3 Irish start-ups win big at Challenge Cup in NDRC

27 Jan 2016

Image from the Digital Exchange in the Digital Hub. Image via Luke Maxwell

The winners of this year’s Challenge Cup 2016 for start-ups, hosted by the incubator 1776, were announced at an event in the NDRC in the Digital Exchange in Dublin.

The Challenge Cup is in its third year and is led by the venture firm 1776, a global incubator and seed fund that finds promising start-ups focused on solving the world’s most fundamental challenges and helps engineer their success.

The event held in Dublin last night (26 January) was one of 50 taking place across the world, with 135 start-ups being selected to participate in nine further regional competitions.

The winner of the Challenge Cup 2016 in Dublin last night, as selected by the judges, was SoapBox Labs.

The start-up, founded by Dr Patricia Scanlon, allows for automated, software-based assessments of children’s reading skills using its speech recognition based adaptive learning platform.

Siliconrepublic.com spoke to Dr Scanlon last month about her company’s impressive platform at the Innovation Showcase, where she revealed Soapbox Lab’s software is currently undergoing trials in schools in Ireland and Soapbox Labs is in talks with several SMEs and publishing organisations.

The company’s exploits also saw it included in Siliconrepublic.com’s 21 Irish start-ups to watch in 2016 list.

The second big winner on the night was the high-flying digital start-up SkyTango, specialising in film production and drone technology co-founded by Steven Flynn and Susan Talbot. The company – all of who are film and television producers, directors, editors and drone operators – was considered the most impressive company by judges in last year’s NDRC LaunchPad. For its success in the final pitch of the NDRC Launchpad, SkyTango received €30,000 in funding to develop its service.


Pictured l-r: Steven Flynn, CEO and co-founder, Skytango; Ben Hurley, CEO, NDRC; Susan Talbot, co-founder, Skytango; Gary Leyden, Commerical Director, NDRC. Image via Shane O’Neill Photography.

The company has now firmly established itself at the forefront of the ‘aerial marketplace’ in Ireland, something that was clearly seen by the Challenge Cup judges. The final winner chosen was a sporty affair, with Galway-based Contego Sports. Founded in 2014 by Mark and Sandra Ganly, the company is developing a new head protector to dramatically reduce the G-Force impact transferred to a player’s head during sport.

Concussion remains a hot topic in sport today and, with their design, its impact on the brain could significantly decrease, to the benefit of players of sports like rugby or American football.

The three Irish winners will join the 42 other regional winners, as well as 45 additional wildcard slots, to compete for $1m in cash prizes and funding at the global finals in Washington DC at the 1776 Challenge Festival in June of this year.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic