The Endeavour Programme, created by the Institute of Technology Tralee, Shannon Development’s Kerry Technology Park and entrepreneur Jerry Kennelly, has chosen 15 successful entrepreneurs from an initial 500 applicants to participate in a seven-month intensive fast-track programme to develop their business ideas.
The idea of the programme is to find a new generation of budding Irish start-ups by 2010 by encouraging all talent to apply and subsequently nurturing the finalists’ business ideas by matching them to a suitable mentor.
Mentor for entrepreneurs
Each mentor on the Endeavour Programme has already created and launched his or her own internationally successful business and will spend their time delivering six half-day sessions on creating a successful business model as well as providing advice and contacts that will launch the start-ups towards success.
Mentors include chairman of the Choice Hotels Group, Frankie Whelehan, chief executive of DAFT, Eamonn Fallon, founder of Worldspreads Group Plc, Conor Foley and executive chairman of Jacob Fruitfield Group, Michael Carey.
At the launch of the Endeavour Programme, Kennelly, founder and former CEO of Stockbyte, said: "It will be a pretty tough regime compared to other programmes, but if a start-up cannot rise to the challenges then they’re probably the wrong people."
Talent pool expanded
And judging from the amount of talent pouring in, where the original 10 finalists had to be expanded to 15 because of the high standard, Endeavour has taken on all the right people.
"These 15 individuals have proven themselves through every step of the selection process and I am confident that they have the talent to take their fledgling businesses all the way from concept to globally scalable enterprises," said Dick Spring, FEXCO director and Endeavour Programme contributor.
While not all of these finalists have technology-related business ideas, a high percentage did and one of these is FitNexus, the brainchild of Kerry-based software engineer Keith Loughnane.
Loughnane is an experienced software engineer and has worked extensively with embedded devices. As part of FitNexus he has developed an iPhone game called Gravitation, which aims to replace the pedometer and stopwatch for those undergoing fitness training.
FitNexus lets users monitor a team or client’s exercise and fitness, view that information in a useful way, and share it with friends or professionals.
What’s next for these future entrepreneurs? Dr Jerry Clifford, head of development at the Institute of Technology Tralee, explained: "The participants will be thoroughly briefed on the fundamentals of creating and sustaining a successful business by Ireland’s top business people, as well as having access to all the research and development facilities of IT, Tralee, and Kerry Technology Park."
By Marie Boran
Photo: The final 15 from the Endeavour Programme.