The Ireland Funds and NDRC reveal €24,000 Business Plan Competition 2019

12 Mar 2019

From left: Competition founder Bill McKiernan with 2018 winners Celine De Looze and Shona D’Arcy of Kids Speech Labs. Image: The Ireland Funds

Annual competition is truly a boost to early-stage tech start-ups.

Philanthropic network The Ireland Funds and start-up accelerator NDRC have increased the prize fund for their annual Business Plan Competition by more than €8,000 to €24,000.

The aim of the competition is to kick-start three new technology business ideas.

‘We came out of the competition with a clear vision of what was needed to build our start-up’

Over the last two years, Business Plan Competition finalists have collectively gone on to raise €3.7m in follow-on funding, with 45pc of the cohort securing €100,000 or more.

Who dares, starts

“The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition is a wonderful exemplar of the value and impact of pre-acceleration support on early-stage ventures,” said Helen Fullen, pre-acceleration programme lead at NDRC. “From the content and peer learning to the opportunity to engage with world-class mentors, it is a unique and, for many, a transformational experience.”

The competition, which seeks to nurture creativity and hone entrepreneurial skills among early-stage technology entrepreneurs, is open for entries until Sunday, 28 April 2019. University and third-level students and researchers, as well as recent graduates across the island of Ireland, are invited to submit technology proposals that are at pre-investment stage.

10 business ideas will then be shortlisted and will be invited to participate in four pre-acceleration workshops, bringing their business ideas from concept to pitch as well as receiving mentoring and feedback throughout the process.

There will be a final pitching event and three prizes will be awarded. The winner will have the opportunity to pitch for a place on one of NDRC’s investment programmes as well as securing a €15,000 cash prize. Second place will receive a €7,000 cash prize and third place will receive €2,000.

Entrepreneurs wishing to take part can do so here.

The art of the start

Kids Speech Labs, founded by Shona D’Arcy and Celine De Looze, became the first all-female team to win the prize last year. The company is currently developing a suite of products to enable parents to track their children’s speech development.

“The competition was a great starting point for our business; it helped us really understand what our business is about,” D’Arcy said. “The team at NDRC were incredibly supportive and the programme was both focused and fast-paced. We came out of the competition with a clear vision of what was needed to build our start-up.”

The Business Plan Competition was founded by Bill McKiernan, who is also president at WSM Capital, founder of CyberSource and board director of The Ireland Funds America. He said: “The 2018 Business Plan Competition finalists were by far the best we’ve hosted to date, and the teams reflected the strength of entrepreneurship on the island of Ireland. It’s especially gratifying to see the growing representation by women. We were delighted to award Kids Speech Labs, created by a female duo, with first prize last year.

“We hope to see similar representation in 2019 and, with the significant increase in prize money, this will be our most ambitious year to date.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years