Tag: funding & support

Financial advice every entrepreneur needs to hear - New Frontiers - Ireland (1)

Financial advice every startup entrepreneur needs to hear

Financial advice every entrepreneur needs to hear - New Frontiers - Ireland (1)

Make sure the money coming in is more than the money going out – that’s the crux of accounting, right? Well, that’s not bad advice, but it’s not exactly helpful either. The day-to-day, month-to-month monitoring of a company’s finances requires a more detailed approach if you aim to make a profit, identify new opportunities and grow your business.

If you want your company to thrive beyond the shaky startup phase, past the inevitable “bad year” and towards a stable and profitable future, then you need to ensure your company is financially healthy. What does that mean? A financially healthy company has the appropriate strategies in place to maintain regular cash flow, be protected during rainy days, secure profits, invest wisely and be ready to scale up. If that sounds good to you, then check out our 4 financial tips below that will whip your finances into shape.

4 financial tips for startups

1. Tighten up your cash flow

For most startups, the issue with cash flow is lagging debtors. Debtor days is how long it takes a client to pay you for your services and chances are some of your debtors are more casual about it than you’d prefer. At the beginning, when you’re trying to get your business off the ground, slow debtors can cause a lot of stress and frustration. The best thing you can do is nip this in the bud from the being.

Firstly, decide if you can afford to provide a credit period. If you can’t, then you need to plainly outline this in your service contract. Some companies ask for part of the payment up front. However, if you are going after bigger, more established clients, chances are they will expect a credit period that can range from 30 to 60 days. Manage this by setting a clear credit period that suits you and prompt clients to pay with a friendly reminder approaching the end of their payment window. If this goes unrecognised, have a second reminder quickly sent from a more senior team member. If you still have no success, then send a legal follow-up and stop doing business for this client until payment comes through.

If you are trying to build up a book of clients in the early stages of your business, this approach may sound aggressive, but in the long run it’s better to have an established process in place to manage debtors because it directly affects your cash flow which is the lifeline of your business.

2. Get financial and tax advice

If you’re not an accountant and you don’t employ the services of an accountant, then chances are you are missing out on many opportunities to make tax savings for your business. From Entrepreneur Relief to Startup Refunds for Entrepreneurs (SURE) to R&D tax credits, there is a lot of support available in Ireland for startups. A financial advisor that specialises in small businesses can provide you with invaluable tax advice that is vital for giving startups the breathing space they need to grow.

There are also numerous state and private funding sources for startups, from microfinance loans to incubator funding to angel investment. A good place to start is your local LEO, and the Enterprise Ireland website also has extensive information on their funding supports (so both tax saving and funding sources). Of course, we can’t but mention our own programme, New Frontiers! We are Ireland’s only national entrepreneur development programme, and as well as providing office space, mentoring, and training, the New Frontiers programme offers Phase 2 participants a €15,000 tax-free stipend.

3. Have access to a bank overdraft

Getting a loan and being financially healthy may sound contradictory, but bear with us! We’re returning to the issue of cash flow. Let’s say for some reason or another your business stops making a profit for a few months. Perhaps your premise was flooded, or you lost a few big clients in a row. Do you have a strategy in place to weather the storm?

Bank overdrafts are not always easily accessed when you suddenly need one. After all, what bank wants to loan money a business when it’s failing? It is much better to set up this facility in advance, when your balance sheet is looking healthy. That way everything is ready to go when disaster strikes, and guess what? With this lifesaver overdraft facility at the ready, it’s not such a disaster after all. It’s just another bump in the road on your way to success.

4. Consider outsourcing

When you’re expanding your business, you might imagine everything you do will be inhouse because you want to retain as much control as possible. However, outsourcing can be a lot more cost-effective if your ambition is to scale up. Doing everything yourself makes sense when you’re a startup, but if you plan on growing your business then this can prove too costly. Hiring an in-house team of marketers or accountants or IT professionals is expensive, and that’s before you take into account the office space and equipment that comes with them. Outsourced services don’t only make financial sense, but you also gain access to the valuable insights of experts in their field. Now you can focus on what you do best and save money at the same time.

If you have a startup idea and would like to take it to the next level, read more about the New Frontiers programme and see our calendar of upcoming application deadlines around the country.

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

The food business: when is a trend not a trend?

Four of the Mid West’s most promising New Frontiers startups

How to decide whether to outsource or keep everything in-house

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent

Cork 14 entrepreneurs on their way to success - New Fronteirs

Cork: 14 entrepreneurs on their way to success!

Cork 14 entrepreneurs on their way to success - New Fronteirs

September 2018 marks an exciting milestone for 14 new start-up businesses in Cork, as they embark on a full time six-month intensive development programme to support their business growth. The New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme is delivered locally at the Rubicon Centre in Cork Institute of Technology.

These 14 participants follow in the footsteps of 97 other start-up founders who have completed the programme at CIT, which has supported over 1,000 entrepreneurs nationally.

14 innovative startup ideas

The 2018 cohort reflects a wide variety of sectors:

  • Christina O Dwyer
    who is developing a new ostomy baseplate and bag to provide users with a reliable, ergonomic appliance.
  • Daniel Mulcahy
    who is providing a cost-effective way for airline passengers to join together to share taxi journeys, initially from and to airports.
  • Dave Jeffery
    is developing a platform which enables users to convert a business web app into a desktop app.
  • Loretta Kennedy
    is launching a healthy ketchup which promotes a healthy gut as well as reducing the incidence of dental cavities in children.
  • Marian Kennedy
    is developing hygienic products to assist with the post-partum care of sensitive areas for women after birth.
  • Michael O’Neill
    has created a screen time management platform designed for students, parents, teachers and lecturers focused on enabling undistracted learning and engagement.
  • Nora Irwin
    has developed a range of solid perfumes made using organic beeswax, natural pure essential oils and absolutes that can be layered to create different fragrances.
  • Patrick Corrigan
    has developed a knowledge base management and collaboration tool for businesses which allows IT to create and maintain branded documentation quickly.
  • Paul McCabe
    is developing an online platform that files tax forms for international students.
  • Pedro DaSilva
    is focusing on developing a product development service for smart charging devices, targeting the Internet of Things (IoT) industry and its demand for smart charging solutions and low power management services.
  • Ryan O Neill
    is developing a centralised online management platform supporting health, fitness and wellness professionals run their business more effectively and efficiently.
  • Seán Barni
    is developing a digital shield that puts individuals back in control of their privacy, through email, phone, virtual payment cards and identity management.
  • Stephen Fleming
    has a cloud-based software service that systematically gathers and interprets IT user experience data to generate industry-standard metrics, benchmarks and insights.
  • Tara Zuluaga Dorgan
    is creating a range of gut-centric functional foods combining ancient nutrition with modern science.

New Frontiers at Cork

Alison Walsh Programme Manager said:

“It is wonderful to welcome 14 new participants to join our latest cohort of the New Frontiers Phase 2 programme in the Rubicon centre. The standard of applications was extremely high this year and it was a very competitive recruitment process. We are delighted to have such strong projects and will work intensively with each company over the coming 6 months and beyond to help them drive the growth and success of their start up business.”

Paula Carroll, National Programme Manager for Enterprise Ireland, said:

“The New Frontiers programme delivered by the team in the Rubicon has a great reputation for developing entrepreneurs who go on to build successful businesses. We have no doubt that many of this new cohort will follow in their footsteps.”

Since the programme started in 2012, 97 New Frontiers CIT start-ups have raised over €1.050 million through Competitive Start Funding (CSF) and a further €6.478 million in public and private investment.

If you have a startup idea and would like to take it to the next level, read more about the New Frontiers programme and see our calendar for upcoming deadlines around the country.

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

The food business: when is a trend not a trend?

Four of the Mid West’s most promising New Frontiers startups

How to decide whether to outsource or keep everything in-house

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent

Innovation: give your SME a competitive edge with SBIR

Innovation: give your SME a competitive edge with SBIR

Innovation: give your SME a competitive edge with SBIR

Young companies tend to be perfect micro-cultures for the development of novel approaches to common problems. Enterprise Ireland manages a national pre-commercial procurement programme, Small Business Innovation Research Ireland (SBIR), designed to tap into this well of innovation.

Does your start-up have the drive and vision to come up with a workable prototype to overcome a societal problem? If yes, keep reading to find out what is involved in this great public-private partnership!

Public-private partnership through SBIR

SBIR is a global innovative pre-commercial procurement initiative. It aims to address public sector needs and more generally benefit citizens, through engagement with the private sector. The public sector body (or challenge owner) in partnership with Enterprise Ireland, identifies an unmet need or unresolved problem. The idea is for small businesses to present innovative solutions to government agencies and public sector bodies to resolve societal problems. Each problem statement is tested through a competitive challenge.

Each challenge is divided into two phases. Phase 1 is a technical feasibility study, and enables the company to really understand the scale of the problem. At the end of this phase, the companies present their findings and recommendations for Phase 2. A smaller number of companies are selected for Phase 2. Successful companies develop working prototypes that are tested in the field. Illegal dumping, flooding, and increasing the number of cyclists on city roads are just some of the challenges local councils have put to market through SBIR.

SBIR Smart Dublin announcement

(l-r) Therese Langan, Transformation Project Manager, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Marguerite Bourke, Manager, SBIR Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Nicola Graham, Smart Dublin Regional Data Coordinator.

SBIR Smart Dublin announcement

(l-r) Maeve McGonnell, LexIcon Library, Tony Lawlor, Challenge Champion (Bathing Water Quality) Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Therese Langan, Transformation Project Manager, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Marguerite Bourke, Manager, SBIR Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Ronan Herron, Digital Strategy Officer, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Mary Hegarty, Challenge Champion (Internet of Things) Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

SBIR Advantages for SMEs

SBIR is a unique and practical approach with benefits for both the public and private sectors. Public procurers can drive innovation in a direction that meets their needs. Young businesses are given the opportunity to put their prototypes to the test, giving them that all-important competitive edge upon entry to the market. An SBIR award is not a grant, rather it is a 100% funded development contract, where the company get to work hand in hand with the specifiers to address the problem at hand. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

SBIR also provides opportunities for businesses to collaborate with other key stakeholders. After demonstrating success through a public procurement process, many products will go on to provide other real-world applications. Companies retain intellectual property rights over their product with certain rights of use retained by the contracting department. This enables the company to replicate the SBIR success in other public and private markets globally.

Thinking outside the box

Local authorities face a variety of challenges when managing cities and counties. Traditionally, when going out to procurement, authorities specify the type of solutions they were seeking. These pre-conceived specifications often made it difficult for companies to come back with novel approaches.

The beauty of SBIR is that it allows innovators from outside the local authority to look at a problem with fresh eyes, providing much more innovative solutions. Now, authorities can access and test new technologies that they might not otherwise have considered.

“For many years there hasn’t been the fast pace of technology, while searching for municipal solutions councils would have spent a lot of time developing what programs to put in place and what kind of infrastructure they might have. SBIR means that things move much faster and it’s much easier to go to the market and say ‘here’s our problem’.”

Philomena Poole, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County council

SBIR’s impact on Irish SMEs

By providing a budget for product development and feedback from reference customers, SBIR helps start-ups overcome obstacles to the commercialisation of their prototypes.

Take Sparrowatch as an example. This SME produces smart, low-cost security cameras. Company founder and CEO, David Tunney, had been developing and experimenting with different security camera ideas for a while and, through the SBIR Challenge, his security cameras became the solution to illegal dumping that local councils needed. Before he got in contact with SBIR, the business was not yet trading!

The growth and expansion of Sparrowatch is a typical example of how an unmet need in the public sector was addressed by the technological development of a small business. David Tunney is certain that the benefits of the SBIR programme were invaluable for his business and “unique, in that you can actually talk directly to your customers and get validation on your concepts”.

Sparrowatch is now working with all four Dublin local authorities in partnership with Enterprise Ireland in a bid to tackle illegal dumping and fly-tipping.

Case Study: Liberty Bell Project – safer cycling in Dublin

Conor Cahill and Síle Ginnane run a development company called FluidEdge Innovation. Conor has a keen interest in cycling and as well as volunteering with Dublin Cycling Campaign, he had worked on a wearable medical device and was keen to work on more Internet of Things projects. By chance, he attended an event where Sarah Scannell, the Walking and Cycling Promotion Officer for Dublin City Council, introduced the Smart Cycling Challenge, which aimed to increase cyclists in Dublin City. It felt like fate to Conor, and although there was less than a month until the deadline, he decided to submit a proposal.

The solution put forward by FluidEdge was deceptively simple. The only touchpoint for participants was a bell on their bike which they used to record actual or perceived obstacles to safe cycling, as well as positive experiences. But plenty was happening behind the scenes: the Bluetooth-connected device was generating data about hotspots, which were highlighted in real time so that authorities could be alerted to poor road conditions or poor behaviour by other road users. Unlike the numerous audit solutions already available, FluidEdge’s solution collected qualitative, as well as quantitative, data about the cycling experience.

SBIR Cycling challenge

(l-r) Mark Bennett of BikeLook, Conrad Christensen, Philip McAlesse, Conor Cahill (FluidEdge, creators of Liberty Bell)

Liberty Bell successfully completed Phases 1 and 2 of the scheme, with feedback from the various stakeholders being continually fed back into the project. Apart from the funding that supported the development of the Liberty Bell project, having Dublin City Council as the first customer was a huge benefit for Conor and Síle, and opened many doors for them. They have since gone on to win the international Bicycle and Pedestrian Challenge run by the Colorado Department of Transport (CDOT) and are looking for new cities to run the project in. You can find out more at libertybell.io.

Thinking of throwing your hat into the ring?

Niall Doolin of Cara Ireland had the following tips for small businesses thinking about participating in Enterprise Ireland’s SBIR programme:

  1. Be attentive to the needs of the client – remember the SBIR process is demand-driven.
  2. Keep it as simple as possible – good ideas are not always complicated (as demonstrated by the Liberty Bell solution)!
  3. Don’t lose sight of future expansions and add-ons – the potential for commercialisation is a major advantage of participating in the SBIR process.

Enterprise Ireland’s SBIR programme provides fertile ground for small or young businesses to put their innovative ideas to the test. The programme has a dedicated fund to co-support innovative and competitive challenges. The experience provides a route to market for products that may, unknown to their creators, be the solution to an ongoing public service challenge.

Next steps

SBIR Ireland is managed by Marguerite Bourke. You can get in touch with the SBIR office at sbirireland @ enterprise-ireland . com or by calling 01 727 2178. You can also follow them on Twitter.

You can check out what SBIR projects are currently open for offers by logging into your eTenders account, or you can see a preview by visiting the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) section of the Enterprise Ireland website.

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

The food business: when is a trend not a trend?

Four of the Mid West’s most promising New Frontiers startups

How to decide whether to outsource or keep everything in-house

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent

Phase 2 New Frontiers launch at Galway-Mayo July 2018

12 high-potential entrepreneurs commence New Frontiers at GMIT

Phase 2 New Frontiers launch at Galway-Mayo July 2018

12 ambitious entrepreneurs with innovative startup ideas have made it through a competitive selection process for Phase 2 of the New Frontiers programme in Galway, funded by Enterprise Ireland and delivered by Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.

