15 women-led start-ups awarded Competitive Start funding

11 Dec 2020

From left: Michael Culligan of Dublin BIC, Aisling Kirwan from Positive Carbon, Jenny Melia of Enterprise Ireland and Minister Damien English, TD. Image: Maxwell Photography

As well as receiving funding from Enterprise Ireland, these start-ups will join a 12-week online accelerator programme led by Dublin BIC.

Enterprise Ireland has awarded 15 women-led start-ups with up to €50,000 in funding each.

The successful applicants to the Competitive Start Fund for Women Entrepreneurs have been chosen from across Ireland. These women-led start-ups span a variety of sectors including digital health, data intelligence, green-tech, enterprise software and digital media.

The funding also comes with support for business development as each company has been invited to participate in the Innovate accelerator led by Dublin Business Innovation Centre (BIC). During this 12-week online programme, mentors will offer guidance on building start-ups that are primed for investment and growth in global markets.

‘It’s an amazing opportunity for us to grow our business and become investor-ready, while developing key skills’

“Enterprise Ireland has worked in collaboration with Dublin BIC over recent years to deliver the Innovate accelerator programme exclusively for women entrepreneurs who are awarded Competitive Start funding,” explained Jenny Melia, divisional manager of high-potential start-ups at Enterprise Ireland.

“Since then, graduates of the programme have gone on to raise investment, enter export markets, recruit staff and very significantly grow their business.

“Overall, the programme aims to support the entrepreneur and their business to become investor-ready and positioned for significant growth. Participants will have the opportunity to expand their networks including investors, mentors and peers.”

Funding recipients

One of the recipients is Positive Carbon, which has developed an automated system for monitoring food waste in hotels and kitchens.

Aisling Kirwan, co-founder and COO of Positive Carbon, said: “It’s really great to be working alongside so many talented women in the programme and [it] allows for great collaboration and peer-to-peer support.

“It’s a particularly tricky time to be starting a business but, thanks to Enterprise Ireland’s funding and support, we know that we are going to excel and be able to bring our solution to hotels all across the country and beyond. It’s an amazing opportunity for us to grow our business and become investor-ready, while developing key skills.”

Another recipient in the automation space but with a completely different target market is Automated Regulatory Monitoring, co-founded by Raquel Ruiz Arias. This Cork-based company has built a portal to automate compliance oversight for consumer finance companies.

There are also two digital health start-ups in the mix. Waterford-based Avow is building a platform to manage medical consent, while Dublin start-up My Gut Solution puts a dietitian in your pocket via a smartphone app led by founder and registered dietitian Aoife Hanna. This summer, My Gut Solution was named among 15 winners of Health Innovations 2020 from Health Innovation Hub Ireland.

Cork start-up PluAlto targets the competitive enterprise software market with its AI-driven software for managing employee relations, while BelowHorizon is also using AI in its language tutoring tool. This spin-out from the Adapt research centre is led by Emer Gilmartin, whose research underpins its multi-modal interactive language learning agents, or MILLA.

Also included in this funding round are Buyerpix, the Wexford start-up behind a digital platform for fashion buyers, and Dublin media start-ups Rogue Collective and Orb Media. The former is a women-led online subscription publication, while the latter creates 360-degree photo and video content.

The other women-led start-ups supported by the programme are Bwell.ai, Colourtec, Bee Arona, Public Relations Training Academy, OneStepCloserTo and consultant Aisling Hurley.

‘Supporting women to start high-growth enterprises is just one objective under Enterprise Ireland’s Action Plan for Women in Business’

“Supporting women to start high-growth enterprises is just one objective under Enterprise Ireland’s Action Plan for Women in Business. Another is to increase the number of women in leadership roles,” Melia added.

“We currently have a part-time key manager grant on offer to Enterprise Ireland client companies. While the grant is available for both women and men key managers, it is expected to attract more women into senior management roles.”

The key manager grant covers up to 50pc of eligible salary costs for key leadership positions such as chief financial officer, chief technical officer, R&D manager or production manager. It is intended to encourage businesses to take positive steps to attract talent at a senior level.

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.