Young firms across the island are being given the chance to receive no-strings-attached funding worth €220k. The scheme is part of a competition organised by EquityNetwork, a new initiative by cross-border trade body IntertradeIreland to address the difficulties entrepreneurs face in securing seed funding.
Entrants to the Seedcorn Competition will be required to submit a detailed business plan to a panel of experts that will select the best ideas on the island. Six regional winners will receive €20K and the overall winner stands to benefit from a €100K funding injection.
A report commissioned by EquityNetwork last year identified the existence of a funding gap in the €75K to €375K bracket which is hampering the development of new business ideas, north and south. This is a European-wide problem reflecting the risk of investing in early stage projects.
EquityNetwork believes that the competition – the largest of its kind north or south – will help raise awareness of the economic benefits of funding for new business ventures and stimulate demand from quality early stage proposals.
“The primary aim is to help facilitate a change in attitude that will boost activity in the seedcorn sector,” commented Dr Martin Naughton, chairman of InterTradeIreland. “Empirical evidence clearly demonstrates that companies which avail of equity funding grow faster, win more sales and employ more people than traditionally funded businesses. It’s also clear that access to equity funding is a must have pre-requisite for competitive economies.”
Fergal McCann, lead advisor to EquityNetwork, believes that the competition will play an important role in encouraging entrepreneurs from right across the island to seriously consider non-traditional funding methods. “Private equity funding is the most suitable form of finance available for young start-up companies,” he asserted. “The Seedcorn Competition will give entrepreneurs a real chance to secure some hard cash and to learn how the VC industry works.”
The competition is open to any individual or group of individuals, based in the Republic or the North, the main proviso being that the business venture must not be in existence for more than three years at 30 September 2003. Entrants should have started the business and currently act as the owner/manager.
More information is available at www.intertradeireland.com/seedcorn or by contacting EquityNetwork on 048 3083 4151. The deadline for entries is 30 September, 2003.
By Brian Skelly