The future business leaders started the programme yesterday, which is delivered by GMIT at its Innovation Hubs in Galway and Mayo. For the next six months, they will dedicate themselves full-time to the development of their early-start companies – receiving support in the form of training, mentoring, networking, R&D input, office space and more. A stipend of €15,000 is paid to each participant, subject to satisfactory performance and development reviews.

These 12 participants follow in the footsteps of 83 other startup founders to complete the programme at GMIT, which has supported nearly 1,500 entrepreneurs nationally.

The 2018 cohort reflects a wide variety of sectors:

  • Alan Preims, who is working on a soundtrack library for game developers;
  • Gerard Keane, who plans to develop risk management software for businesses;
  • Jipe Kelly, who is developing a platform to attract foreign students to third level colleges and universities;
  • Maneesh Kaushik, who is using artificial intelligence (AI) technology for preventive and diagnostic heart care;
  • Patricia MacEoin, who has a concept for an intravenous fluid delivery system for the equine industry;
  • Roisin Kelly, who is looking into internet safety education for children;
  • Kieran Barry, who is developing friction technology to reduce the drag on ships;
  • David McIntyre, who is creating a sensory booth for people with special needs;
  • Ferdia Kenny, who is building a recruitment platform for part-time staff;
  • Francis Bonner, whose innovative idea for functional food will blend coffee with plant oil;
  • Liam Moffatt, who is working on an athlete performance system;
  • Mark Basquille, who is developing a food supplement for athletes.

Tony O’Kelly, New Frontiers Programme Manager at GMIT, is looking forward to his seventh year supporting innovative startups on New Frontiers.

“114 new business ideas were submitted for consideration this year. It is a great indication of the strength of entrepreneurship in our region! The economic landscape in Galway continues to develop. Not only is GMIT extending the IHub to double its current capacity, other local initiatives – the Portershed, which opened two years ago; two new Bank of Ireland centres; the Start-lab, Work Bench, Agtech and NDRC accelerators; plus the BioExcell Medtech Accelerator and BioInnovate Ireland programme at NUIG – bring a wide range of supports to businesses and startups.”

Barry Egan, Enterprise Ireland Director West, commented:

“The entrepreneurs selected for this accelerated business start-up process are top quality, with great potential. We look forward to the development of the next wave of successful businesses in the West.”

Since the programme started in 2012, 23 GMIT New Frontiers start-ups have raised over €1 million through Competitive Start Funding (CSF) and over €10 million in private plus High Potential Start-up (HPSU) investment. Find out more and see our calendar for upcoming deadlines around the country.

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

The food business: when is a trend not a trend?

Four of the Mid West’s most promising New Frontiers startups

How to decide whether to outsource or keep everything in-house

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent

New Frontiers programme Blancharsdtown graduation group 2018

New Frontiers Phase 2 graduation at the LINC – IT Blanchardstown

New Frontiers programme Blancharsdtown graduation group 2018

New Frontiers Programme Manager at IT Blanchardstown, Colm Ó Maolmhuire, says goodbye to the latest Phase 2 cohort. 10 entrepreneurs developed their early-stage business ideas during the six-month programme, with support and training from industry experts and the staff at the Learning and Innovation Centre (LINC).

When we started on this challenging full-time programme in the cold days of November 2017, it was the energy and enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs that reminded me we were heading into the bright days of early summer 2018. Those days have now arrived and I am delighted that 10 strong, committed entrepreneurs are leaving us – in a good way!

As any startup entrepreneur knows by now, it’s chiefly yourself who will be putting in the hours – the vast bulk of the work done in an early-stage startup is by the founder and any co-founders. The real benefit of participating in a support programme such as New Frontiers is exactly that – the support.

We provide structure, time and space to develop from a well-presented business case to a ‘rocking & rolling’ enterprise. Well, that’s the plan anyway! The formal outcomes of the programme are an investor-level business plan and pitch. But, in order to get there, many other actions have to be started and completed.

Three main thoughts occur to me about entrepreneurs, startups and programmes, and how we can help support their progress:

  1. Time is short
    I joked with this group in our first workshop that six months of Phase 2 would go faster than the six weeks of Phase 1. They didn’t believe me, until it did go faster! Phase 2 requires such a step up in all aspects of starting up that the best advice is to have an action plan and milestones; then work to them. That’s the benefit of the reviews within the programme – keeping on track and adapting at the same time, in a very tight timeframe.
  2. Progress is the main thing
    Each entrepreneur and enterprise makes progress at a different pace. It depends on so many different things – product or tech development, market engagement, financial planning, costs and funding. Even though everyone starts on the same date, we don’t all finish in the same place. Progress is relative, but so are setbacks. It’s what you do next that’s now important.
  3. Thank you for your trust
    Given the energy and enthusiasm, risk and workload, and the serious challenges involved, I have the utmost respect for the real entrepreneurs who have trusted us to support them on this early part of their journey. If you do well, we do well. Thanks, and good luck!
Graduation group 10 New Frontiers programme Blancharsdtown

Blanchardstown Phase 2 graduates with Programme Manager, Colm Ó Maolmhuire (right)

The LINC – New Frontiers class of 2018

Ciaran BRENNAN graduation New Frontiers programme BlancharsdtownCiaran BRENNAN

Ground Up’s first product to market, PaidAde, addresses a huge pain point for tradesmen. Tradesmen hate paperwork. After many years working in the construction industry, Ciaran knows and understands this pain point. Through experience and market feedback they have developed PaidAde, a tool that gives tradesmen back their evenings and weekends by digitally removing the paperwork tasks from their business.

Catherine COFFEY graduation New Frontiers programme BlancharsdtownCatherine COFFEY

Lexi is an online platform that teaches non-native English speakers job-specific vocabulary. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, Lexi aims to change how people learn languages. They provide personalised, bite-sized language courses that are tailored to suit users’ preferred career path – that way they are learning the English they need to succeed in a working environment. Courses are constantly changing so that the content being learned is up to date and relevant.

Bernard HAYES graduation New Frontiers programme BlancharsdtownBernard HAYES

Fanled.ie is an Irish company that plans to save the music industry. They are bringing back real ownership for music fans and giving musicians the power to create their own future. This new crowdfunding platform allows fans to own a piece of publishing of a song they like, while at the same time giving direct revenue to the artist. Their goal is to be an agitator in the 21st-century music industry model and give both music lovers and music creators the power reap what they sow.

Chantel KANGOWA graduation New Frontiers programme BlancharsdtownChantel KANGOWA

Lucca Diagnostics will produce a non-invasive medical/life science diagnostic device to detect and diagnose Urinary Tract Infections. The device will make the collection, sampling, detection and diagnosis of live samples of urine and faeces a more efficient and infection-controlled process. The device is primarily aimed for use on unwell: paediatrics (0-16 years), pregnant women, the elderly, people suffering from urinary incontinence, and people who are incapacitated due to illness.

Noel McKEOWN graduation New Frontiers programme BlancharsdtownNoel McKEOWN

Teeze is a dating app with a difference. It focuses not only on people matching but meeting face to face. Teeze makes it easy to break the ice, chat and more importantly organise dates. 90% of matches in mobile dating do not meet up. Teeze uses technology and innovative features to make dates happen.

Cormac O'BEIRNE graduation New Frontiers programme BlancharsdtownCormac O’BEIRNE

RYPT is an online platform for gyms and personal trainers to market themselves, attract new clients and add value to existing clients. It provides them with the tools they need to train their clients online, and motivate them to reach their health and fitness goals. Using RYPT’s platform, individuals can find the right personal trainer for their individual needs and get all the expert advice they need to reach their fitness goals, from workout programmes to nutrition plans to wellness monitoring, right at their fingertips.

Simon RUDDY graduation New Frontiers programme BlancharsdtownSimon RUDDY

Dilution Solutions has developed a dilution device that makes it more cost-effective, safe and environmentally prudent to work with concentrate chemicals used at home and at work, for example, horticulture, cleaning and industrial chemicals. The device will be designed into a range of products for use in domestic and commercial settings.

Derya SOUSA graduation New Frontiers programme BlancharsdtownDerya SOUSA

Kianda is a cloud-based business process automation platform that provides a very simple way for non-technical users to build complex process workflows made of professional-looking online forms, without the need for coding knowledge. It enables companies to streamline not only internal but also external business processes, opening up an entirely new perspective to inter-company collaboration.

Morgan THUNDER graduation New Frontiers programme BlancharsdtownMorgan THUNDER

Bubblbook is a new way for activity providers to get in front of group organizers and take provisional bookings online. It’s also a new and easy way to organize group outings with automatic bookings triggered by interest. Bubblbook cuts all the hassle out of agreeing on the ‘who, what and when’ to focus on what matters – people getting together.

Raef TYRRELL graduation New Frontiers programme BlancharsdtownRaef TYRRELL

Ekho works to provide improved experiences and analytics for tourist attractions. Their aim is to make every visit count. Ekho uses BLE beacons and an application on a user’s mobile device to provide a proximity-enabled guided experience in a tourist attraction. Their client-base is tourist attractions, who are offered a content management system and analytics dashboard accessed via the Ekho website to manage and observe the status of their guided experience.

About the author

Colm ÓMaolmhuireColm Ó Maolmhuire

Colm is the New Frontiers Programme Manager at IT Blanchardstown. He has 20 years’ experience operating as an independent, professional management trainer, mentor and consultant. His main areas of expertise are in finance, business planning/analysis and management skills… [Read Colm’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

The food business: when is a trend not a trend?

Four of the Mid West’s most promising New Frontiers startups

How to decide whether to outsource or keep everything in-house

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent

New Frontiers -a crowdfunding conversation with Crua Outdoors

A crowdfunding conversation with Crua Outdoors

New Frontiers -a crowdfunding conversation with Crua Outdoors

Donncha Hughes, New Frontiers mentor and trainer, shares tips and insights about crowdfunding, including a video of a recent conversation with New Frontiers alumnus Derek O’Sullivan.
I recently met up with Derek O’Sullivan of Crua Outdoors in the Tom Crean Centre, IT Tralee, for a chat about crowdfunding. This article will highlight some of the key takeaways from the conversation. We spoke about what they have learned during their Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns and how they raised significant equity funding using Seedrs

Crua Outdoors: A Kerry and New Frontiers startup success story

I first met Derek O’Sullivan several years ago when delivering training on the New Frontiers programme in IT Tralee, and I have kept an eye on their progress online in the intervening period – as discussed at the end of the video interview, Crua Outdoors is a very successful business with:

  • 5 employees plus partners/base in the US
  • Range of 20 products, with a new hammock about to the launched
  • International sales across 43 countries
  • Completed several crowdfunding campaigns and have raised external equity investment using Seedrs and traditional sources to include Enterprise Ireland HPSU.
  • Turnover tripled from 2016 to 2017 and on target to triple again in 2018
  • Seriously looking at 7 figure investment in a production facility in Kerry

Key to this success is a brilliant product and a deep understanding of the customer which leads to great brand loyalty.

Deep crowdfunding experience

In the YouTube video, Derek acknowledges that Crua Outdoors would not be around today without crowdfunding. It provided a large part of the finance for the first and subsequent production runs. They are learning all the time about the crowdfunding process.

In 2015, they successfully raised €50,891 with 175 backers. According to Kickstarter’s website, they have (at the time of writing) 3,887 live projects, with 141,606 completed projects funded by a total of 14,432,333 backers.

Kickstarter is not a store. It’s a way to bring creative projects to life.
Kickstarter does not guarantee projects or investigate a creator’s ability to complete their project. It is the responsibility of the project creator to complete their project as promised, and the claims of this project are theirs alone.

Kickstarter website

Derek identified the following as the Three Big Factors to manage in a crowdfunding campaign:

  1. Market research
    make sure you are offering something that people actually want.
  2. The video
    needs to be professional and focus on the problem being addressed.
  3. Drive traffic to your site
    have a plan to source and convert visitors to your campaign page.

Derek believes that crowdfunding should be utilised more by startups in Ireland – it is ideal for product companies particularly those that have a tech or innovation angle. See the New Frontiers article Financing: alternatives to business bank loans, which runs through some alternatives to bank loan finance, listing crowdfunding as one option.

InterTrade Ireland equity crowdfunding resource

It was a happy coincidence that as I was arranging the meeting with Derek, that InterTrade Ireland published a superb resource on equity crowdfunding as a downloadable PDF.

“Equity crowdfunding has established itself as a real complement and alternative to traditional equity funding sources for High Growth Potential Start-Up and Growth Stage businesses in the UK and Ireland in recent years.”

Source: Equity Crowdfunding Resource, InterTradeIreland (page 2)

The InterTrade Ireland reports presents (page 4) the following table gleaned from the Beauhurst report on 2017 UK Start-Up investment activity ‘The Deal’, reflecting the deal volume activity of the lead UK-based equity crowdfunding platforms. The lead private players in the UK are Seedrs, CrowdCube, SyndicateRoom and VentureFounders.

Equity CrowdFunding in UK

The resources section is very well written (only 22 pages). It provides the necessary background information on equity crowdfunding compared to reward-based crowdfunding and the usual sources of startup funding. It also provides four case studies in the form of two pages summaries with all the pertinent details across set headings to include money raised, equity offered, and campaign preparation.

Crowdfunding is not a case of ‘build it and they will come’… it’s never that simple

Derek stresses in the video that crowdfunding is not a case of ‘build it and they will come’. This point is echoed in the InterTrade Ireland resource on page 11 and by their HouseMyDog case study.

“A business launching a fundraising campaign typically cannot solely rely on the Equity Crowdfunding platform.”

Source: Equity Crowdfunding Resource, InterTradeIreland 2018

Proactive management of crowdfunding campaigns to include significant preparation in advance is required.

HouseMyDog Crowdfunding textWatch my conversation with Derek

Please note that this was one take – and the full interview was uploaded – edited subtitles have been added to the video to complement the audio.

About the author

Donncha Hughes profileDonncha Hughes

Donncha Hughes is a former incubation centre manager and has worked with startups for almost ten years. A big advocate of Lean Startup, his areas of expertise include: marketing, sales, business models, supports for business, business plans and financial projections. An EI mentor and member of the CSF Evaluation Panel, Donncha specialises in working with early stage startups… [Read Donncha’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

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Four of the Mid West’s most promising New Frontiers startups

How to decide whether to outsource or keep everything in-house

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent

New Frontiers National Networking Event - March 8th 2018 - Red Cow Hotel Dublin

The importance of networking for New Frontiers participants

New Frontiers National Networking Event - March 8th 2018 - Red Cow Hotel Dublin

Joe Healy, (Divisional Manager, High Potential Start-ups, EI) – Minister Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation – Maria Gavin (Programme Manager New Frontiers, EI)

Of all the feedback received from entrepreneurs over the years, one key benefit of the New Frontiers programme stands out consistently: how crucial networking and peer support has been for their entrepreneurial journey.
New Frontiers participants get a wide range of supports on the programme. For some, learning sales and marketing skills, or successfully pivoting their idea, or preparing for export are the difference between success and failure.

But another characteristic of the programme is that it’s cyclical, and all entrepreneurs (typically, around a dozen at each location) start at the same time and work out of the same incubator. They face their business hurdles together, even though they’re each working on their own project, and celebrate milestones with their fellow participants. Insights and learning are swapped on a daily basis, as the focus is on collaboration, not competition.

