Did you know that Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme is delivered at 18 locations around the country? The programme at the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) is delivered in partnership with University College Dublin, a short distance away in Belfield (Dublin 4).
We talked to Programme Manager Orla Reynolds about New Frontiers at IADT Media Cube, including her approach to programme delivery and the successful new partnership with NovaUCD. Orla brings a unique perspective to the programme, blending her past experience as a participant and a holistic approach to innovation and startup development.
A unique perspective on the programme
“I manage the programme at IADT, but I’m also an alumna! I took part in New Frontiers at TU Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus back in 2015 to 2016. My design startup manufactured an award-winning modular bookcase and other homewares. So I’ve seen the programme from both sides, and that’s key to how I do my job. I have a good sense of what agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office want, but also what it’s like to be the founder on the other side of that.”
Orla’s background gives her an unparalleled vantage point into the nitty-gritty of startup life, including the complex task of raising funding. But she is interested in much more than the market share, scaling, and exit strategy side of running a startup company. The programme at IADT also considers aspects such as the psychological and environmental impacts of being in business.
“Last year, I introduced sustainability onto the programme at IADT. Climate change is everyone’s responsibility, and it’s become vital to show investors that you’re thinking about this. Some founders start off thinking ‘I don’t run an eco-business, this isn’t relevant to me’, but when you look at the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it’s evident that sustainability applies across the whole business.”
Like other Programme Managers, Orla ensures that wellness is integrated into the programme at crucial junctures, especially during the two-month and four-month reviews. Good mental health isn’t a luxury or an afterthought; it’s integral to sustainable success. A founder who is mentally fit and emotionally balanced is better positioned to inspire their team, negotiate with investors, and make the kind of high-stakes decisions that are par for the course in the startup world.
“To be able to come back to yourself is important at these points. I myself suffered from burnout when running my business. You have to remember that, without you, there is no startup.”
A strong sense of community
A big benefit of the New Frontiers programme is the sense of camaraderie and community between participants. Media Cube is home to a variety of startups, and almost all of them were founded by New Frontiers alumni. Past participants are always willing to give time to the current cohort; some of them sit on panels at events, and there is also a VC in residence, Enterprise Equity. There are a lot of success stories within the building, which means it’s a very motivating environment to be in.
“The sense of community is what makes New Frontiers special. It’s a safe space for founders. I always say there are no stupid questions. I’m transparent with participants, and in return I expect them to be transparent with me. If something doesn’t make sense to them, we aren’t explaining it properly. Mutual respect and psychological safety are crucial. It’s all about the founders and how to best support them.”
Phase 2 at IADT is front-loaded into the first four months. Concentrating most of the learning opportunities into this time ensures that knowledge transfer is immersive and intense. Participants then have the last third of the programme to focus on putting all the advice, insights, research, and new skills into practice in their business. Orla’s transparency extends to scheduling, which she shares with her cohort on the first day of the programme so that they know what to expect and can plan their six-month journey with clarity.
One programme, two locations
Some New Frontiers programmes are run exclusively at one location. The IADT programme is one of those that is delivered in partnership with another institution. In this case, the partnership is between IADT Media Cube and NovaUCD.
“This alliance is an essential part of the programme’s architecture, particularly on Phase 2. The programme is run in partnership with NovaUCD. Half our participants will be based at the Media Cube and half at NovaUCD, with events also split across the two sites. What’s great is how the two institutions complement each other, which I believe enhances the range and depth of the programme. You have the ‘creative arts’ strengths of IADT balancing with the ‘technological’ strengths of UCD. The result is a symbiotic and collaborative relationship, meaning we can cater to sectors as diverse as medical devices, fintech, digital media, or food.”
The startup puzzle
Startup is a complex, multifaceted exploration that needs inputs from experts and mentors as well as one’s own intuition and reasoning. Orla describes the startup journey as a treasure hunt, where each piece of advice a founder gets is a part of a larger puzzle.
“It’s too simplistic to think that if you just find the right person, they will have all the answers you need. Each person can give you part of the puzzle, but it’s up to you to follow the trail and get the answers you need. Your own reasoning in decision-making really matters. You need to understand the choices you’re making – why you have decided this particular way or option instead of the other possibilities. If you’re clear in your rationale, you’ll find it easier to build trust with team members, investors, and stakeholders.”
Orla doesn’t just draw on her experience as a founder. Creativity is the thread that runs through her career, but she has worn many hats over the years, including as a professional dancer and bank supervisor. She has built skills in design, product development, mass production, exporting, intellectual property, brand development, and marketing. All this gives her a rounded and grounded approach to the programme.
“I’ve had to reinvent myself multiple times. Reflecting on my time as an early-stage founder: I’ve felt the disappointment from things not going my way, I’ve been a minnow up against huge competitors, and I’ve had the difficult meetings. I think that gives me a lot of empathy. I definitely don’t see my role of Programme Manager as one of box-ticking. I want to see progress, but I want the founders to feel empowered. New Frontiers was one of the happiest times of my working life, and I want to have that same impact on the next generation of founders.”
Graduates of New Frontiers at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT)
Twelve startup founders completed the first Phase 2 programme of 2022 at the Media Cube. In the six months since completing the programme, these startups collectively secured just over €930,000 in follow-on financial support or funding from Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices, private investment, and Science Foundation Ireland. The startups have collectively created 19 full-time jobs, two part-time jobs, and more than 15 internship positions (with national and international students). In addition, the startups have entered new export markets in the UK, Portugal, and Germany. See more details about the Media Cube’s showcase and awards event.
If you’re interested in applying to the New Frontiers programme at IADT, you can head over to the IADT location page to learn more about what’s on offer and keep an eye on their upcoming application deadlines on our calendar page. You can also visit the IADT website for more information about the institute, and explore everything the Media Cube has to offer on their website.
[Featured image: (l-r) David Smith – President of IADT; Paula Carroll – National New Frontiers Programme Manager, Enterprise Ireland; Rachel Gallagher – Enterprise and Innovation Manager, IADT Media Cube; Fiona Kiernan – Zeumed; Cormac Finn – SideTeams; Michelle Doyle – Strategic Innovation Partnerships, NovaUCD; Conor Duggan – TaxZap; Lisa Geoghegan – SonaLife; Tom Flanagan – Director of Enterprise & Commercialisation, NovaUCD; Orla Reynolds – New Frontiers Programme Manager at IADT]
About the author
Scarlet Bierman is a content consultant, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland to fulfil the role of Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing ethical marketing strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence.