NDRC to be wound down after losing tender for State-backed accelerator

30 Nov 2020

Image: NDRC

After 13 years, the NDRC management team confirmed it has lost the tender for the State-backed start-up accelerator.

The organisation that has run the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) since 2007 is set to be wound down after missing out on a tender to continue running the start-up accelerator for the next four years.

Its management confirmed the tender loss to The Irish Times. It comes amid news that the NDRC had received a windfall of €3.1m after the closing of €46.8m funding in October for former client company LearnUpon.

NDRC – acting as a registered charity – was one of three shortlisted bidders for the latest accelerator tender, along with Sean O’Sullivan’s SOSV and Dogpatch Labs. While the Government has yet not confirmed the tender winner, it was previously reported by the Irish Times that Dublin’s Dogpatch Labs was the frontrunner to receive it.

Over the course of its 13 years, NDRC has invested around €50m in start-ups and NDRC-backed firms have raised more than €400m in follow-on funding, with market capitalisation of more than €700m. The organisation is based at the Digital Hub in Dublin 8.

‘We’ve laid a clear path’

According to the Irish Times, NDRC’s income for 2019 saw a slight decline compared with 2018, falling from €5.95m to €5.4m, of which €3.6m came through Government subvention.

In addition to the closing of €1m in realisations from investments in portfolio companies last year – including Artomatix, which was acquired by Unity Technologies in March – NDRC generated more than €743,000 in income through other sources such as running regional and international accelerators. Published accounts have shown costs associated with NDRC’s winding down totalled just over €1m.

Speaking to The Irish Times, NDRC chief executive Ben Hurley said that the accelerator had “broken a lot of ground” during its tenure.

“We’ve laid a clear path for others to follow and achieved a lot of firsts with things such as collaborative translational research, pre-commercial investments, and pre-acceleration work in areas such as fintech. I’m really proud of what we have achieved with such a small team,” he said.

“We may be coming to a graceful conclusion but things are continuing with the State still committed to investing in early-stage companies.”

The news comes as customer care software provider Klearcom was announced the winner of the €25,000 prize at the NDRC at ArcLabs Investor Showcase last week. The competition marked the end of an accelerator programme run by the Waterford Institute of Technology ArcLabs innovation hub and NDRC.

Disclosure: SOSV is an investor in Silicon Republic

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic