ESB and Dublin Web Summit open contest for Ireland’s ‘brightest spark’ to win €25k prize

18 Sep 2013

Donal Flynn, group director, ESB; and Paddy Cosgrave, founder and CEO of the Dublin Web Summit, at the launch of the ESB Spark of Genius Award. Image via Marc O'Sullivan

Digital start-ups have an opportunity to win a prize fund worth around €25,000, now that the electricity utility ESB has opened up the application process for this year’s Spark of Genius Award. The ultimate winner will then be revealed to the crowd at the Dublin Web Summit tech fest in October.

Donal Flynn, group finance director, ESB, hooked up with Paddy Cosgrave, founder and CEO of the Dublin Web Summit, to announce details of the 2013 Spark of Genius competition this morning.

The contest will be open to Irish-grown tech start-ups – more specifically, HPSUs (high-potential start-ups) – that have been in operation for less than three years. As part of the selection criteria, such a start-up must have gleaned investment of less than €1m during that timeframe, however.

Once the entries are whittled down to a shortlist of 30 finalists, ESB confirmed today that those ventures will then battle it out during pitching sessions at the upcoming Dublin Web Summit.

The start-ups will be vying to get their hands on a prize fund valued to the tune of €25,000.

It’s the fourth year of the contest. Previous winners have included Datahug in 2010. The company has since raised €6m from Salesforce, DFJ Esprit and other investors. And last year’s winner was Smartthings. It has since raised €3m.

At the Dublin Web Summit, two rounds of pitching will take place.

Then there will be a grand finale to pick the winning Irish start-up for 2013. This will play out on the Main Stage of the Dublin Web Summit on 31 October in front of an audience of start-ups from around the globe, plus investors and VCs in the technology space.

Entrants will be judged on the uniqueness of their business idea, how they have evolved to date, and their scope for future growth, ESB confirmed this morning.

Alan Coleman of Brite:Bill, the ESB Spark of Genius Award winner a few years back, said the win was an important milestone in the start-up’s growth.

“The process of competing in the ESB Spark of Genius competition was hugely valuable for us,” he said.

He said that taking part in the overall contest forces start-ups to get to the “essence” of what their idea is all about, as well as validating it with seasoned entrepreneurs.

Coleman said the contest is also a useful exercise for competing against one’s start-up “peers”.

“If you succeed in coming through that process, whether you win or not, your chances of turning your start-up into a viable business just increased tenfold,” he added.

Applications for the Spark of Genius contest will be open until 26 September.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic