Looking for investment? Here are 25 sources of funding you need to know

27 Nov 2015

Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur refining the pitch for your great idea or an established SME seeking capital for growth and development, this list has you covered.

In the first six months of 2015, Irish start-ups and SMEs raised €307m, according to the Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA), and the latter half of the year is shaping up pretty well too, by all accounts.

In the eighth edition of A Guide to Venture Capital – a publication from IVCA and InterTradeIreland – IVCA director general Regina Breheny wrote that the number of venture capital funds operating in Ireland has more than doubled, while the average size of funds has increased from €20m to €100m.

“Irish venture capital firms have reached the critical mass needed to sustain a professional cost structure and to allow sufficient diversification to spread portfolio risks,” Breheny added.

What with all this venture capital, seed and growth funding on the table for entrepreneurs, it can be hard to know where to start. And so, we’ve compiled 25 funds actively seeking applicants from suitable businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland to help in navigating that first step.

1. ACT Venture Capital

Managing director John Flynn leads ACT Venture Capital in Dublin with a total expansion fund of €170m and €22m for seed funding. Investments from ACT range widely from a modest €100,000 to a colossal €7m, focused on companies dealing in software, communications, digital media, semiconductors and components, clean technologies and medical devices.

2. Atlantic Bridge Capital

Atlantic Bridge Capital invests in Ireland, north and south, as well as technology companies across Europe, the US and China. With a fund size of €200m, investments range from €2m to €10m for series A and expansion rounds. General partner Elaine Coughlan is the woman to know in Dublin, while the firm has additional offices in London, Beijing, Hong Kong and Silicon Valley.

3. Broadlake

The self-proclaimed ‘new breed’ of venture capital, Broadlake is a private investment group with a €100m fund. It’s not a specialist fund – all sectors are welcome – and investments range from €2m to €10m of equity for both growing and established businesses headquartered in the island of Ireland.

Based in south Dublin city, owner and chief executive Pete Smyth describes himself as a ‘lover of casual, hater of formal’, and his team promises an investment of time, energy and expertise, as well as capital.

4. Business Venture Partners

South Dublin’s Business Venture Partners (BVP) has a fund of €10m for businesses in the Republic of Ireland, currently investing between €250,000 and €500,000 per company. The team of Elliott Griffin, Tom Hanly, Alison Crawford and Mark Ruane represent a mix of expertise in accountancy and engineering, and BVP is primarily interested in clean technologies and renewable energy companies, particularly those at seed and early stage.

5. Clarendon Fund Managers

Based in Belfast, Clarendon Fund Managers manages Invest Northern Ireland’s Co-FundNI fund of £28m. Established in 2012 for SMEs based in Northern Ireland, this fund has made investments from £150,000 up to £1m through co-investment deals alongside local and international business angels, and other corporate and private institutional investors. Still going, the fund currently has £12.5m available for equity investment in a range of sectors.

6. Crescent Capital

Another Belfast firm friendly to all sectors is Crescent Capital, with a fund of £30m launched in 2013 to support and build high-grade venture-backed companies in Northern Ireland. Crescent Capital typically invests between £450,000 and £1.2m initially, with up to £3m invested per company over all rounds, and aims to exit investment within five to seven years.

7. Delta Partners

Back in south Dublin, Delta Partners is investing €750,000 to €4m from its main fund of €105m and €100,000 to €500,000 from its €17m seed fund to companies in Ireland and the UK.

Since its establishment in 1994, Delta has invested in over 100 companies and is considered one of the most active early-stage investors in Europe. Focused on early-stage tech companies, the team has made more than 90 investments in technology and medtech sectors.

Delta also hosts regular ‘Around the Table’ events across the country, providing an opportunity for informal one-on-one sessions with members of the team to answer any questions on investment.

8. Development Capital

In Dublin city centre, Development Capital manages the BDO Development Capital Fund, investing €2m to €10m in growing Irish businesses.

This €75m fund targets established, mid-sized and profitable companies looking to accelerate their expansion. Led by investment directors Sinead Heaney and Andrew Bourg, the BDO Development Capital Fund is not a sector specialist, but does have keen interest in areas such as ICT, software, food, life sciences, medical devices and clean-tech.

