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Mayo man who lost out on TV3 Xposé job hits jackpot hosting new Amazon Prime show

Simon Atkins is now becoming a major star on UK television

Simon will host Ready Set StartUP© © S. d'HALLOY / IMAGE&CO

Simon in Cannes

Eugene Masterson

A young Mayoman who was pipped at the post to become a presenter on TV3’s old Xposé show is now becoming a major star on UK television.

So much as that Simon Atkins will soon be seen hosting a brand new entrepreneur series on Amazon Prime in which the winner gets £100,000.

Ready Set StartUP is an inovative competition format showcasing 10 of Britain and Ireland’s most promising early-stage entrepreneurs.

The series also includes Dubliner Eamonn Carey, former MD of Techstars, as one of five judges, and Irish-Nigerian contestant Shalom Osiadi, founder of Esca Menu.

Simon, who hails from Castlebar, came second to Sean Musanje in TV3’s search in 2009 for a new co-presenter of Xposé, with Ruth O’Neill coming third.

“To be fair the best man won,” a modest Simon (36) tells the Sunday World. “Sean won in the end and Ruth came third. I came second. Sean got the position. I was based in London at the time anyways so I probably wasn’t going to stay. I probably would have only stayed a short while.”

Simon originally studied Maths and Science in UCD and later worked in a bank, before getting a slot on RTÉ as a TV reporter doing features about teenager. He later worked as a TV reporter for the Seoige show and slots for Ireland AM before making the move to London.

Simon in Cannes

“There was an opportunity to work on one of the morning shows, Good Morning Britain, they were looking for reporters for that so I kind of jumped over to London to do that and I never came back really,” he explains.

“I’ve been working in this industry for 15 years and I’ve been involved in a lot of big shows. I’ve just finished Married At First Sight, all the spin off shows. I’ve also done First Dates UK, The Bachelor (with Mark Wright). I’m working on things like The Voice and Strictly Come Dancing, producing stuff. I used to present for This Morning on ITV.”

His mum and dad met in London.

“My mum is Joanna O’Malley, born and bred in the west, Castlebar. My dad, Daniel, is Burmese Armenian, they met in London, she was a nurse and he was an accountant,” he recalls. “He was born and bred in Burma and but then his whole family moved to London when he was about 18 just before a big coup in the country which is known as Myanmar now.”

Simon’s brother Warren and sister Naomi also live and work in media in Ireland and were once described as ‘Ireland’s answer to the Karsdahians’.

“Naomi and Warren are around the corner from me, we are all in east London,” he notes.

“They moved over about 10 years ago. Warren also works in TV and was one of the producers on this series. He actually cast it. He has also just made the first gay dating series, for BBC3, called ‘I kissed a boy’. Dannii Minogue is presenting it.

“We are two Irish gay brothers that work in TV. Naomi does a lot of luxury lifestyle PR and she has set up her own company.”

There is also a fourth sibling, Damien, who lives in Gorey, Co Wexford with his wife Shelley and their two children.

Simon’s new TV show launched in Cannes last week and will shortly have a party in London’s May Fair hotel in the build up to it being screened on Amazon Prime from May 17.

“I’ll be inviting pals such as Laura Whitmore, Angela Scanlan and Vogue Williams, as well as a load of UK celebs,” he beams.

Ready Set StartUP has a unique twist on business reality TV formats. The contestants are mentored every step of the way, by a select group of successful business leaders showing them how to approach the real world business challenges created for the show and how best to run their own start-up businesses, with the winner getting a £100,000 investment.

“The main difference between this and The Apprentice is obviously first of all there’s a host, namely me,” smiles Simon.

“Second of all we are trying to really help entrepreneurs and kind of like get entrepreneurs into a position where they can watch this TV series and take away learnings on exactly how to be an entrepreneur and set up your own business.

“So, every step of the way when you watch this you actually the stages that it takes to actually be an entrepreneur and set up your own business.

“In episode one its more team building challenges and that’s for them to know each other and to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses because the number one rule kind of in business is all about who you’re going into business with and what their personalities are like.

“Then episodes two three and four are the business challenges, so they are real world challenges and there’s a host business in every episode and they get mentored by a group of mentors every step of the way before they do those challenges.”

He stresses the key difference with this series is mentorship.

“Every time before they do challenges they sit down with a mentor and they kind of help them really hone in and focus on how best to go about doing that task, but also that mentorship really helps them in their own businesses as well,” he adds.

“So, that kind of happens every step of the way. Then episode five is all about their own businesses and their own prototypes, so if they make it that far down the line then they get to pitch their own businesses to the judges for the first time.”

He points out that there is huge potential for hopefuls.

“These days entrepreneurs come from every walk of life... There’s entrepreneurs walking down the street these days, no one is wearing a suit,” he stresses.

“The whole point of this series is to try and tap into that young entrepreneurs and try and kind of help them to kind of launch their business successfully, especially in such an uncertain economic climate.”

  • Ready Set StartUp airs from May 17 on Amazon Prime Video.

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