Early-stage founders set to pitch their ideas at Cork’s Republic of Work

17 Aug 2022

From left: Republic of Work CEO Frank Brennan, Pekish founder and CEO Paul O'Shea, and Republic of Work programme manager Eshna Gogia. Image: Republic of Work

These entrepreneurs have been taking part in the Teamwork Catalyst incubator, which helps SaaS start-ups to develop with masterclasses, mentorship and peer-guided support.

A batch of early-stage founders are set to showcase their start-up ideas at Cork’s co-working space Republic of Work tomorrow (18 August).

The free public event will have networking sessions, idea pitches, awards and a panel discussion focusing on funding options for early-stage tech start-ups.

These founders have spent the last six months taking part in Teamwork Catalyst, a SaaS incubator programme that helps founders develop their business concepts and identify the best route to market.

The incubator was formed by project management software company Teamwork as a way to provide budding software entrepreneurs with early support, to develop their ideas and learn from other founders who have been on the same journey.

The programme takes place at Republic of Work, a 15,500 sq ft workspace and start-up hub spread out over three floors in Cork city. The hub’s CEO, Frank Brennan, told SiliconRepublic.com that the incubator is very “hands on”.

‘There’s nothing better than actually sticking 20 people into a room and going through those pain points that all those founders will be going through’

“We have a dedicated playbook towards the Catalyst programme,” Brennan said. “So we do masterclasses, group mentorship, peer-guided support covering all the SaaS topics like developing sales funnels, pricing models, KPIs that actually matter and unlocking those kind of corporate partnerships and how to get that in.”

“We do something with the cohort every two weeks and with the first three months of the programme it’s every week we’re doing something.”

Programme manager Eshna Gogia joined the team early this year and is “very well versed in the ecosystem”, according to Brennan, bringing her network to provide experts for the incubator’s masterclasses.

The six-month incubator reaches its culmination at the event tomorrow, where participants will take what they’ve learned and pitch their ideas before a panel of judges from Cork’s ecosystem.

Awards will be given to founders at the event, such as the best pitch and most innovative start-up. Prizes include Web Summit tickets and a 12-month hot-desk membership for Republic of Work’s facilities.

Previous cohorts

The collaboration between Republic and Work and Teamwork Catalyst began in 2020 and has so far provided around 40 SaaS start-ups with the opportunity to learn from other businesses in a dynamic environment.

One of the companies from the first cohort is Cork-based food-tech company Peckish. The start-up’s founder and CEO, Paul O’Shea, said the incubator programme was “one of the most relevant and informative programmes I took part in”.

“We got to learn about building and scaling SaaS businesses and solving relevant problems through one-to-one mentorship from market leaders in Ireland,” O’Shea said.

Brennan has been involved with the programme since the beginning, when the team had to suddenly adapt the incubator amid the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Despite the challenges faced from lockdowns, Brennan said each year has been a great success and he is excited about the next batch of entrepreneurs who take part.

“The one thing that the cohort was kind of lacking in the past was that connectivity piece of human interaction. There’s nothing better than actually sticking 20 people into a room, sticking up a whiteboard, or a couple of flip charts and going through those pain points that all those founders will be going through themselves and having the ability to share in an open forum.

“All well and good doing it online, but it doesn’t have that same effect, doesn’t have the same synergies, doesn’t have the same connections.”

The Teamwork Catalyst programme is currently taking applications for its next cohort of founders, with the deadline set at 4 September. The main requirements for start-ups that join are to be less than three years old, with a team of less than 10 people.

The programme usually takes in between 15 or 16 founders each year. Brennan said the interest for the next cohort has been “phenomenal” so far and that it can be difficult to decide between all the applicants.

“Sometimes it’s very hard to decide when you whittle them all down. If it was my way, I’d take them all on if I could, but we have to keep it intense.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic