Irish start-up news from this week you might have missed

15 Apr 2022

The Umba team. Image: Umba

We look at some of the week’s news in the start-up space, from funding deals and fresh opportunities to Irish success on foreign shores.

It has been a busy few months for tech start-ups in Ireland, with Flipdish and Wayflyer joining the country’s growing unicorn club.

A TechIreland report released this week found that 2021 was a “landmark year” for Irish tech start-ups across all sectors, with 292 companies raising more than €1.6bn in funding – a 60pc increase over 2020 and the highest ever raised.

Here, we round-up some the latest news from the thriving tech start-up ecosystem.

All things funding

Less than two years after it raised $2m in seed funding, Irish-founded fintech Umba has raised a $15m Series A to expand its digital banking platform to three new African markets. Founded by former Munster rugby player Barry O’Mahony and Tiernan Kennedy, Umba is developing a platform as an alternative to legacy African banks.

Operating out of Lagos, Nigeria, Umba is now planning to expand its financial and banking products to Egypt, Ghana and Kenya, according to TechCrunch. Those backing the investment to deliver the push include some Nubank execs, the co-founder of Monzo, as well as investor and former Stripe employee Lachy Groom.

Another Irish-founded start-up, Replan, has also raised funding for expansion. The company, which has bases in London and Cork, develops supply chain technology using automation and AI. It launched its software offering this week after securing a £2m investment round led by Hoxton Ventures, with an aim to “redefine supply chain planning”.

“Wrapped inside a fast, intuitive UI, Replan delivers cutting-edge AI modelling and optimisation capabilities to transform and scale production planning, empowering supply chain planners to anticipate and respond to disruption with greater intelligence and agility,” founder and Irishman Richie Barter wrote in a blogpost.

Replan is now eyeing the UK and EU markets and has long-term plans to break into North America.

Meanwhile Bowsy, the platform that connects third-level students with employers for remote work experience, has bagged €250,000 from Enterprise Ireland’s high-potential start-up programme, which helps Irish start-ups scale internationally. Launched in 2020, Bowsy is on a mission to make it easier for students to find remote work in their field of study.

“It also allows Irish businesses to connect with future talent through meaningful project work while providing an alternative to traditional part-time work for third-level students,” said Bowsy CEO John Brady.

Now connected to most third-level institutes in Ireland, Bowsy’s next stop for expansion is just across the Irish Sea.

Opportunities and recognition

For those looking for funding and support to scale their business, a number of opportunities have sprung up over the last week.

InterTradeIreland is looking for innovative start-ups and early-stage companies across the island to take part in its Seedcorn Investor Readiness competition, which has a total prize fund of €300,000. With a top prize of €100,000, the initiative also gives start-ups business feedback and exposure to investors.

“We are hosting a series of free information sharing sessions in the coming weeks to help companies with their entries, and I would encourage all innovative young businesses to embrace the opportunities that Seedcorn can provide,” said programme manager Connor Sweeney. As a bonus, a special €20,000 prize is up for grabs for green energy start-ups.

In Northern Irish, tech-focused nonprofit Catalyst announced a partnership this week with AwakenHub, the entrepreneurship community for women. The collaboration aims to help AwakenHub increase the number of women entrepreneurs across the island of Ireland and beyond.

There’s good news also for entrepreneurs in rural Ireland, especially those in the Irish-speaking Gaeltacht communities. Údarás na Gaeltachta is now involved in an EU study that will look to boost rural social entrepreneurship with a focus on young people and women across local communities in Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Scotland.

“We want to investigate what support and what conditions are required for social enterprises in rural areas to be able to develop and prosper,” said Yvonne von Friedrichs of Mid Sweden University, who is the lead partner of the survey-based study of Northern Europe.

And finally, a Cork start-up has bagged a coveted position at a Harvard University incubator programme called Climate Entrepreneur’s Circle. MyGug is one of 28 global climate-focused start-ups that will join the incubator this year with access to one-on-one coaching, legal counsel and Harvard’s strong industry networks.

Founded by Kieran Coffey and backed by Enterprise Ireland, MyGug has developed a food waste treatment system that turns the waste into biogas and liquid fertiliser.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic