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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.

Enterprise Ireland’s PSSF Propels Your Startup From Promise To Powerhouse

Enterprise Ireland’s PSSF Propels Your Startup From Promise To Powerhouse

By New Frontiers blog

Enterprise Ireland’s PSSF Propels Your Startup From Promise To Powerhouse

The Enterprise Ireland Pre-Seed Start Fund (PSSF) provides investment of €50,000 or €100,000 (in two €50,000 tranches), plus access to a Development Advisor and supports from the agency such as 10 sessions with a mentor from the Enterprise Ireland panel, access to their Market Research Centre, and other appropriate supports to develop your business.

I spoke to Anna-Marie Turley, Department Manager for Entrepreneurship & HPSU Operations at Enterprise Ireland, to learn more about PSSF (which recently replaced Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund, or CSF) and why it is of particular interest to New Frontiers alumni.

PSSF is a springboard for ambitious startups

First things first. CSF has been retired, but PSSF is not simply CSF with a new name. There are four main differences worth highlighting:

  1. PSSF is not a competitive process. With CSF, you were scored across several areas and only the top scorers won funding. This is not the case with PSSF.
  2. PSSF is open all year round, unlike CSF which had a defined series of ‘calls’ which sometimes targeted specific groups or sectors. Applications to PSSF are accepted at any time and there are no deadlines. This is a really important difference because PSSF is all about timing, as we’ll discover below.
  3. You can apply for either €50,000 or €100,000 (which is split into two tranches of €50,000) in investment (CSF was €50,000).
  4. The funding is in the form of a convertible loan note (CSF was for a 10% equity stake in the business). Convertible notes, or CLNs, are a form of hybrid debt finance, where funders offer investment as an interest-bearing, repayable loan that converts into equity under certain circumstances (most commonly at a future qualifying funding round).

These are the differences, but the fundamental purpose of the fund is based on a similar premise to CSF, as Anna-Marie explains.

“PSSF is designed to accelerate the growth of early-stage startup companies with the capacity and ambition to succeed in global markets. The fund covers operational costs – development of market-ready products/solutions, market testing, building mission critical skillsets, etc. What we’re looking for is those fledgling innovative businesses that have the ability and drive to really scale.”

The money can be spent on salaries, travel, consultancy fees, and other expenditure, but not direct export aid costs such as sales and marketing and only a capped amount in legal fees. Startups can initiate the application process at any time, but Anna-Marie underlines that the timing must be right for the business.

This is not about getting the cash as quickly as possible and you’re not in a race to obtain this funding before someone else gets it. The absence of a ticking clock means that you can choose the optimal time to go for PSSF, at the moment it can do the most for the company and get you ready to raise significant seed funding.

The PSSF application process

The application process involves completing an application form on the Enterprise Ireland online application system and the submission of a video pitch.

The video pitch must be in PowerPoint format with a maximum duration of four minutes. That means slides plus a commentary, as though you were presenting in person. A really impactful pitch will take a while to prepare, so I recommend you start working on this in advance. Workshops are being organised to support you with this (see below). The PowerPoint should address:

  • Overview of the business and the opportunity (problem, solution, team, financials)
  • Management team (skills, gaps)
  • Use of the investment monies (specific technical milestones and commercial milestones)
  • Your future funding requirements and timelines for fundraising

It’s crucial that your application is clear on your technical and commercial milestones. The funding should get you to the point – ideally within 12 to 18 months – where you are able to attract further seed funding. Milestones will be how you know you are moving in that direction.

The online form will be fairly quick to submit, but remember you need to also upload the PowerPoint presentation within the 48 hours the system keeps your application open. Allow time to run into technical issues and fix them so that you don’t have to start all over again.

Formal assessment of the application is similar to the process used for CSF. Expect the panel to consider areas such as:

  • Company and promoter/team profile
  • Product/service and market opportunity
  • Business proposition
  • Product/service innovation
  • Ability to deliver on the key commercial and technical milestones

Although re-applications are possible, you are limited to three applications in any 12-month period.

Tips for the PSSF application process

You’re not alone on this journey. Business Innovation Centres (BICs) around the country and Furthr (formerly Dublin BIC) are running regular PSSF application support workshops and actively helping startups with the new application format. You can attend workshops in any region but will need to register. Upcoming workshops are listed on the Enterprise Ireland site.

What is Anna-Marie’s main advice for founders thinking of applying? “When preparing your application, pay a lot of attention to the technical and commercial milestones. These define how you’re going to get to the next stage, so they are really important in helping the panel assess your application. What are you going to spend the money on and over what timeframe?”

Companies with a minimum viable product (MVP) or Beta are going to have an advantage over those that are still at the idea stage. This is why PSSF is the ideal next step for companies coming out of the New Frontiers programme and where we expect many of our alumni will turn next. Since this fund was launched, 40% of successful applicants have been New Frontiers alumni. The programme is an excellent preparation for this stage of startup growth.

“Work with Local Enterprise Offices, apply to programmes like New Frontiers, and get your startup to the stage where you are ready to push forward towards a seed round within 18 months. That’s the sweet spot that PSSF is for. But be clear on what your steppingstones are and plan ahead so that this funding comes at the right time.”

Anna-Marie explains that the assessment is not weighted against first-time entrepreneurs.

“Track record is one thing, but knowledge of an area or sector is another. If you’ve come out of a multinational in that area or have applicable academic expertise, for example, that is considered as part of your track record. You don’t have to be a serial entrepreneur. But we are looking at the team as a whole and not just the promoter, so your collective accomplishments matter.”

What is an ideal PSSF company?

While this is not a competitive process, there is of course a very serious evaluation of each application to ensure that the startups getting funding have a strong likelihood of becoming Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Up companies (HPSUs).

HPSUs have very strong export potential and are capable of generating revenues of over €1 million per year within three years and/or employing more than 10 people. Therefore, HPSUs typically have a strong element of innovation in their product/service, a team with strong domain knowledge, and the kind of business plan that means they will very soon need to raise significant investment as they accelerate their international growth.

The company must be classed as a manufacturing or internationally traded services business, within which criterion a wide range of sectors are included. As with any Enterprise Ireland support, there are some excluded sectors such as gambling, adult entertainment, tobacco, and military. To apply for PSSF, the company must be less than four years old and revenues should be under €150,000 that year or in any previous year.

What would preclude a startup from being able to apply to PSSF? There is also a ceiling of €150,000 in funding raised from external sources. If you have raised more than this, you may not be eligible to apply. A comprehensive list of all the qualifying and disqualifying factors can be found on the PSSF page on the Enterprise Ireland website. There is also an FAQ downloadable from the EI website.

Get ready for PSSF investment

PSSF is a welcome bridge for those startups that are still early stage but need investment to really start flourishing. At that point, raising private equity can be a huge challenge. If you have the ambition to take your startup global, it makes sense to build PSSF investment into your strategic roadmap. However, don’t be pre-emptive with your application! Make sure your MVP is strong, that you have a great team around you, and that you have identified your international expansion and employment potential.

If you’re interested in the PSSF, it’s a good idea to start by having a conversation with your New Frontiers, Local Enterprise Office, or Enterprise Ireland advisor. Interested in reading more? Check out this recent article by Anna-Marie Turley in the Independent and the full fund details on the Enterprise Ireland website.

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.

Start Up In Cork! Aoife McInerney Welcomes Us To The Rubicon Centre

Start Up In Cork! Aoife McInerney Welcomes Us To The Rubicon Centre

By New Frontiers blog

Start Up In Cork! Aoife McInerney Welcomes Us To The Rubicon Centre

The Rubicon Centre at MTU’s Bishopstown Campus in Cork has supported 500 companies over the past 10 years, with its client businesses raising some €88 million in funding from a mix of public and private equity. Every year, Rubicon delivers a range of programmes, including New Frontiers. Aoife McInerney, Enterprise Programmes Manager, tells us everything we need to know about New Frontiers at Cork.

About Programme Manager Aoife McInerney

Aoife McInerneyAfter university, Aoife went to work for an entrepreneur, gaining a real appreciation of the drive, commitment, resilience, and flexibility required to make a fledgling business successful. She then moved into an international setting for over a decade, at the heart of a rapidly scaling global tech startup. Following this, she consulted for a wide range of startups and SMEs in sectors such as pharma, hospitality, retail, and medtech. Through this work, Aoife developed a deeper interest in entrepreneurship, which led her to the role of Enterprise Programmes Manager at the Innovation & Enterprise Office, MTU. An experienced project manager, Aoife brings strong analytical thinking and problem-solving skills to the table, supporting entrepreneurs through their journey with a pragmatic, straightforward approach.