So it’s an added bonus that Enterprise Ireland organises a yearly networking event, where all the participants from the previous year – from the 16 locations around the country offering the programme – can come together and network. From speeches, presentations and inspirational talks from alumni in the morning, to dedicated one-on-one networking sessions in the afternoon, it’s a day not to be missed.

An annual networking event

This year’s networking event was held in Red Cow, Dublin, on 8th March. It was opened by Minister Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation, who has some particularly good news for the programme:

“I’m pleased to learn that 2017 proved to be a record year for the New Frontiers programme with 164 entrepreneurs moving through Phase 2. Enterprise Ireland, together with the Institutes of Technology, work to continually develop and improve the programme and so, I’m delighted to tell you that a third phase is currently being developed and will be piloted later this year. This will no doubt be of immense benefit to those participating!

The Government of Ireland, through Enterprise Ireland, is very supportive of the New Frontiers Programme. €3 million was allocated in 2017 to be spent on this programme across the Institutes of Technology. However, it is important to continue investment in programmes such as this. I am pleased to tell you, therefore, that a further €400,000 has been allocated in the 2018 budget to bring the annual spend to €3.4 million this year.”

New Frontiers is the perfect way for early-start companies to position themselves for further HPSU supports. Over 30% of Competitive Start Fund awards go to New Frontiers alumni, with the potential then to become Enterprise Ireland clients and play an important role in the Irish business community.

After the Minister’s address, Maria Gavin, Manager of the New Frontiers Programme at Enterprise Ireland, gave an overview of the day and thanked everyone involved in making the programme such a success.

“I’d like to underline the uniquesness of New Frontiers as a truly national programme, having a significant regional outreach through the IoTs enabling would-be entrepreneurs from all differing parts of the country to benefit from a professional and comprehensive educational programme.

Today is a chance to rightly celebrate and elevate New Frontiers, in addition to thanking all those who make it such a success: the New Frontiers graduates – I admire your bravery and tenacity in entering the start-up arena; the 13 Programme Managers, whose tireless work and dedication benefit all participants; the LEO staff, whose involvement is pivotal in the start-up ecosystem; and to my Enterprise Ireland colleagues – both HPSU & Regional DAs – for their collaboration and commitment to New Frontiers. All of you are invaluable!”

The morning was packed with information. There was a presentation of the HPSU Unit from Sarita Johnston, Manager of HPSU Start at Enterprise Ireland, a Q & A, and a panel discussion with previous participants. Attendees were also treated to some fascinating insights from three highly successful alumni, James McElroy (HouseMyDog), Michael O’Dwyer (SwiftComply), and Ross O’Dwyer (Pundit Arena).

Download the slides from the various presentations

Collaboration and networking

Feedback from attendees was extremely enthusiastic. Everyone agreed that the opportunity to meet with the wider New Frontiers community was invaluable, and the afternoon’s pre-booked networking sessions proved very fruitful.

Many entrepreneurs disclose that isolation is one of the key limiting factors when building their business in the early days. A programme such as New Frontiers helps to beat this phenomenon with its collaborative approach, incubation facilities, group training events and access to mentoring. Events such as the annual networking event are the cherry on the top!

If you have a business idea and are interested in applying to New Frontiers, discover more here!

Discover a few of the entrepreneurs from the class of 2017!

Vicki O’Donnell – Wilder Wander

Joe Fernandez – Data Origami

Charlotte Matabaro – Mohecan Male Grooming

Mel Clohosey – Socialfeedia

Carol Ann McGowan – Heartstone

Joe Perrott – Remote Signals

Michelle Baxter – The Clinic Space

Ciaran Brennan – PaidAde

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

The food business: when is a trend not a trend?

Four of the Mid West’s most promising New Frontiers startups

How to decide whether to outsource or keep everything in-house

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent

Competitive Start Fund Regional New Frontiers Enterprise Ireland

Take your startup to the next level with Competitive Start Funding

Competitive Start Fund Regional New Frontiers Enterprise Ireland

Are you a start-up based outside of County Dublin? The latest call for Competitive Start Funding (CSF) is currently open and offering ten startups up to €50,000 each in equity funding. In support of regional enterprise development and job creation, this call is specifically for all regional entrepreneurs with global ambition.

Enterprise Ireland’s CSF is for the startup that is ready move up a gear and bring value to Ireland on an international scale. Does your product or service have overseas market potential? CSF can accelerate the growth of your early stage company, so you can reach internal and external milestones with a sustainable business.

Call closes: Tuesday, 13th March at 3pm

It is time to think big! CSF welcomes applicants which are companies or individuals, but if you really want to stand out from the crowd, prove to the adjudicators that your startup can scale. To grow on a global scale, a startup needs a strong team. This team would ideally be made up of individuals with diverse skills that complement each other. It is fundamental to the application that you can create 10 jobs in Ireland and realise sales of €1 million within three years. This is support for the long haul, so aim high!

To apply for this round of CSF, your early-stage company must be based outside of County Dublin and be in manufacturing or internationally traded services. Subsectors of this include the following: internet, games, apps, mobile, SaaS, cloud computing, enterprise software, lifesciences, food, cleantech and industrial products. The full list of requirements, and lots of other tips and information, are available on the Enterprise Ireland website. There have been many success stories since the CSF first started. Take a moment to get inspired by reading these two case studies from New Frontiers alumni who successfuly applied for CSF.

CSF, the perfect next step after New Frontiers!

Did you know that 30% of the startups that go on to get CSF funding are New Frontiers alumni? The programme is a great way to prepare your business for success, so it’s not really a surprise that after New Frontiers, many startups find CSF the natural next step to take.

Collette McGowan, Founder & CEO, Kollabro

TCollette McGowan, Found & CEO, Kollabrohe Competitive Start Fund (CSF) allowed Collette McGowan to expand her team and invest further in her software development.

Kollabro is a client communication and task management software that instantly saves time and money for digital and creative businesses through clear client communication. Kollabro eliminates the need for phone calls, emails and meetings during a project by having all the project communications in one place.


I faced plenty of challenges starting Kollabro, but ultimately everything in business comes down to sales and cash – that is what my accountant tells me anyway! Cashflow is hard to push through but when you have good people around you, passion, drive and the belief and vision in your concept you will find ways around the challenges you face. I do like to think that challenges are opportunities to learn, pivot and grow.

Applying for CSF

I applied for CSF when we had just completed the New Frontiers programme in IT Sligo. I knew that an investment of €50,000 into our company at that stage would allow us to bring our software successfully to market. We had applied for CSF funding six months previously, but we weren’t ready.

Growing the Kollabro team

Winning CSF funding was an amazing opportunity for Kollabro because it changed everything in terms of our future planning, strategy and growth. It was a huge boost for our team as it gave us the drive and focus to move Kollabro forward. We were pre-revenue at the time, so the €50,000 allowed us to expand our team and invest further into our software development.

Talk to previous applicants

Applying for CSF is not easy, and my advice is to allow for plenty of time for the application process and don’t rush it. Talk to other successful applicants and ask them about their application process and get their tips and advice. Make sure to practice the video pitch – this is the first time the panel will see you, so you need to clearly get across your products or service.

Launching Kollabro

We are currently on the Startlab and The Female High Fliers programmes which will really help us get our marketing and sales strategies in place and allow for our market entry when we launch Kollabro in April 2018. We are currently signing up founding customers who are pre-paying for our software. This is something that we are excited about as there is proving to be a very strong demand for our software pre-launch. We are also going for further investment and HPSU later this year. With this further investment, we hope to expand our team, opening an international office and launching Kollabro into the educational, financial and architectural sectors.

