Two fledgling Northern Ireland start-ups bag proof-of-concept cash to grow

8 Jun 2023

James McGarrigle and Christian Kotley. Image: LabTech

The winning founders saw off competition at a newly launched incubator that was run by Techstart Ventures, which has invested in many regional start-ups.

The founders of two start-ups have both been awarded £10,000 grants after they impressed judges at a proof-of-concept grant competition called the LabTech initiative.

LabTech was borne out of a collaboration between Techstart Ventures and AMP. Based in Derry, AMP is a privately-funded incubator and co-working space. It has been working with Techstart Ventures, an investor of seed capital in early-stage businesses, since late last year. In the past, Techstart Ventures has backed Northern Ireland start-ups such as Obbi Golf, Kairos and Cloudsmith.

The LabTech initiative kicked off in March of this year. The start-up founders that were awarded the grant funding to grow their businesses are Christian Kotley and James McGarrigle.

Kotley founded Nupitch, an online tool that allows professionals in the film industry to create film pitch decks. Kotley, who is a storyboard designer and director by trade, said that the grant is not just a validation of his team’s business idea, but “a crucial milestone” that will enable them to achieve their vision.

“We are thankful for the opportunity and committed to making the most of it to build a successful business that makes a difference in the world of technology,” he added.

Also bagging funding, was McGarrigle, founder of Pebble, a subscription-based platform for colleges and universities aiming to improve the practical elements of student-based learning.

“I was excited to have the chance to pitch my proof of concept and then delighted when I received news that I was successful,” said McGarrigle. “I have been working on iterations of this concept for a while now and this opportunity has re-energised me to focus my skills and experience within the education and the creative AV industries to synergise aspects of each which overlap in order to aid the educational journey of students in 2023 and beyond.”

The outcome from the Derry incubator was not the only positive funding news to emerge from Northern Ireland today (8 June).

Separately, Belfast-headquartered tech company GoReport bagged investment to scale its business from ScaleUp Capital. The investment amount was not disclosed. Some of the company’s existing investors such as Co Fund NI exited the business and sold their stakes as part of this transaction.

GoReport provides software services to property surveyors to help them digitise the process of inspecting, reporting and processes.

The company’s CEO, Gavin O’Neill, said that GoReport’s success so far has been made possible thanks to the support of its investor community.

“As we continue to move forward, ScaleUp’s position and expertise will undoubtedly support and assist us as we look to build on our growth and reputation and offer even more exciting solutions tailored for our target markets.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.