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Growing Capital matches PSSF funding for New Frontiers alumnus Smile Genius Dental

Growing Capital Plans To Match Pre-Seed Start Funding (PSSF) For 15 Irish Startups

By New Frontiers blog

Growing Capital matches PSSF funding for New Frontiers alumnus Smile Genius Dental

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? In the nascent stages of startup, founders need to achieve product-market fit to attract investors, yet, without investment, reaching that crucial juncture is exceptionally difficult. This is the hurdle that typifies early-stage development – the stage that is arguably the most precarious and pivotal for young companies. This is also the point at which angel investor Gianni Matera aims to make his mark on Irish startups.

Enterprise Ireland’s Pre-Seed Start Fund (PSSF) provides early-stage investment of €50,000 or €100,000 (in two €50,000 tranches), plus access to a Development Advisor and supports from the agency. The PSSF is the bridge for those startups that are still early stage but need investment to really start flourishing, and a large proportion of successful applications for PSSF have come from New Frontiers programme alumni.

The PSSF Booster fund, conceived by Gianni’s company Growing Capital, matches PSSF funding with an additional €100,000 to accelerate the startup. “Our hope is that this larger budget means the startup can reach more ambitious technical and commercial milestones. The process of finding that product-market fit becomes more achievable, more quickly, making it easier to then raise further investment.”

PSSF is emboldening Growing Capital to invest earlier in the journey of a startup, when you can catch a glimpse of product-market fit on the horizon even though it hasn’t fully materialised yet. With a keen eye on New Frontiers programme alumni, Gianni aims to deploy 15 such investments by the end of 2024. The target is bold but calculated, with the anticipation that 60% of these startups will progress to a substantial seed raising round involving Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) fund.

Gianni’s approach is resonating across the investment landscape. In fact, he believes that many venture capitalists, traditionally more inclined to invest more but at later stages, are starting to recognise the potential of earlier-stage startups. It’s a shift in the investment ethos that underscores a broader belief that the earlier the involvement, the greater the influence on a startup’s trajectory.

Anna-Marie Turley, Department Manager for Entrepreneurship & HPSU Operations at Enterprise Ireland, is excited to see how startups can leverage the combined power of PSSF and Growing Capital funding. “It’s a great endorsement to see Growing Capital adding on to the PSSF. It will give the recipients more bandwidth to bridge that gap to seed funding. It will also put companies in a much stronger position to avail of HPSU funding. Having an independent, external investor at this stage gives the business a lot of credibility. On top of the credibility that comes from having gone through Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme, this is really setting them up for success.”

For Gianni, investing is still more an art than a science. He eschews a convoluted decision-making process, instead relying on his own due diligence and judgement. His criteria, though, are clear and discerning. Growing Capital seeks extraordinary, talented people who have spotted an unserved problem in the market with a potential market that’s big enough to build a meaningful company. And he believes that New Frontiers is a great environment in which to find such vision and tenacity.

If you’re a founder hoping to catch Gianni’s attention, it’s vital you can demonstrate your laser focus on the problem to be solved and a strategy to get there with efficiency, innovation, and at a cost that stands out from the competition. Gianni’s ethos is to support, not to steer, allowing the founders the autonomy to make things happen. “In general, I foresee that PSSF will generate a robust, varied, and flourishing stream of investment opportunities for the Innovative HPSU Fund, which is the natural next step in the founding journey of the start-up.”

As a programme, New Frontiers focuses on developing the skills and confidence of the founder, who is often at this stage the only person in the business. However, successful startups require a strong and cohesive team. Gianni therefore expects founders to have pondered the pivotal question, ‘Should I embark as a solo founder, or do I require a co-founder?’

Statistically, there are lots of excellent and successful solo founders, so he is agnostic on this point. But he feels strongly that a founder should have considered both paths and be able to stand over their choice. Solo founders will need the strength of character and charisma that allows them to build and lead a team toward the startup’s goal. Otherwise, the skills and capabilities of the founder may need to be balanced by one or more co-founders.

