The potency and quality of Irish start-ups is world-class and, if this year is anything to go by, these entrepreneurs are set to shine in 2018.
The Irish start-up scene is gaining momentum, and the proof of the quality of any entrepreneurial ecosystem is the variety of technologies and the scale of funding levels.
Our selection of start-ups to watch this year was governed by originality of approach and depth of technology, and they straddle the worlds of e-commerce, fintech, medtech, edutech and more. You will see some interesting uses of artificial intelligence (AI) as well as new hardware invented in Ireland that will redefine audio as we know it, for example.
A key point to note from this year’s selection is that 19 out of the 30 start-ups – yep, almost two-thirds – are either led by women founders or include female founders on the team.
Another characteristic is the sheer scale of some of the funding rounds, such as Plynk raising €25m and Dr Nora Khaldi’s Nuritas raising €16m in a Series A round.
30 start-ups is just a dip in the ocean and, if we could feature all Irish entrepreneurs to watch in 2018, we would. For that, keep reading these pages into next year.
And, for those of you that made this coming year’s list, we salute you!
— Enterprise Ireland (@Entirl) August 3, 2017
Áine NutriScience is an interactive, cloud-based, animal-feed ration formulation platform that aims to increase farm profitability sustainably. It helps farmers to create well-balanced, cheap feeding programmes. The start-up was founded by Katerina Duke, who credits the inspiration for the company to her mother, a retired professor of animal nutrition and a business woman. Áine NutriScience’s scalable platform has made the nutrition of animal science easy and accessible to all farmers.
Bamboo is the creator of an ingenious food app that lets you skip the morning or lunchtime queues. Founded by Alan Haverty and Luke Mackey, the app is focused on Dublin first, with more than 30 venues signed up and plans to expand into other cities overseas.
Chasing Returns has developed a platform to help financial traders overcome psychological biases. Founded by Ann Hunt, the target market is 10m active retail traders globally, and this is growing quickly. Working on the maxim that the human mind determines success or failure in financial trading, Chasing Returns’ core products, PlayMaker and GamePlan, help traders to turn psychology to their advantage.
Dublin-based Coroflo has developed and patented a revolutionary nipple shield and app that aids mothers in the breastfeeding process. The company was recently named winner of the Dublin leg of the Virgin Media Business Voom Tour. It also won the ESB Spark of Genius competition for 2017. Coroflo was founded by Rosanne Longmore, CTO Jamie Travers and chief medical officer Helen Barry.
Donegal-based DroneSAR has developed unique software that it claims will revolutionise the worldwide search-and-rescue (SAR) industry. The start-up has developed an app that transforms basic, commercially available drones into SAR platforms. DroneSAR has the capability to stream live images and video from the drone as it conducts its search to the command and control unit of the agency. The company was founded by seasoned SAR professionals and pilots Oisin McGrath, Matthew Kelly, Gearóid Ó Briain and Leo Murray.
Emu Ink is an independent publishing company providing a unique school programme that turns primary pupils into real published authors. The country’s youngest authors are supported by Emu Ink, including Joe Prendergast, author of the trilogy, The Great Fragola Brothers. Emu Ink is a graduate of the 2017 Female High Fliers accelerator at Dublin City University (DCU) Ryan Academy.
Flender is a peer-to-peer lending start-up founded last year by technology entrepreneurs Kristjan Koik (CEO), Oli Cavanagh and Jeremy Davies. The platform has also attracted Ding founder Mark Roden to its board, and has so far lent €1m to businesses. Earlier this year, Flender raised £500,000 on UK crowdfunding platform Seedrs.
Future Ticketing replaces outdated, legacy ticketing solutions and middlemen with a cloud-based ticketing software platform that enables venues, visitor attractions, events, promoters, shows and sports organisations to sell tickets directly from their own website and social media. Founded by Liam Holton, the start-up works with events and venues that sell tickets from 100 right up to 100,000 attendees.
Happy Scribe is the brainchild of DCU students André Bastie (master’s in electronic commerce) and Marc Assens (computer science) who have developed an exciting new transcription tool that helps researchers and journalists save a considerable amount of time in transcribing interviews and audio files. The platform allows users to simply upload an audio file and get transcriptions automatically to their mailbox from just €0.09 per minute. Using voice recognition, the service works in more than 80 languages and can transcribe a one-hour interview within 20 minutes, estimated to save up to four hours.
