meditation time.’ The Instagram account @clodaghmonksart showcases her work and an exhibition is planned locally in Crosshaven, Co Cork, later in the year.



Clearword founded by David Coallier, Clodagh Monks and Daire Irwin


Company secures pre-seed investment of US$3.15m and launches the Clearword platform


Company launches Bloom – a next generation AI assistant

Accountancy came into the frame when, post-college, Monks found herself in ‘restaurant management territory’ with bookkeeping and payroll duties part of the job description. After joining an accountancy practice in Cork city, she studied with ACCA at night, becoming a member in 2014.

‘Industry and practice have a lot in common and you can cross over between them’

‘I loved working in practice and the close relationships that I formed with the people I was working for. I always thought I’d stay in that that area,’ she says.

When Coallier invited her to join Barricade, she made the jump to industry ‘scared and excited in equal measure. What I found then was that the same kind of principles apply in terms of relationship building and in helping something grow. Industry and practice have a lot in common and you can cross over between them, I think, very easily. So I don’t think you should box yourself into one or the other.’

Future trends

As to the question of how AI will ultimately impact on the role of accountants, Monks notes that forms ‘have been dotted through financial tools for a number of years now; it’s just been disguised as business intelligence. It’s been there in the background and its growth in usage has been incremental.’

As someone who now uses the technology in her daily work, she says: ‘There are certainly limitations with ChatGPT and, ultimately, it has to be seen as a tool. It can have hallucinations and every now and then will return gobbledigook to you. But I can see in my own role that it definitely speeds up work, particularly when you are beginning a process, and I absolutely love using it.’

‘We have to be accountable for our use of information and AI is another source of that’

She also stresses the principle of professional responsibility that machines can’t supplant. ‘As an ACCA member you have to act with integrity at all times. We have to be accountable for our use of information and AI is another source of that. We will always have to validate and stand over the information we use.’

Our meeting, for the record, is conducted through Clearword and is followed up within a few minutes by an email containing a detailed transcript of the conversation and an impressively accurate summary.

No one may wish for AI as their CEO, but as a very efficient PA it is certainly set to appeal to many.