6 high-potential Irish start-ups to watch in 2021

25 Feb 2021

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Enterprise Ireland supported 80 high-potential Irish start-ups in 2020. Here are just six that you should have on your radar this year.

Every year, Enterprise Ireland’s Start-up Showcase highlights Irish start-ups to watch. This year, the State agency responsible for supporting Irish businesses is showcasing 125 Irish start-ups that received funding in 2020.

These Irish start-ups represent a mix of early-stage companies and those that have been specifically identified as high-potential start-ups, or HPSUs.

How a start-up’s potential is determined involves a thorough assessment of its team and business model. Specifically, Enterprise Ireland is looking for start-ups with the potential to create 10 jobs or reach €1m in sales within three years.

While each of the 80 high-potential start-ups identified in this year’s showcase deserves this designation, I pressed Niall McEvoy, a HPSU manager at Enterprise Ireland, to single out a handful that he’s excited about.

This is a question asked every year at the Enterprise Ireland showcase and, for someone such as McEvoy, it’s like being asked to choose a favourite child. However, he was cajoled into giving us at Siliconrepublic.com a whistle-stop tour through a select few from the long list of exceptional Irish start-ups.

The full list of HPSUs and other exciting early-stage Irish start-ups that received funding the past year can be found in all its glory here.

Altada

First on the list is Altada, an AI company coming out of Cork but with bases established in Dublin and New York. Founded in 2017, Altada uses AI to optimise and interpret huge datasets. The company has strong values, too, and claims that trustworthy and ethical AI informs its every move. In the past year, the company applied its technology to help frontline workers increase data efficiency amid the Covid-19 crisis. It also funded groceries needed by those in isolation in Cork.

Co-founder and CEO Allan Beechinor is a serial entrepreneur and highly regarded as a thought leader in AI. Fellow co-founder Niamh Parker serves as the company’s chief legal and compliance officer. She brings more than two decades’ experience in the legal, healthcare, hospitality and technology sectors to Altada and is also CEO of its sister company, BeaconAI.

“Allan is also leading and working with Tangent in [Trinity College Dublin] on an AI accelerator. So that’s somebody who’s not just an entrepreneur, but is giving back to the next generation of entrepreneurs that are coming through,” said McEvoy.

Boundless

Boundless, said McEvoy, is a “fantastic female-led company” helmed by Dee Coakley. “Dee has been involved in a number of other start-ups in the past, not in a founding capacity but in a senior management capacity. And she has taken the jump to go out and do her own start-up,” McEvoy explained.

Boundless is an international employment platform for growing and managing remote teams. It addresses many of the issues employers have hit upon in the past year, from the legality of hiring people internationally to payment and tax issues, and employment law across different territories.

Coakley leads the Dublin company as CEO with Irish tech royalty Eamon Leonard and remote work advocate Emily Castles completing the founding team. While they founded the company almost a year before the pandemic, the past year has presented a golden opportunity for Boundless to thrive in a reimagined world of work.

Bundledocs

Another company tackling an issue crystallised by Covid-19 is Bundledocs. Remote working has amplified the need for electronic filing and, according to McEvoy, “Bundledocs is a cloud platform for the paperless lawyer.”

Also based in Cork, Bundledocs has a long history having started in 2005 as Brief Builder, a desktop application for quickly building legal briefs. In 2010, it rebranded to Bundledocs and shifted to cloud-first software.

Bundledocs helps legal professionals create digital document bundles, binders and booklets. Led by CEO Brian Kenneally, the company has more than 700 clients across 34 countries. It secured €600,000 in funding from Enterprise Ireland and private investors last September, which will help accelerate its global growth.

In December, the company celebrated becoming the first electronic document bundling tool on the market to receive ISO 27001 certification, a recognised international standard for information security.

GuardYoo

GuardYoo is another HPSU based out of Cork, with Darren Sexton as CEO. Sexton has “a fairly long career and background in multinationals”, according to McEvoy. Indeed his résumé includes well-known names in Irish tech such as PFH, Trend Micro, Sage and McAfee.

GuardYoo co-founders Oleh Derevianko and Roman Sologub have created what they believe to be a game changer in cybersecurity. This SaaS tool is a cybersecurity platform for compromise assessment. “Loads of organisations’ IT systems are compromised and they don’t even know about it. And this is a platform to help you find when you’ve been compromised, how you’ve been compromised, and also to stop you being compromised,” said McEvoy.

Serial entrepreneur Derevianko is also on the founding teams of Information Systems Security Partners (ISSP), a Ukrainian cybersecurity company operating since 2008; and the International Cyber Academy in Kiev. Fellow Ukrainian Sologub is CEO of ISSP. He has said that the duo founded GuardYoo in Cork because of the concentration of cybersecurity companies already based there.

Recroot

Recroot is a Dublin start-up with roots in Tipperary. “This is a video hiring tool for hospitality groups hiring in large volumes,” explained McEvoy.

Recroot started life as Hyred, which was formed by Cian Farrell and his friend Neville Flynn. Cahir native Farrell was in his final year at University College Dublin when he and Flynn experienced first-hand the difficulty of finding a part-time job in a new city. With that, they developed Hyred to streamline the recruitment process and provide both employers and jobseekers with an online platform and app for casual and hourly work.

In 2016, this yet-to-be-established idea brought them to the Tipperary finals of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneurs Awards. Now, as Recroot, they are readying their new position for when the hospitality sector recovers. “Obviously, the hospitality industry has been significantly impacted over the last 12 months,” said McEvoy. “But as it gets back into some sort of reasonable shape, this platform can be a significant advantage for people looking to hire remotely.”

Squid

Many of the Irish start-ups that receive HPSU funding come from experienced entrepreneurs with proven domain expertise and management experience. However, some young entrepreneurs have showed just as much potential to Enterprise Ireland, such as the team behind Squid.

Squid is a digital loyalty card platform that can be used by coffee shops, cafés, supermarkets or any retail space with a loyalty programme. Katie Farrell and Matthew Coffey are “two young founders fresh out of university and doing a great job”, according to McEvoy. They founded Squid in Dublin in 2019 with Coffey taking the lead as CEO and Farrell as COO and head of product.

Part of the reasoning behind digital loyalty cards is that it generates less paper and plastic waste. Building on that environmental ethos, the company supported a tree-planting initiative last year for every loyalty card completed on the platform.

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com