9. Draper Esprit

Situated in the heart of Dublin and next-door to Buckingham Palace in London, Draper Esprit invests in European technology companies with a total fund size of €200m across several funds.

Investments range from €1m to a whopping €15m, with larger rounds up to €30m facilitated through syndication with partners in the Draper Venture Network.

Partner and Dublin office lead Brian Caulfield is also chair of the Irish Venture Capital Association and, as a serial entrepreneur, has experience from both sides of the table when it comes to tech investment in Ireland.

10. Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland, the Government organisation responsible for the development and global growth of Irish enterprises, recently ranked ahead of powerful investors Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures as third in the world for seed investment.

Based in Dublin’s East Point Business Park, Enterprise Ireland offers a variety of funding and support options depending on what stage a company is at, be they start-ups or high-potential start-ups (HPSUs), or established SMEs right up to large companies with more than 250 employees.

HPSU supports are only available to those companies identified as having the potential to reach international markets, and create 10 jobs and €1m in sales within three to four years of starting up. Entrepreneurs who believe their business to be eligible can meet with an Enterprise Ireland start-up adviser, who are actively seeking companies with women on the founding team and overseas entrepreneurs hoping to establish a business in Ireland.

11. Fountain Healthcare Partners

Fountain Healthcare Partners is a venture capital fund specialising in life sciences. Headquartered in Dublin’s IFSC, the firm also has an office in New York and is known to invest in companies across Europe and the US, though the majority of its capital is invested in Europe with a primary focus on Ireland.

Led by managing partner Manus Rogan, Fountain Healthcare’s second fund was launched this year and is earmarked to make 10 to 15 investments. The firm typically invests €500,000 to €10m in companies dealing in biotechnology, medical devices, specialty pharma and diagnostics.

12. Frontline Ventures

Frontline Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm based in Dublin and London, focused on the ‘new wave’ of software entrepreneurs. Partners Shay Garvey, William McQuillan and Will Prendergast are seeking to invest in teams targeting high-growth markets through a prosyndication model with other investors in Ireland, the UK and the US. Typically investing from €100,000 to €2m, Frontline chiefly wants to hear from software, digital media and financial services entrepreneurs from across Europe.

13. Greencoat Capital

Greencoat Capital is a specialist VC firm focused on clean energy and energy efficiency. Operating out of Dublin, London and Munich, Greencoat is the adviser to the ESB’s own clean-tech fund, ESB Novusmodus, and chiefly invests in expansion-stage companies across Europe. Greencoat manages this €200m private equity fund with investments ranging from €2.5m to €20m.

14. Highland Europe

Launched in 2012, Highland Europe closely collaborates with global VC firm Highland Capital Partners, investing growth capital in tech companies deemed ‘exceptional’. A heavy hitter, Highland typically invests between €10m and €30m in expanding businesses, targeting those in digital media, ICT and software.

Highland Capital Partners has offices in Boston, Palo Alto and Shanghai, while Highland Europe operates out of Dublin city centre.

15. Innovation Ulster

Innovation Ulster is the University of Ulster’s knowledge and technology venturing company with a number of funding programmes and supports for early-stage companies in Northern Ireland.

Innovation Ulster is currently seeking entrepreneurs looking to develop breakthrough ideas, technologies and business opportunities, for which they can leverage the university’s four campuses and 14 research centres. Investments range from £50,000 to £250,000 focusing on advanced materials, digital media, electronics, energy, environment, food, ICT, life sciences, medical devices, manufacturing and software.

16. Invest Northern Ireland

Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) has created no less than six funds to support early-stage companies with high growth potential, totalling more than £170m. These funds are either debt or equity-based and are designed to support businesses of all sizes at various stages of growth and development.

Each fund is managed by an independent fund manager and, in some cases, Invest NI is just one of several investors.

The Development Funds, for example, comprise Crescent III (from Crescent Capital) and the Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Growth Fund (from Kernel Capital). Invest NI has committed £15m to each of these funds, which are designated for SMEs in Northern Ireland seeking to accelerate growth. Investments range between £450,000 and £1.2m in any one round, and can reach up to £3m over a series of rounds.

17. Investec Ventures Ireland

Investec is an international specialist bank and asset manager with a venture capital arm in Dublin led by managing partner Michael Murphy. Currently, Murphy’s team of investment specialists manage a fund of €75m and are actively looking for fast-growing companies across the whole island of Ireland in which to invest.

Initial investments from Investec Ventures Ireland range from €1m to €5m, particularly in ICT, data, digital health, digital media, clean tech, software, fintech, internet of things, payment technology and SaaS businesses at any stage of development or growth.

18. Kernel Capital

Through a strategic alliance with Bank of Ireland, Kernel Capital and Associates has created one of the largest and most active sources of equity finance for tech companies on the island of Ireland. The Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Venture Funds have raised more than €250m to date for ICT, software and engineering businesses. With offices in Dublin, Cork and Belfast, Kernel Capital typically invests €500,000 to €6m in companies at all stages of growth.

19. MML Growth Capital Partners Ireland

Based in Dublin’s iconic St Stephen’s Green, MML Growth Capital Partners Ireland invests in any sector but property across the whole island of Ireland. With a fund of €125m, initial investments are large-scale, ranging from €2m to €12m. However, this is a development captial fund, reserved for established, profitable businesses at a growth stage.

20. NDRC

CEO Ben Hurley leads the NDRC in The Digital Hub, Dublin, recently ranked the No 1 university business accelerator in Europe. This well-established start-up accelerator recruits international ventures at a very early stage of setting up in Ireland.

With initial investments ranging from €20,000 to €100,000, the NDRC also provides people, time and space for young companies to find a foothold. Focusing on digital, ICT and convergent spaces – including opportunities that leverage convergent sci-tech from research – companies taking their first steps with NDRC can eventually raise up to €500,000 in funding.

21. Seroba Kernel

Seroba Kernel is a specialist venture capital firm focused on life sciences investments, particularly medical device and biotech innovations. Managing partner Peter Sandys leads the team at the Dublin headquarters with a fund of €75m targeting lead or co-lead investments in Ireland, the UK and western Europe.

Investments can go as high as €8m from Seroba Kernel, which also offers smaller investments up to €500,000 for start-ups seeking seed funding. These investments come from the Bank of Ireland MedTech Accelerator Fund, which is managed by associate firm Kernel Capital.

22. SOSV

Coming out of Cork city, SOSV is a global investor with over 300 investees to its name, more than half of which are based in North America. A specific fund sets aside €20m for Ireland-based companies, investing roughly €30,000 to €2m.

SOSV pitches itself as ‘the accelerator VC’, running quickstart programmes for start-ups in Shanghai, Shenzhen, San Francisco, New York and Cork. These accelerators offer about €30,000 to €250,000 in investment and SOSV funds over 120 start-ups per year through these programmes.

23. Techstart NI

Fresh from its first year of business, Techstart NI offers scalable businesses in Northern Ireland support in the form of finance and advice. European VC fund management group Pentech Ventures manages these Invest NI funds out of Belfast, targeting early-stage SMEs and university spin-outs.

Funds include a £13m SME equity fund and two university funds of £1.5m each, all investing in the range of £50,000 to £250,000. Techstart NI also manages a £7.6m Proof of Concept Grand Fund, providing grants of up to £40,000 to help commercialise technology innovation.

24. Tribal

Tribal is an early-stage venture fund that also offers co-location services out of its office in Dublin city centre. Intent on working alongside the next wave of exceptional Irish tech start-ups, Tribal’s tack is to provide significant investment in a small number of rounds per year, so you can expect this team to be highly selective.

Founded by serial tech entrepreneurs Conor Stanley, Tadhg O’Toole and Barry Mulligan, Tribal claims to make decisions at start-up pace, working with Irish companies with the US market in mind. A fund of about €10m was raised from angel investors, offering both seed and follow-on investment.

25. Western Development Commission

For businesses in Ireland’s west counties, the Western Development Commission (WDC) can provide seed and VC funding funding for SMEs, and community and micro-enterprises that can provide a suitable return on investment.

Based in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, WDC’s €32m Evergreen Fund is open to businesses at any stage and in any sector, but they must be located in counties Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon or Sligo. Investment ranges from €100,000 to €1m and all profits from the fund are reinvested in other enterprises in the region, supporting the WDC’s aim of promoting social and economic development in the western region.

Additional reporting by John Kennedy

Binoculars image by wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock

Disclosure: SOSV is an investor in Silicon Republic

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.