Sean Ó Tuama, CEO, Firemole

Sean Ó Tuama, CEO, FiremoleHaving gone through the New Frontiers programme in Cork, the Competitive Start Fund (CSF) was the obvious next step for Firemole. 

Firemole is a company that focuses on fire prevention rather than fire detection. Our first product, also called Firemole, is a safety tech gadget that warns users of high temperatures from the surface to which it’s attached by sounding an inbuilt alarm, potentially preventing a fire from occurring.

To date, we have shipped over 1,000 units across the EU, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and Firemole will be available in stores nationwide in the coming months.
We are currently working with some of Ireland’s top research centres on the next generation gadget and we are very excited to see the impact we can have in reducing fires and saving lives.

Getting started

The stand-out challenge of the first year was learning about the product development phase and manufacturing. It’s a very steep learning curve and not only is the physical process itself challenging to learn, but you also need to learn the lingo; ‘BOM’, ‘Tooling’, ‘Shots’ and the list goes on. There have been many awkward meetings where all I could do was nod, smile and take a mental note to google that phrase later.

The important thing to do in these situations is to take a step back and really dissect what is being said, as most of the time it’s manageable.

Applying for CSF

Having gone through the New Frontiers programme at Cork IT, CSF was the obvious next step for Firemole. It is an initial stamp of approval that shows private investors that this start-up company is not just all talk.
The CSF is also the next step in getting full High Potential Start-up status which is a huge achievement for companies.

CSF success

The CSF funding bridges the gap between New Frontiers funding and raising an initial investment round. Enterprise Ireland connections are also a huge benefit to me as my company looks to move into the UK market and further afield.

The funding has also been a huge support in allowing me to protect my company; it allowed me to file patents which are currently covered internationally, we have fully registered designs on how the product looks, and trademarks that are registered in the EU and filed in the US and Canada.

The funding has also allowed me to get retail ready and set up an efficient supply chain and drop shipping location, so orders can be sent directly to the person or distributor who has ordered them.

Advice for future CSF applicants

Listen to your Enterprise Ireland advisor as they know the criteria inside out. Differentiate yourself, prove traction in the market and prove that you’re not a one-trick-pony by showing a solid product pipeline.

What’s next for Firemole?

Our shorter-term goals are optimising Firemole.com and progressing with a nationwide distribution deal. Moving distribution into the UK and mainland Europe is the goal by the end of 2018, while also launching the smart version of the product to the market.

Over to you!

Ready to get started? Make sure you are registered on the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System and commence your application from there. As the application process includes a video pitch, we recommend you start preparing right now and don’t leave it to the last minute! For further reading, take a look at our blog post Making a successful Competitive Start Fund (CSF) application.

Everything you need is here on the Enterprise Ireland website.

Good luck!

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

The food business: when is a trend not a trend?

Four of the Mid West’s most promising New Frontiers startups

How to decide whether to outsource or keep everything in-house

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent

Gavin Duffy - RTE Dragon's Den promotional imagery by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.com

Gavin Duffy on the changing face of business success

Gavin Duffy - RTE Dragon's Den promotional imagery by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.com

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find Dragons’ Den on RTÉ compulsive viewing. It’s amazing to see the varied and imaginative solutions people have come up with – often to problems you didn’t even know existed. Listening to the Dragon’s questions gives a lot of insight into the thought process and approach of experienced entrepreneurs. I always take notes that I apply to my own business, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

So, it was with great excitement that I learnt an interview had been set up with Gavin Duffy – the only Dragon to guard the Den since the show started in 2009. Gavin was already a successful businessman by the age of 17, and has gone on to conquer numerous sectors since then. He also has a keen interest in training, so I knew he would have some valuable insights for our New Frontiers community.

During our chat, we visited some well-worn topics, such as ‘what makes an entrepreneur?’ and ‘do the Irish lack global ambition?’ But we also dug into issues such as education, which I found out is a subject very close to Gavin’s heart.

Is there a particular mindset or personality that makes an entrepreneur?

Of course, not everyone starts a business in their teens as I did. For me, it was a natural progression of what I was doing at the time. Those with the best chance of success aren’t necessarily rushing headlong into it at 17 and making a go of it by some fluke! Typically, the businesses that can really succeed – generate significant revenues and sustainable employment – are those with a founder who has a track record in their sector.

That said, founding a business is a real challenge if you’re older. You might be at the stage where you’ve started a family and have a good job… but you still have that yearning to do your own thing. Deciding to set up a business at that point (jumping the wall, as it were), is a risk and that can be hard on everyone involved.

So, what should those that do decide to jump do first?

There is a fantastic network of support out there these days. You have agencies like Enterprise Ireland or the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) where people can get the help and advice to appraise their startup idea.

True entrepreneurs have a vision of doing things in a better way – whether that’s making, delivering, or producing something. My advice at that early stage is to make use of those available channels and get your idea validated. There is assistance and funding out there to help you with this, so make use of it!

As an investor, are you seeing a higher calibre of entrepreneur seeking capital?

I think in the venture capital (VC) world, we see more informed business decisions being made, certainly. Entrepreneurs are framing their pitches more coherently, they understand the ins and outs of investment, and we hear them use the word ‘exit’ when they describe their strategy.

For me, as someone in the investment community, it’s always good to see someone with a track record in their industry bringing a startup idea to the table. Their proximity and familiarity with the area have allowed them to spot a potential solution or market, which they have then tested thoroughly with the supports available.

What about on Dragons’ Den? Has the standard of those opportunities changed over the years?

You have to remember that Dragons’ Den is a TV show, so things are a little different there. The producers are on the lookout for ideas that are either truly brilliant or completely wacky, because good solid businesses don’t usually make the most entertaining TV.

But in terms of the business plans and investment opportunities presented, I would say there has been a marked improvement over the years. I’m impressed by the business knowledge that goes into the pitches; people are generally very well prepared.

How do you feel about the health of the business ecosystem in Ireland today?

The offering of the entire business community has improved in Ireland; whether that’s business advisors, professional services, even entities such as small accountancy firms that are advising young startups and helping them with business plans and financial strategies. Ireland is definitely an enterprising country.

I take part in the Enterprise Towns expos, which are organised by Bank of Ireland. Most people judge the economy by looking at their local high street and the number of vacant retail units can lead to them lamenting the loss of family businesses and assuming that the economy is struggling. But that’s only because retail as we knew it has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, so much of it has moved online and now high streets are mostly about food and coffee!

However, turn up to an Enterprise Town event and you’ll see as many as 150 amazing local businesses. They may be run from a garden shed, or a shared office somewhere, but they are providing employment and are part of the backbone of the country. During the downturn, some people had no choice but to set something up for themselves, and they’ve proved very successful at it. Industries evolve, we have to learn to recognise the changing face of success.

We’re great at small business, then. But some people talk about a lack of ‘global ambition’ in Ireland. Where do you stand in that debate?

I hear that criticism frequently. “Irish entrepreneurs are happy with ‘lifestyle businesses’ and don’t tend to go further. Or they sell up.” I think this complaint overlooks one thing, which is that in the tech world there are different classes of business. Companies such as Stripe are platform businesses – they are a global play from the very start, and the reality is that such businesses will always be in the minority.

If a business involves a branded product – say, a food product – you can achieve success and go on to enter other markets, but there will always be much bigger players in those markets that you have to either compete with or who will potentially make you an offer you can’t refuse.

I don’t believe that somehow Irish entrepreneurs are less ambitious than anyone else. It simply depends on what part of a market you’re in. If you look at the handful of major, global entrepreneurs, Ireland is very well represented. For instance, you have the Collisons (co-founders of Stripe), or Liam Casey (founder of PCH). Go back a generation and you have examples such as Smurfit Kappa, Independent News and Media, or Glanbia.