HouseMyDog is an online community where dog parents can connect with dog-sitters to find a safe and loving real home for their pets while they travel. A start-up that came through NDRC’s LaunchPad programme in 2016, HouseMyDog was founded by brothers Timothy and James McElroy. With plans for major expansion, HouseMyDog this year became the first business from Ireland to use crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to achieve its funding goals. Initially seeking to raise £180,000 for a little more than 11pc of its company, it instead blew through the target in just a couple of days, with the total raised well in excess of £500,000.
Focused on the $2.3bn global retail market that is ripe for disruption, Intouch helps retailers to build the store of the future by digitising the in-store experience. Founded by Dr Sameh Abdalla (CEO), Doychin Doychev (CTO) and Tim Arits (COO), its technology helps to close the gap between the offline and online world by innovating with in-store tech, AI, machine learning and big data.
Izzy Wheels – founded by sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane from Galway – provides a unique range of stylish wheel covers for wheelchairs. The product transforms a medical device into a piece of fashion and self-expression. Its tagline is: ‘If you can’t stand up, stand out.’ To date, Izzy Wheels has collaborated with 25 world-famous designers, including iconic print designer Orla Kiely.
LogoGrab is an AI and cloud company that is influencing the future of digital marketing with its logo-recognition technology. The Dublin-based company’s innovative marketing tool saw it win first prize in the 2017 spring programme of Google Adopt a Startup, with the latter lauding the progress that LogoGrab had made throughout the three-month programme. Founded by Wes Roddy, Collette Doyle and Luca Boschin, LogoGrab monitors logos and branding in images and video, alerting companies when their image appears somewhere and providing them with additional information on how well their marketing is going.
Founded by CEO Anita Finnegan, Nova Leah specialises in developing expert cybersecurity risk-management systems specifically for medical devices. Nova Leah’s cloud-based system, SelectEvidence, the result of a five-year R&D programme at Dundalk Institute of Technology. SelectEvidence is designed to guide medical device manufacturers in the implementation of cybersecurity requirements and best practices over the lifetime of a device, in compliance with US FDA recommendations for infosec threats and risks during pre-market and post-market activities.
Founded by Dr Nora Khaldi, Nuritas uses AI, machine learning and DNA analysis to rapidly predict, and then provide access to, potentially beneficial components hidden within food called peptides. The results could lead to the discovery of new food components to help prevent, manage and even cure deadly diseases. Yesterday (20 December), it emerged that the company secured €16m Series A funding led by Chicago-based Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, bringing its total investment to date to approximately €25m. Founded in 2014, Nuritas boasts some pretty well-known funders from previous rounds, including Bono and The Edge from U2, and Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff.
Opening.io is using AI to make the recruitment process entirely data-driven. Employing AI enables users to narrow down candidate pools based on role-specific criteria, and data science can be used to help recruiters sharpen their game and not overlook important CVs or opportunities. Opening.io was founded by two Transylvanians who have made Ireland their home, Andreea Wade and Adrian Mihai.
Payslip has developed digital technology that empowers payroll professionals to streamline their global payroll processes and manage international data, resources and vendors efficiently on one user-friendly cloud platform. Founder Fidelma McGuirk previously founded Sprintax.com and was the CEO of Taxback.com.
PhysioLinked delivers appointment scheduling, practice management and online payment technology to physiotherapy clinics. Founded by physiotherapist Sonia Neary and Dr Greg Martin, PhysioLinked offers not only lead generation, but a complimentary, streamlined practice management system for physiotherapists.
Founded in 2015 by Charles Dowd and Clive Foley, Plynk offers a money-messaging app that lets phone users chat one-to-one and in groups, and send and receive money instantly from within the chats. Plynk recently completed a €25m Series A funding round led by private investment trust Suisse Privée Ltd. In October, Plynk revealed plans to create 40 new jobs in Dublin.
Popertee is building the first global data platform that will use AI to match the perfect audience with the perfect location, connecting brands with the ideal space using social media and behavioural data. Founded by Lucinda Kelly, Popertee will soon be capable of measuring the impact of campaigns for experiential marketing, pop-ups, events and brands looking to test markets on a short-term basis and have deeper insights on performance, event planning, agencies and venues, but in a more accurate way.
