Catalyst teams up with Techstart Ventures to fund more founders

28 Nov 2022

Kathleen Garrett, head of proof-of-concept grants at Techstart Ventures, and Fiona Bennington, head of entrepreneurship and growth at Catalyst. Image: Catalyst

By coming together on grant funding, Catalyst and Techstart hope to provide an ‘improved experience’ for Northern Ireland’s early-stage entrepreneurs.

Catalyst and Techstart Ventures have teamed up to provide proof-of-concept grants to emerging start-ups in Northern Ireland.

The partnership will offer 10 start-up teams that take part in Catalyst’s Co-Founders programme the chance to each win a £10,000 grant. This is designed to help start-ups validate their product and develop their business.

Co-Founders is an annual entrepreneurship programme that has been run by Northern Ireland tech and innovation hub Catalyst since 2017. It aims to bring people with an entrepreneurial spark together to co-found a start-up.

Since its launch, it has delivered eight cohorts involving 611 people who have formed 134 teams. More than a third of the teams formed are continuing to work on their start-up and have raised a total of £3m in funding.

In June of this year, the 2022 cohort of start-ups received £10,000 each in proof-of-concept grants. They included equestrian digital platform Stable Manager, AI-directed precision medicine tool ProspectRx and a mobile app for diabetics called Insurin.

Techstart Ventures is a Belfast-based VC fund manager that has backed businesses such as sports-tech start-up Kairos and fashion start-up Responsible.

It is focused on early-stage technology businesses and university spin-outs through £50m of equity funds, and a £4.5m proof-of-concept grant fund that was launched in 2014.

Since then, 399 grant awards have been made by the fund, and Techstart Ventures has invested £20.6m into 43 of the businesses that have emerged from the grant fund.

Kathleen Garrett, head of proof-of-concept grants at Techstart Ventures, said its partnership with Catalyst “brings together strong teams, exciting ideas and grant funding in a supportive environment”.

“This will provide an improved experience for entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland who are at the earliest stage of their journey and help them accelerate. We are excited to see what will emerge from this partnership.”

Fiona Bennington, head of entrepreneurship and growth at Catalyst, said the two organisations share a common vision to “encourage entrepreneurship and grow the start-up ecosystem”.

“So we’re very excited to be working in unison to support local entrepreneurs who are at the beginning of their journey,” she added.

“This combined approach, with Catalyst’s team working alongside an experienced investor who has already backed many of the innovative new businesses that were formed through Co-Founders in previous years, creates even greater potential to have a positive impact and nurture more sustainable start-ups in Northern Ireland.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic