Dr Pearse Lyons, founder of Kentucky health and nutrition giant Alltech Inc, is the driving force behind a new accelerator at Dogpatch Labs in Dublin.
If you have never heard of Thomas Pearse Lyons, then you ought to have.
The Louth-born entrepreneur worked at Harp Lager while at University College Dublin, and after graduating with an MSc in brewing science, landed his “dream job” at Irish Distillers.
‘Alltech’s roots are in entrepreneurial innovation, and it’s an exciting time to be in agriculture. Personally, I am looking forward to supporting and empowering rising entrepreneurs in making tomorrow’s innovations a reality’
– DR PEARSE LYONS
His work led him to Kentucky and with just $10,000, he established Alltech in 1976. He used his own garage as a site, working on the principle that yeasts and enzymes could be used in animal feed.
Alltech became the fastest growing company in the global animal health industry through innovative technology, creative marketing and strong branding.
Today, the company employs 5,000 people across 100 manufacturing sites and records annual revenues exceeding $2bn.
Return of the native
The accelerator is going to focus on supporting 10 global agritech start-ups, providing them with space, mentoring and the opportunity of investment.
The attention of the accelerator will be focused on agritech start-ups with proven technology and a big market opportunity.
“Ireland was chosen for this global initiative – a boost for Ireland’s tech ecosystem, especially as agriculture is such a big part of our economy. We have a lot of concentrated domain expertise in this space,” said Patrick Walsh, managing director of Dogpatch Labs in Dublin.
A particular focus may include disruptive technologies and innovations in areas such as nutrigenomics, nutritional sciences, robots, sensors, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, gene editing/CRISPR, agricultural science and drones.
“36 years ago, I founded Alltech in my home with just $10,000 in my pocket, and that investment has grown into an international business with revenues of more than $2bn,” said Dr Lyons.
“Alltech’s roots are in entrepreneurial innovation, and it’s an exciting time to be in agriculture. Personally, I am looking forward to supporting and empowering rising entrepreneurs in making tomorrow’s innovations a reality.”
Food for thought
The agricultural industry is starting to be disrupted by new technologies, and agritech investment is growing at an exponential rate: $9.65bn has been invested in agritech startups since 2013, with $2bn invested in the first half of 2016 alone.
A clear route to market remains a challenge in the industry and this programme seeks to accelerate start-ups’ access to this global market and navigate the challenge of scaling their operations to service large corporate customers.
Each start-up will be provided with free space for three months in Ireland’s leading start-up hub, Dogpatch Labs. This is centrally located in the heart of the Dublin Docklands and the 10 start-ups will receive a €15,000 stipend to cover day-to-day expenses.
Mentoring will cover a range of areas from product development to go-to-market strategies and international expansion.
At the end of the programme, start-ups will pitch to the Accelerator Investment Committee for potential equity funding.
Additional benefits include software perks worth over €300,000 from companies such as Google, Facebook, SoftLayer and Amazon.
“We are looking for companies that have developed a breakthrough technology, but now they want to get to the next level.
“Dr Lyons is one of Ireland’s greatest entrepreneurs, starting his company with just $10,000 – and it is still a privately held company that has conquered the agritech world. He is considered a phenomenon in his industry.”
Walsh said the plan is to start the accelerator in February, with applications being received from today (30 October) onwards.
The deadline for applications to the Pearse Lyons Accelerator programme will close on Sunday, 11 December 2016.
Walsh added that more accelerators may chose to locate at Dogpatch Labs.
“It’s a natural evolution for us. It isn’t just about physical space but layering a community, mentoring start-ups and providing a meaningful, value-added experience.”