Who dares, scales: NDRC winners and judges emphasise sales

1 Jun 2017

From left: Bank of Ireland’s David Tighe with the latest Investor Day winners at NDRC, Andreea Wade and Adrian Mihai. Image: Luke Maxwell

Winning is one thing, but proving the product in the market? That’s the next step for NDRC’s latest cohort.

After winning the top prize at the NDRC Investor Day, Opening.io co-founder and CEO Andreea Wade is under no illusions about the next step in the company’s trajectory.

In fact, neither the companies nor the esteemed panel of judges from the investment world have any doubts.

‘These are not companies that any of us can just start ourselves, there is a lot of hard technology behind it, whether it is AI or creating a whole new speaker system’

“Sales, sales and more sales. That’s pretty much what we need to do,” said Wade. “We built the product, we built the tech, but now need to sell the thing.”

Opening.io won the top gong, along with €30,000 in follow-on investment from the NDRC. The company – founded in Dublin by two Romanian entrepreneurs, Wade and Adrian Mihai – has developed an AI platform that helps to narrow down recruitment candidate pools based on role-specific criteria. It uses data science to help recruiters to sharpen their game and not overlook important CVs or hiring opportunities.

Meeting the start-ups

As well as Opening.io – a former Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week – the eight companies that battled to sway the judges on Investor Day were an eclectic group.

This included Sonarc, a company created by husband-and-wife team Paul Gilligan and Sorcha O’Brien, which – based on Gilligan’s IP – aims to reinvent the speaker as we know it. Sonarc won the audience vote on Investor Day because of the revolutionary nature of its technology.

Other companies included:

  • LiquidEdge, which turns business Wi-Fi into a revenue generation tool
  • Marksmanship Technology (AimSteady), which has developed a wearable device to improve gun marksmanship
  • AddJust, which simplifies how change orders are captured in construction contracts
  • Knight Vision Technologies, creator of the Clearvue self-cleaning camera for construction and mining
  • Buymedia, which enables advertisers to get a higher return on investment
  • Transportzone, which enables freight and logistics firms to manage orders in the cloud

The advice to the start-ups from the judges and mentors at NDRC was unanimous: get out there, sell and achieve validation in the market.

“The companies have the validation, they need to get more funding on board, and they need to focus on growth and scaling their proposition,” said NDRC CEO Ben Hurley.

Draper Esprit partner Nicola McClafferty noted the calibre of the companies.

“I was particularly impressed with how far the founders have come in terms of how they have positioned their businesses.”

Now that they have graduated, the real work of being a start-up in the market begins, according to Bank of Ireland’s head of innovation, David Tighe.

“They will have to be really focused. It’s about sales. Never forget that for a business, sales is the life’s blood. I’m hoping that with our support, and the support of the start-up community in Dublin, these businesses can go out there, sell more and become really successful businesses.”

The key to scaling up is traction, said NDRC commercial director Gary Leyden. “The winner in the end was the one that had real traction with customers. Most businesses will fail because they couldn’t find customers. It has nothing to do with product development. So, find customers who will pay for your product and then you will be able to scale up.”

Delta Partners’ David Bowles said the breadth of technology created by the latest cohort of NDRC start-ups was impressive.

“A lot of them are doing things that are hard. These are not companies that any of us can just start ourselves, there is a lot of hard technology behind it, whether it is AI or creating a whole new speaker system. These things are hard to do and that’s what makes them very interesting.”

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