We spoke to five Enterprise Ireland-funded start-ups about their journey so far.
At the Enterprise Ireland Start-up Showcase 2017, the theme was ‘global ambition’, with a cohort of 101 high-potential start-ups identified among the State agency’s 2016 investments.
To be initiated into Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up (HSPU) funding programme, start-ups must demonstrate the potential to create 10 jobs and €1m in sales in the first few years of business, so international scalability is a natural indicator. That said, plenty of the 128 Competitive Start Fund (CSF) recipients showcased at Dublin Castle also have their sights set on markets abroad.
But what does it take to secure funding from Enterprise Ireland and the validation of your start-up’s potential? Earlier this month, we asked three of the agency’s HPSUs and two CSF awardees about their journey so far and their plans for the immediate future.
Parkpnp co-founder and CEO Garret Flower claims that his is the number one parking app right now in Dublin. Indeed, this former Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week had a successful 2016, raising half-a-million euro in funding and generating revenue earlier than expected.
Flower says his start-up journey is no different than many others. “It’s the same for a lot of people in this room,” he said. “You start lean. You don’t have much money so you have to build the product, the MVP. You gotta create the vision of the business – and then we went for funding.”
As Parkpnp gears up for its official launch at the end of March, Flower is happy to have the company’s work validated by Enterprise Ireland and is looking forward to growing the team and perfecting the product this year.
Anita Finnegan’s start-up, Nova Leah, is derived from her research into cybersecurity for medical devices. Finnegan developed a methodology to assist medtech manufacturers in building secure connected devices for use in medical settings, and as implants.
The potential of this research was spotted by Enterprise Ireland, who invited Finnegan to take part in a commercialisation fund project. “We did that for two years with Enterprise Ireland. We were funded almost €300,000 to develop the product and get ourselves to a commercial-ready place,” she said.
Last summer, Nova Leah spun out of Dundalk Institute of Technology and is already onboarding its first US customers. The company has secured office space in Boston and plans to hire 20 more staff in 2017.
EviView is another HPSU offering services to the life sciences industry, though in this case the software is based on business intelligence.
EviView’s analytics software is built to optimise manufacturing and currently targets pharma and biotech players. Head of product Karol Dabrowski says the platform is also suitable for dairy, food, gas and oil industries.
EviView’s target market of big pharma multinationals has seen it tackle the hurdles of strict regulation and compliance to get to the point of now deploying its software with major clients. “We are a small team but dealing with such huge players like the life sciences industry is very difficult. You have to match loads of sophisticated requirements, especially from the IT point of view,” Dabrowski explained.
Tandem HR Solutions
From the batch of Competitive Start Fund start-ups, we spoke to Aisling Teillard, CEO of feedback and coaching tool Tandem HR Solutions.
Teillard explained how persistence paid off for this start-up as their first attempt applying for CSF was unsuccessful. “We tried initially with a very early-stage idea, but we were far too early,” she said.
“We started to really get serious about the value proposition, understand our product better, validate it with customers – we did a really strong feasibility study – and then we started to gain a bit of traction and get some customers on to the platform to start testing it,” Teillard explained.
“At that point, we were able to apply for the Female Founders CSF, and we were very fortunate to be successful in that.”
Finally, we spoke to the founders of Glissed, which ended 2016 with funding secured at NDRC’s Investor Day.
Glissed aims to build the world’s largest community for freelance beauty professionals, and this year is all about growth for the company – particularly, reaching the UK market.
Like Tandem HR Solutions, Glissed founders Louise Dunne and Niamh McHugh had to try a few times before finally securing a CSF in June 2016. This has given the team some much-needed funds for marketing as well as invaluable advice and support.
For other start-ups seeking CSF success, Dunne says time and preparation is key.
“It’s not like any [other] application form. It’s quite detailed,” she said. “We actually would have spent time talking to other companies who have received that fund, asking for advice and a bit of help on what was the best way to go about that, and it’s brought us to here.”