Given its size, is conquering the Irish market enough?

Ireland is a pretty small market, which means that businesses must think about other markets. It’s tricky being an island market, too. If you’re in mainland Europe and need to meet people or attend an event, you can get to eight capital cities within an easy train ride. That’s not the case here, but luckily technology is changing the way we conduct business and geography is becoming less and less of an issue.

That said, I recognise that the Irish can get quite fixated on their home market. A few years ago, one of my investments, TanOrganic (founded by Noelle O’Connor), was doing very well in the Australian market. Marissa Carter then launched Cocoa Brown in the Irish market, where she completely surpassed us. It shouldn’t have been an issue for us, as we were taking such strides in Australia, but somehow it felt like a failure not be Number 1 back at home.

What’s needed to ensure the next generations can compete in the global marketplace?

I see a key role for education systems, but they are slow to adapt. Primary education is still chalk-and-talk; at junior or leaving cert level the curriculum is still a reflection of where we were 15 or 20 years’ ago – because that’s how long it takes to effect change in the education system.

Both primary and secondary schooling needs to change utterly. No one graduating from university at this point is going to get a job in a company, work for 40 years and then retire with a nice watch. There isn’t a single industry or sector that operates in that way now. Younger generations need to learn a different range of skills.

It’s not the sole responsibility of schools to make this change. Change is required in society generally, that includes parents, and of course business. In a generation’s time, the ‘professions’ as we know them won’t be employing people at the same level or in the same way. It’s a big challenge that we haven’t addressed yet

So if we add Computer Science lessons to the curriculum, everything will be OK?

Technical skills are crucial, of course, but I don’t mean we need an entire generation of coders, either. Creativity and innovation may be ‘softer’ skills, but they matter just as much. Being able to sell yourself, create a product or deliver a service needs to be engendered in the education system, and reinforced at third level.

It’s great to see some of the Transition Year projects around the country, were pupils set up a business and get some real-life experience of what might be involved. For some, that’s their first ever understanding of business. I was lucky, because business was the family pastime. That’s not the case for a lot of kids.

I’m Chairman of an organisation called BizWorld Ireland. We run two-day enterprise workshops for children aged 10 – 13 and there’s one thing that always surprises me. The children in primary school have these truly global ideas – creative, world-changing initiatives. By the time they get to TY, the ideas are a lot less ambitious.

You’ll have come across Sir Ken Robinson’s assertion that education hinders the creativity of students the longer they are exposed to it. I’ve seen direct evidence of that. So, while we’re teaching children the right blend of skills they’ll need for tomorrow’s workplace, we should also be working hard to stop putting up barriers for them. The ambition younger children have is phenomenal, if we can nurture that we’ll be securing a sound footing for the future of business.

Check out Gavin’s recent article What’s your Business Strategy for 2018? – 5 Easy Wins for the New Year for more business insights

[Featured image courtesy of Ruth Medjber – Ruthless Imagery. Gavin Duffy on the set of Dragons’ Den (RTÉ)]

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

The food business: when is a trend not a trend?

Four of the Mid West’s most promising New Frontiers startups

How to decide whether to outsource or keep everything in-house

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent

Gavin Duffy, Eleanor McEvoy, Alison Cowzer, Chanelle McCoy and Barry O’Sullivan - RTE Dragon's Den promotional imagery by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.com

New Frontiers alumni find success in the Dragons’ Den

Gavin Duffy, Eleanor McEvoy, Alison Cowzer, Chanelle McCoy and Barry O’Sullivan - RTE Dragon's Den promotional imagery by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.com

Some fantastic New Frontiers startups have appeared on RTE One’s Dragons’ Den. The programme is addictive viewing for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, investment and business, with founders from every industry squaring up to face the Dragons’ tough questions.

We decided to catch up with two alumni who secured investment during the latest season of Dragons’ Den. What made them step into the Den? What’s it like to pitch to such a formidable panel? What, if anything, would they do differently?

Art McArdle – Heat Hero

Art McArdle Dragons Den New FrontiersArt and Adrienne McArdle founded Heat Hero in 2015. Their product is an innovative solution to improve the efficiency of solid fuel heating systems. The manifold can be retro-fitted onto any system, and because it doesn’t have any electrics or moving parts it requires no future maintenance.

Art is the technical know-how behind Heat Hero, while Adrienne runs the day-to-day of the business. They had originally applied to Dragons’ Den in 2016, but as it was quite early in their startup journey, they didn’t get through the application process.

They joined the New Frontiers programme at Dundalk Institute of Technology, and used an Innovation Voucher from Enterprise Ireland to carry out further research into the product. They were teamed up with a mentor to help them develop the business, and Heat Hero went on to win a Best Innovative Product Award at the SEAI’s Energy Show 2016.

The next step was to get their product tested and approved. This testing was carried out by independent UK experts, Kiwa Gastech, and Heat Hero was awarded its safety certificate. The solid fuel body, HETAS, now lists Heat Hero as an approved product (in both the UK and Ireland). Art and Adrienne took all the critical steps needed to corroborate the effect of the Heat Hero on a solid fuel system – it has now been proven to improve the efficiency of a solid fuel heating system by up to 30%.

With this validation in place, Art and Adrienne reapplied to Dragons’ Den. With their product now stocked in 100 stores around the country, they had the sales and feedback they needed to prove the viability of their business. There are 300,000 solid fuel stoves in Ireland alone. With the backing of a Dragon – the investment they bring, but also their experience and networks – the market potential is huge.

“The Dragons’ Den team are very hands-on, they really help you prepare and they get you ready for the pitch in every way. They talk you through your messaging, the approach you’ll take once you’re out there, how you will demonstrate your product. They also have a pitch coach to help you get word-perfect.”

As Art was going to be the one to pitch, Adrienne coached him relentlessly on the minutiae of the company’s financials, popping random questions at him out of the blue so that he was ready for anything.

“We practiced the pitch in different venues, with different audiences, and with a camera too. I told people to ask me anything, and not to hold their punches. Then two days before shooting, I stopped practicing completely and let myself relax about the pitch, so that I didn’t arrive too stressed out.”

What viewers may not realise is that interviews with the Dragons can sometimes go on for an hour and a half, far longer than the short scenes we see in the final programme. Every aspect of the business is covered; the Dragons ask all kinds of questions before coming to their decision of whether or not to invest.

“By the time you walk out in front of the Dragons, you’re so outside of what a normal day feels like that you almost get what I would call a second wind. You’re really nervous, but you’ve come so far that you know you can’t let the nerves get the better of you. I knew I only had one shot, and that was it!
The Dragons started firing their questions at me, but once I was through the initial pitch I felt a lot more relaxed about answering them. I’d learnt my financials by heart, and wasn’t worried about answering any technical questions. I was a bit thrown when Gavin asked me specifically about sales numbers from February, and I had to dig deep to remember what the figure was!”

The Dragons were very impressed with Art’s pitch, with Gavin Duffy saying, “The potential is limitless.”

Art was one of those lucky entrepreneurs who gets competing bids for investment: an offer of €60,000 for 32% from Eleanor McEvoy and €60,000 for 30% from Gavin. He asked the Dragons if they would consider investing together, but that idea didn’t appeal to Eleanor… after some consideration, Art chose to accept Eleanor’s offer, even though she wanted a slightly higher percentage.

“Gavin and Eleanor were the two Dragons I had in mind when I went in. I would have been very happy with Gavin and I know that he would have been 100% behind the product. But at the same time Eleanor had all the contacts in the energy sector. You couldn’t ignore that.”

What came across during Art’s pitch was the simplicity of his solution and the pains he had taken to prove its effectiveness. It was obvious that his open and friendly manner had endeared him to the whole panel, as summed up at the end by Alison Cowzer after he had left the room, “What a promoter! What an honest, authentic guy. You’ve got a really good business partner there, Eleanor.”