Profile 90 is a smart scouting platform that integrates scientific insights, taking traditional scouting to a new level. This allows clubs to see a 360-degree view of a player before they ever sign them. The company was founded by Dr Jag Basra, a doctor of psychiatry with three years’ experience working as a lecturer on the UEFA Pro Licence, and Trev Keane. Profile 90 improves the efficiency of the academy, reduces the cost of player acquisition and increases revenue from player sales. Profile 90 uses consistent, efficient reporting, coupled with scientific insights, to identify top talent.
Prolego is an early-stage enterprise offering proprietary AI solutions to improve the accuracy of genetic testing. The founders of Prolego are associate professor Andrew Parnell and Dr Mahdi Amina, both of the University College Dublin (UCD) School of Mathematics and Statistics, and Dr Belinda Hernández of Trinity College Dublin. The start-up recently won UCD’s Start-up of the Year award and a €20,000 prize, as well as winning the overall UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme.
Simteractive is a Dublin company specialising in SIM games. Founded by Elaine Reynolds, Simteractive is developing a new game called Eden Isle: Resort Paradise, which lets players build and manage their dream holiday resort. The game has been soft-launched in Canada ahead of its launch in the US. Simteractive is focused on a market opportunity of up to $5bn.
Sonarc is a company developing the world’s first commercially viable speaker with no moving parts. Founded by Sorcha O’Brien and Paul Gilligan, Sonarc combines novel methods for creating and controlling atmospheric plasma to build its innovative sound devices. Sonarc achieves greater sound volume per unit area (up to four times louder) than current speaker technology by controlling air movement around the speaker. As inventor and CEO, Gilligan started building speakers when he was 12 after inheriting his granduncle’s speaker and radio collection. He has now developed a process to replace vibrating cones – standard speaker build – with plasma, which results in smaller speakers with better audio and bass response when compared to traditional designs.
SwiftComply is a platform that connects restaurants, cities and contractors to make environmental compliance easy. The company received High-Potential Start-Up status from Enterprise Ireland in early 2017, and opened an office in the US this summer to be closer to US customers. The start-up took part in the Techstars programme in 2016, and earlier this year secured a $900,000 investment led by the former COO of Facebook, Owen Van Natta. SwiftComply recently emerged victorious in the qualifier to represent Ireland in the Startup World Cup in San Francisco.
Tandem HR Solutions is the Irish company behind a HR tech solution to help organisations reshape how employee performance is managed through driving enhanced coaching and feedback practices. The company recently raised €2m in a seed funding round that will lead to the creation of 40 new jobs over the next three years as Tandem continues to grow and expand its business from Ireland into international markets, with a range of blue-chip clients already using its platform. Tandem was founded in 2016 by Aisling Teillard (CEO), Jim O’Brien and Clare Bonham.
Dublin-based Think Biosolution has developed a new technology that turns sports apparel into wellness trainers. The company’s product, QuasaR, is a wearable personal wellness trainer that helps users to manage their obesity, stress, heart and respiratory conditions by suggesting optimal exercise routines and duration, based on the user’s personal health and fitness goals. Founded by Shourjya Sanyal and Koushik Kumar Nundy, Think Biosolution recently secured $100,000 after being named as one of the 10 finalists of the Luminate NY accelerator in New York.
Trezeo provides financial stability for self-employed workers in the gig economy by turning unpredictable income streams into reliable and regular payments, with no interest or hidden fees involved. Trezeo was founded by two highly experienced financial services and technology professionals, Garrett Cassidy (CEO) and Flavien Charlon (CTO). Its pilot in the UK will launch soon, with the company raising funding in the coming months to satisfy a subsequent, full product roll-out. The company recently won the Payments Dragons’ Den competition at PayExpo Europe in London, as well as winning €30,000 in follow-on investment from NDRC, to go with the €100,000 it already invested in the fintech start-up.
With an intelligent opinion poll platform, uHerrd empowers publishers and bloggers to engage with readers. Founded by Paul Sedgwick, Conor Devlin and Justin Little, uHerrd focuses on being a key tool for bloggers, journalists and publishers to attract new audiences to their content.
Work Juggle is a curated, digital marketplace that connects highly skilled professionals with flexible work, contract work, part-time roles or remote working. Work Juggle is the brainchild of Ciara Garvan who founded the company in 2016. Work Juggle puts candidates in the driving seats of their own careers. The company is also a graduate of the DCU Ryan Academy Female High Fliers programme 2017.
Updated, 10.01am, 21 December 2017: This article was updated to clarify that LogoGrab won first prize in the 2017 spring edition of Google Adopt a Startup.