There is an extensive range of supports available to assist entrepreneurs and startup teams to take those critical first steps in establishing and developing innovative high-growth businesses with international potential, and as Anna-Marie reminds us, “While startups receive significant media attention, it’s important to remember that Enterprise Ireland provides support throughout the entire business journey, not just in the early stages. As a business progresses, we actively assist our clients with follow-on investments and aid in their expansion efforts. We help them scale their operations and facilitate their internationalisation by leveraging our extensive network of over 40 overseas offices. This network equips them with valuable insights on market entry strategies and introduces them to potential customers as their company continues to grow.”

Growing Capital has already invested in around 20 Irish startups, including Glofox, Flipdish, and Siren. Their first PSSF Booster investment was a startup co-founded by New Frontiers alumnus Nipun Kathuria. Nipun completed New Frontiers at TU Dublin – City Campus. His company, Smile Genius Dental, is a platform for streamlining dental workflows for clinics, DSOs, and clear aligner companies, offering a one-stop digital solution for the dental industry.

Speaking about the investment, Nipun said, “This investment from Enterprise Ireland, plus the additional funding from Growing Capital, marks a significant milestone for Smile Genius Dental as we strive to transform the digital landscape for the benefit of dental practitioners and the outcome for their patients. This investment will help us to improve our product, make it more scalable, allowing us to enter key markets and integrate with other ecosystem partners. The New Frontiers programme at TU Dublin has been instrumental in preparing us for investment readiness and in connecting us to the investment network in Ireland.”

Smile Genius Dental’s success is just one example of the potential that lies within the New Frontiers community. The synergy between PSSF and the PSSF Booster has the potential to catapult the growth of 14 other startups by the end of next year, nurturing the seeds of innovation and underscoring the importance of support at the early stages where it’s most needed. As Gianni and his team cast their net wider into the pool of New Frontiers alumni, the PSSF Booster will help to showcase the resilience and dynamism of Ireland’s founders on the world stage.

Gianni Matera founder of Growing CapitalAbout Gianni Matera

Gianni Matera is the founder of Growing Capital, an early-stage investment firm specialising in providing support to startups rooted in Ireland. Before founding Growing Capital, Gianni established DigiTouch, a digital marketing agency that has since been listed on the Italian stock market and employs more than 400 people. He also has prior experience as the country manager for Buongiorno and as a consultant at Accenture.

[Featured image: (l-r back) Diane Hurley, New Frontiers Programme Manager at TU Dublin – City Campus; Anna-Marie Turley, Department Manager for Entrepreneurship & HPSU Operations at Enterprise Ireland; Deirdre O’Neill,

About the author

scarlet-merrillScarlet Bierman

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.

Mirr sees success with code and mirrors

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Economy think outside the box to stay inside the circle

Economy: think outside the box to stay inside the circle

By New Frontiers blog

Economy think outside the box to stay inside the circle

As the global economy continues to expand, the challenge of meeting the increasing demand for products and services means that most businesses have adopted growth strategies that are not sustainable long-term. But there is an alternative to the traditional open-ended economy, and many startups are adopting these business models to build profitable companies with a lower environmental impact.

The circular economy

Over the past number of years, the circular economy has grown in popularity. In some cases this is out of necessity, in others it stems from the realisation that as a society we have created unsustainable practices – and within this problem lie significant business opportunities for those who wish to provide sustainable solutions to ensure the stability of business in the future. In the natural world, there is no landfill. Plants and animals are born, they grow, eat each other, die and their nutrients return to the soil where the cycle begins again. Nature, being the most complex system known to man, operates using a seamless cycle, with each element integrating itself into a synergised system devoid of waste. It is a purely circular ecosystem.

The linear system

In contrast, for the past 250 years, humans have been favouring the alternative linear system – take, make, and dispose – fueled by the availability of plentiful and inexpensive natural resources. To date, this system has been attractive and successful for both business owners and consumers reaping the short-term rewards. When environmental and social impact is not a concern, businesses can take any necessary means to become more efficient, reach more customers, and sell more of their product. However, we are rapidly reaching the point of no return and the global economy is increasingly using finite resources at a rate which the planet is unable to replenish the raw materials.