Participants can’t publicise their appearance until two weeks before the programme airs, but once the embargo is lifted, a canny entrepreneur can maximise the publicity generated by an appearance on a prime weekend TV slot. During those two weeks, Art and Adrienne spoke to as many contacts and prospects as they could, and got in touch with local newspapers and radio stations.

“The media coverage and the feedback we’ve had has been fantastic. Dragons’ Den has been an amazing platform for our business; the phone and email haven’t stopped! I know of lots of people who threw their stove out because it just wasn’t performing the way they expected it to. Now that so many more people know about Heat Hero, that won’t happen anymore.”

The next steps for Art and Adrienne will be to look at working directly with County Councils to install the Heat Hero at the same time as the heating system goes in, as well as extending their retail network in Ireland and pushing into the UK market. They also have a new product coming out that will make wood systems work better, which is an important development because so many people would prefer to use a sustainable fuel like wood instead of fuels such as coal.

“I just can’t believe the response we’ve had, I’m so happy we went on the programme. Heat Hero is the future for all boiler stoves… it’s out there now and this was just the stepping stone we needed!”

Olive O’Connor – MediStori

Olive O’Connor MediStori - New FrontiersThe MediStori is an organiser that allows patients or their carers to keep all their health information in one place. It’s a paper-based system that takes the stress out of managing an illness or health condition – you can keep hospital correspondence, notes, prescriptions, appointments, medical cards, and health records in an easy-to-reference booklet that never needs recharging!

Olive’s three children suffered from acute illnesses when they were young, and Olive herself has an ongoing health condition. It was as a result of having to manage multiple health and medication regimes within the family that she developed a notebook system that eventually became the MediStori health organiser.

With help from New Frontiers, HSE backing, and extensive research with patients, carers and health professionals, Olive designed a family health manager suitable for monitoring all types of chronic illness, or even just keeping track of a new-born’s development. In January this year, Olive decided it was time to take her business to the next level. She had signed a big supply contract and cash flow was going to be an important part of making sure her business was sustainable.

Olive researched a few investment options and decided to send an application to Dragons’ Den. She met with the producers, who took her through the financials of the business and the other elements required. She was accepted to go forward to the show, and went through the second application phase. However, no part of the process is shared with the Dragons, they know nothing about the business until they meet the entrepreneur in front of the cameras.

Appearing on the show involves a long day at the studio. It’s not just your pitch you have to worry about – there are pre interviews and post interviews too, plus the obligatory trip to hair and makeup! Pitch coach, Catherine Moonan, is on hand to help the promoters refine their pitch and prepare for the Dragons’ questions.

“Overall, it’s a really lovely and worthwhile experience. Everyone does their best to put you at ease and address any concerns you have. They also set up your product demonstration for you, so you don’t have the added stress of having to do that.”

Olive prepared for the Den with two mentors, Attracta Burke and Donncha Hughes, and met with an entrepreneur who had successfully been through the Den experience. She rehearsed her pitch with friends, but also told them to ask her all the tough questions they could think of to prepare her for any curveballs that might come her way.

“I’ve done lots of public speaking, so I’m used to being on a stage. The difference this time was that I didn’t have my usual PowerPoint to guide me, which made it harder to get my timing right and remember what I wanted to say. I practiced a lot in the two weeks leading up to filming, always focusing on answering the key questions: problem & solution, market competitors, costing & future growth.”

An important part of Olive’s pitch was the story behind her startup. For some people it might be their education, or their experience in a market, whereas the reason behind Olive’s startup was a deeply personal one.

“I wasn’t trying to win the Dragons over because of sympathy for my personal situation. The important thing for me was to show that I knew my product inside out because I had lived through the experience of having children who were unwell. They say that investors make their decision based 80% on the promoter and 20% on the business, so it’s very important that you don’t forget to include yourself when telling your story.”

There was a moment during Olive’s pitch where confusion arose about the figures she gave for her monthly outgoings. Chanelle McCoy declared herself out based on the company’s running costs being too high, but the figure Olive had given was actually for projected costs based on future growth.

“My one regret was not listening to the question properly. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t know my financials, but that I had answered a different question. I knew immediately I had made an error and luckily Barry picked up on it and I had the chance to put it right at that point. But it did mean I lost a potential investor. Thankfully, Chanelle, true to her word, has been a great support since the show.”

Going into the Den, Olive had already identified Barry O’Sullivan and Chanelle McCoy as her ideal investors, although she would have been delighted to work with any of them. Barry offered her the full €80,000 investment, with a small royalty payable on each product until his investment is recouped. Just how hard did Olive have to think before accepting?

“The Dragons can bring you so much more than investment. They also bring their personality and values, and I knew Barry had similar ones to mine. Relationships are everything, and if you don’t get on with your investor it’s going to be a hard road.”

The future is looking very busy for Olive. She has signed a contract with United Drug Consumer, and sales of the product soared after the show aired. MediStori will be in another 80 pharmacies by the end of the month, which is twice as many as Olive’s target. She is opening up both B2B and B2C opportunities for the business, and has been careful to ensure her PR and marketing strategy is positioned to benefit from the amazing exposure that TV and radio appearances bring (she was also on the Ryan Tubridy show the following day, and then the Today Show with Maura and Dáithí later that week).

One unexpected result of appearing in the Den was the huge volume of traffic that the MediStori website got. There were 10,000 visitors in the 24 hours after the show aired, with another 15,000 checking the site during that week. The website couldn’t cope with the traffic and went down, which meant Olive had to very quickly connect with anyone and everyone who might be trying to get in touch or purchase a product. She sent out personal emails to all her contacts, and kept everyone in the loop on social media with regular updates.

“It’s so important to not be afraid to say that something’s gone wrong. As long as you explain why it’s happened, people won’t worry. We didn’t get any negative feedback at all, even though the site was offline for a good while.”

Another smart thing Olive did was get lots of momentum going in the lead-up to the programme, reaching out to all her contacts to let them know she would be on Dragons’ Den and sharing the relevant Twitter hashtags. She got a lot of response on social media, with 22% of the company’s sales that weekend coming from Twitter.

“It was interesting to see the kind of connectivity we got. I’ve noticed in the past that some people who appear on Dragons’ Den don’t really interact with what people are saying to them on platforms like Twitter. I personally responded to everybody, whether they had positive or negative feedback, and thanked people for their comments. People buy from people, if you get an opportunity like Dragons’ Den, you have to use it. Don’t underestimate the power of social media!”

Are you thinking of stepping into the Den?

Quite a few New Frontiers participants have appeared on Dragons’ Den over the years, and a number of them have been successful in raising investment. This year saw Sarah Kiely, founder of Sadie’s Kitchen, win over Alison Cowzer in Episode 2, for an investment of €50,000. Evan and Gerard Talty appeared in Episode 7, and secured investment from Alison for their startup, Wild Irish Seaweed. Noreen Doyle, of the Irish Biltong Company, was also offered investment earlier in the season, but chose not to accept the Dragon’s offer.

If you’re thinking of stepping into the Den, the consensus is definitely: GO FOR IT! Even if you don’t win the investment you were hoping for, it’s an invaluable experience and will prepare you for future pitching opportunities. The process of going through your financials and business proposition is very useful, too; it will help you to firm up your business plan and get feedback from experienced business people which could lead to a pivot or new opportunities you had never even considered. And, of course, there’s no such thing as bad publicity… simply appearing on the show will get you the kind of exposure that other startups can only dream of!

[Dragons’ Den is made by Screentime ShinAwil for RTÉ. Featured image courtesy of Ruth Medjber – Ruthless Imagery]

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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