Hey start-ups! Fancy a free three-month landing pad in San Francisco?

28 Nov 2018

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Image: © zakzeinert/Stock.adobe.com

IgniteNI’s Belfast accelerator is offering five start-ups the opportunity of a lifetime.

Five high-potential businesses that make it on to the second IgniteNI Accelerator will get the chance to spend three months in San Francisco building their start-up after completing the intensive 12-week programme in Northern Ireland.

The IgniteNI Accelerator is looking for 10 high-potential technology start-ups to take to the next stage of development, each of whom will receive £15,000 of investment and a further £5,000 if they are relocating from outside Northern Ireland.

Ignite, backed by Invest NI, has invested in more than 150 companies across the UK and Ireland.

Start-ups that qualify for the latest accelerator cohort will, starting in March 2019, receive nine months’ free office space in the Ormeau Baths, mentoring from world-class start-up founders, and workshops with industry experts to help develop skills needed to start scaling.

The teams will also meet top-tier venture capitalists and business angels to raise investment for their plans, and be taken on trips to San Francisco, London and Dublin to develop their networks of founders, investors and advisers.

California dreaming

Woman and man in glasses hold up a laptop.

Kate Nutt from IgniteNI with Paul McKeever from Continually, one of the 10 founders to take part in the first IgniteNI Accelerator in 2018. Image: IgniteNI

Applications are open and, as an added bonus, five of the teams will also get the chance to spend an additional three months in San Francisco and have their office space, travel and accommodation costs covered.

“In our experience, raising investment from US investors or launching in the US market can be transformational for European start-ups, but it’s also incredibly difficult to get your foot in the door and decide whether it’s a viable option,” said Tristan Watson, CEO of Ignite.

“With the support of Invest NI, we’ve developed an extension to the IgniteNI accelerator programme that we’re calling the US Landing Pad. The idea is that we can give founders a helping hand to explore the possibility of raising from US investors and what would be required to launch in the US.”

The five lucky teams will get a desk in a dedicated office in San Francisco, a £5,000 grant towards travel and living costs, and further introductions to key people in the city and Silicon Valley.

Teams applying for the Ignite programme are expected to already have a product built and/or some early traction with potential customers, as well as ambitions to raise between £250,000 and £1m in the next year.

Paul McKeever from Continually was one of the 10 founders to take part in the first IgniteNI Accelerator in 2018. “Our business is growing much faster as a result of taking part in the 2018 IgniteNI Accelerator. Even though I’ve previously built and sold a business, the accelerator really helped with so many of the challenges and opportunities in a start-up. I got to learn from the mentors, the other founders on the programme and a whole range of experts. It has given me a lot of confidence in what we’re doing at Continually.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years