Over the last century, we have watched prices decline as consumers demand cheaper and cheaper goods, yet we have never been in a situation where the price of resources has been so volatile. Renewable resources such as trees are being cut down faster than they can grow, clean water is being polluted and non-renewables, such as metals and fossil fuels, are fast depleting in an effort to keep up with global demand. The danger is that if we continue to operate using liner systems that the planet cannot sustain, our businesses, much like our finite resources, will cease to exist. After all – when all the trees have been cut down and all the rivers have dried up, we cannot eat money. Where will your business be then?

The future of business

Prof. William McDonough at Stanford remarked to the World Economic Forum:

“The ‘problem’ we find ourselves in is also the largest business opportunity ever seen by our species. The leaders of the economic future will be those that understand that by design we can create perpetual assets and optimise them to create businesses that thrive and are enjoyed by people everywhere, all the time, forever. Why would we want to miss that?”

Every traditional industry using a linear system has all the hallmarks of an industry ready to be disrupted. The long-term problem is unworkable, unavoidable, urgent, and underserved. This is an exciting time to be an entrepreneur, as here lies the opportunity to be part of global business solutions that fundamentally reinvent our economic model and build businesses that will shape the future of our planet.

So, what is the alternative? The circular economy! The circular economy is not reliant on the use of scarce resources to achieve economic growth, instead it uses disruptive technology and business models to profit from product longevity, renewability, reuse, repair, upgrade, refurbishment, capacity sharing, and dematerialization. Circular models do not focus on driving volume and squeezing lower costs through ‘efficiency’ measures in their supply chain. Instead, they design products to be ‘future-proof’, to fit within the limitations of our planet’s resources. There are five circular business models:

  • circular supplies
  • resource recovery
  • product life extension
  • sharing platforms
  • product as a service

Case study: The Nu Wardrobe

I will delve into a circular solution through the lens of my own company, Nu. Our startup has developed a platform that lets you bring your wardrobe online so you can share and swap your clothes with friends and other Nu. members. Our solution combines the thriving fashion industry and the rapidly growing sharing economy. The fashion industry is the world’s second most polluting industry, after oil. 25% of the world’s chemicals are used for textile production and the industry contributes 10% of the world’s global carbon emissions. The textile industry uses more water than any other industry, apart from agriculture. The rate at which apparel is created and consumed is unsustainable and the fashion industry is becoming ever more scrutinised for its lack of progress towards sustainable practices.

After conducting market validation, we found that although the fashion industry’s supply chain is highly efficient, this model is completely inefficient for the consumer. People invest in outfits that they may never wear or rarely wear. In cases like this, it would be far more efficient for people to borrow or rent clothes, rather than buy. This ties into the product life extension model, and sharing platforms which are part of the circular economy. In short, people have a lot of clothes and have made a huge investment in their wardrobe.

People want a constantly changing wardrobe, but the current model insists that consumers must make a purchase each time they want something different to wear. By providing a sharing platform, people can leverage the value already in their wardrobe to borrow clothes from other members. This cuts down on textile waste and extends the life-cycle of products already in circulation. Nu. profits by providing a service that connects users with people they can share or swap clothes with.

Changes like this can be seen disrupting industries the world over – prime examples being Airbnb, Lyft, and Guest to Guest. The sharing economy is set to boom over the next decade, estimated to be worth upwards of $335 billion by 2025. It is actually profitable, when setting out on a new business venture, to consider the future and how the business will thrive with it.

About the author

Aisling ByrneAisling Byrne Nu New Frontiers

Aisling is a New Frontiers participant and the co-founder founder of Nu. – a platform which lets individuals take their wardrobe online so they can share and swap clothes with friends and other Nu. members with a circular economy ethos… [Read Aisling’s profile]