The NDRC’s LaunchPad programme is helping people with ideas in the digital space to develop them into viable businesses, with JLizard, Bragbet and GeoDealio, three companies that have recently emerged from the programme.
Amy Neale, programme manager at the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC), says the third LaunchPad series is starting this week, with 10 start-up teams involved, comprising both teams and individuals.
The 25 participants will stay on LaunchPad until April 2010.
To give a flavour of the new 10 teams, they include a team focused on a new audio broadcasting tool, while another team is focused on creating a new online video marketplace, explains Neale.
The Italian connection
“In particular, we’ve got our first international team starting. There’s an Italian team from the Venice region, which is moving over for LaunchPad for the three months. They have recognised the benefits of starting up in Ireland.
"This particular Italian start-up is focused on a semantic web offering, looking at capturing user feedback," she says. It plans to set up its base in Ireland afterwards.
“We’re very excited that the LaunchPad message has reached that far and people are recognising that Ireland is actually a good place to start up.
“They’ve incorporated their company here and they are looking to do some piloting of what they have done so far both with Irish and Italian partners during the three-month LaunchPad programme. The longer-term plan is Ireland. They are looking at developing their links with a third-level institution while they are based in Ireland. Given that they have a semantic web focus, those early conversations have been with DERI in Galway.
Gateway for start-ups
“It sits very well with the Innovation Ireland focus – with Ireland being a gateway for start-ups across Europe. We’ll be watching this Italian company with interest over the three months.”
Neale says the audio-broadcasting tool team is an all-woman one.
“The lead there comes from a community radio background so they have got strong broadcast domain expertise. Within that team there’s also very strong technical and mobile skills. They are looking at building a brand new product."
Meanwhile, the online marketplace comprises an individual from a university with a strong research background who has coupled up with an entrepreneur to build a new product.
She says this team is a good reflection of LaunchPad’s focus, which is to looking to pull through intellectual property that might have had its origins in a university and develop that forward into commercial products.
What do people get from LaunchPad?
“It’s a three-month accelerator programme for start-ups to develop here at the NDRC in a dedicated environment alongside other start-ups,” explains Neale.
“They get hands-on mentoring from an experienced entrepreneur during their time on the programme. They also get to meet a whole network of people – both those who are based here at the NDRC working on other projects and also external experts that we bring in during the programme.
“We’ll host workshops to cover marketing, user interaction and design, and financing, so they can build their business models, the legals of a start-up. We’ll also introduce them to venture investors and help them to develop their pitch.”
Most vitally to the VC investment is the programme culminates in April with what the NDRC terms the ‘Lift Off’ event.
“This is where all the start-ups will pitch to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs. They are actually pitching for further follow-on investment at that point.”
She says the panel for the last Lift Off event included Shay Garvey of Delta Partners, who represented the investor community.
“Then we also brought in Eamonn Fallon from Daft.ie and Nessa Butler, the ex-managing director of Harvey Nash. They were the panel members that made the final decision, which led to Picturk being the winner.”
Bragbet – social networking and betting
Bragbet was the runner-up of Lift Off.
“Bragbet are a really interesting start-up,” says Neale. “They actually formed at Dublin Startup Weekend in May last year. Before May, the team didn’t know each other. Brian O’Mullane came with the idea and the team of three formed around Brian over the course of the weekend. The team participated in LaunchPad 2. Bragbet is about combining social networking and betting. Their whole focus is current social networks concentrate more on women. What they are trying to do is create a space for groups of guys to get together and pool their resources to produce good bets on a regular basis.”
She says Bragbet is fundraising for its seed round and the team has had significant interest both in Ireland and the UK.
Neale believes the team has the potential to make it globally with their social networking and betting model.
“I think it really is innovative and very compelling as an idea.”
JLizard – Logocentries product
Dr Trevor Parsons and Dr Viliam Holub of UCD’s School of Computer Science and Informatics, and co-founders of JLizard, the overall winner of the NovaUCD 2010 Start-Up Award
JLizard participated in the first LaunchPad. The team is comprised of two post-doctoral researchers at UCD – Trevor Parsons and Dr Viliam Holub.
JLizard has developed a cloud-based product – www.logentries.com – to enable organisations to reduce the time required to analyse the log data of their IT systems from days to minutes. The company won NovaUCD’s 2010 Start-Up Award last November.
Neale says their idea was based on know-how that they developed in the Performance Engineering Laboratory in UCD’s School of Computer Science and Informatics.
“They launched the start-up during their three months on LaunchPad. They’ve spent the last nine months building the product and testing it with a number of trial users and they are in a position to launch the full product in February, with a fully validated pricing strategy.
A de-risk offering
LaunchPad will be recruiting for its next round in May, and Neale says the NDRC is keen to talk to people all the time who have interesting ideas.
“The earlier we can speak to them about how to apply, the better,” she says.
People don’t need a business plan when contacting LaunchPad.
“We’re happy to hear from people who are at a fairly early stage. They don’t need to have incorporated the company. What we look at is how compelling the idea is, what the market potential is, the strength of the team.
“Importantly, for us, they need to have a plan to launch something during their three months. We’re looking at them launching a beta version or maybe even a single feature of their product in order for them to get some feedback from the market and some validation of their idea. Really what we want them to be doing during their three months with us is de-risking any future investments,” concludes Neale.