A wide range of sectors supported

The latest cohort having recently graduated, Aoife is currently seeking applications for the next New Frontiers programme, which will run from autumn 2023. Her latest 15 graduates had business in the circular economy, high science, engineering, food products, technology, and software and it is noteworthy that half of these projects were led by female entrepreneurs (or promoters, as they are known on the programme). Cork’s most recent alumni were:

  • Blade Bridge (engineering and sustainability) – repurposes decommissioned wind turbine blades into cycleway bridges and public structures, thereby helping the wind and public infrastructure sectors to participate in the circular economy. Promoter: Angela Nagle.
  • Travella (tourism) – an open-source website to provide tourist attractions to drive visitor engagement and provide data to owners. Promoter: Andy Kinsella.
  • Second Street Bakery (food) – creating quintessential US confectionary, toffee brittle, for the Irish market and beyond. Promoter: Claire Keane.
  • Lughcent Technology (energy and foodtech) – UV pasteurization significantly decreasing the water and energy requirements of traditional pasteurisation. Promoter: Dave Andrews
  • Clisteprobe (medtech) – a handheld biopsy device that will deliver instant results on whether a tumour is malignant or benign. Promoter: Justina Ugwah.
  • Everywhere English (edtech) – a business English platform for employees with transparent progress reporting for employers, it promotes social inclusion and workplace progression by enabling learners to feel confident in English specific to their sector. Promoters: Kate and Becky Popova.
  • Doctrine (consumer goods) – a skincare brand that blends key trend ingredients with beautiful packaging and biotech ingredients for a modern market. Promoter: Mark O’Sullivan.
  • HaPPE Earth (sustainability and healthcare) – a manufacturer of single use compostable aprons made from a bio resin produced and made in Ireland. Promoter: Dr. Mary O’Riordan.
  • Hibra Design (sustainable engineering and energy) – offers decarbonization as a service (DasS) by electrifying traditional diesel off-road vehicles, e.g., mining trucks or airport vehicles. Promoter: Mike Keane.
  • Sifter Media (tech) – an open-source platform that enables the visual tracking of study and investigation. Promoter: Fintan Meagher.
  • Buildzon (construction) – offers construction industry procurement real-time access to prices from multiple vendors for building products in short supply or not available in Ireland. Promoter: Monika Wotjek.
  • Eofis (edtech) – an AI summarization and adaptive learning tool to allow the learner to acquire, organize and retain information more easily. Promoter: Tiarnach O’Riada.
  • BioEnz (biotech) – a proprietary enzyme discovery platform and unique bio bank, developing novel enzyme solutions from nature to protect the environment, improve nutrition and treat disease. Promoter: Tim Roche.
  • Silvermine Studios (gaming) – Chaos Riders is a couch co-op traditional video game. Promoter: William Hulshof.
  • CRAOI (tech) – an expertly designed platform which combines a personal approach with interactive tools and on-demand content, backed by science, to empower employees to prioritise their well-being. Focusing on four holistic pillars: movement, mindfulness, nutrition and happiness, CRAOI supports the whole person, not just one aspect of wellbeing. Promoter: Clodagh Ryan

What does the programme at Cork offer?

As with other New Frontiers programmes around the country, you will receive a range of supports to help you develop your startup and your skills as an entrepreneur. You receive nine months of dedicated co-working space and access to knowledge, shared experience, and potential synergies that goes well beyond your sector. Training in market research, sales and marketing, business modelling, and financial management will be beneficial regardless of your background. You’ll also learn concrete, tactical skills (for example, Aoife’s cohort was treated to a video production course so they could learn to create their own promotional videos and learned about lead management and generation).

The whole Rubicon team places a strong emphasis on mentoring. Programme participants can expect lots of one-to-one time with Aoife and her colleagues George Bulman (Operations Manager) and Paul Healy (Rubicon Centre Manager) depending on their needs and startup journeys. They will also have lots of day-to-day contact with Maria Horgan, the programme coordinator. Participant feedback shows that the support and encouragement between participants is a big feature of the programme. Strong and lasting bonds are forged on New Frontiers!

As well as expert trainers, participants get opportunities to learn from previous promoters (such as Pat Lucey of Aspira and Matthew Lawlor of Spearline) during organised events or simply while grabbing a coffee – Keelvar Technologies, Swyft Energy, Aventamed, TisaLabs, and H2 Compliance are all based in the Rubicon. Previous programme alumni include LegitFit, Kuul Play, and Mama Bear Foods. Lunch and learn events bring in experts to talk to all Rubicon clients, not just New Frontiers participants.

For the first three months of Phase 2, promoters will focus more on themselves, including preparing to be an entrepreneur (working on mindset and resilience), sales training and knowing which doors to knock on for support (for example, the BICs, Local Enterprise Office, or Enterprise Ireland). Because startup life is very different to being an employee, there are lots of opportunities to talk to people who’ve been on this journey themselves and understand the challenges.

The second half of New Frontiers is about getting investor-ready, with plenty of time going into mock pitch panels which give promoters invaluable feedback. Aoife organises several sales panels, where promoters pitch to people in the role of prospective customers, as well as investor panels comprised of Irish and overseas investors. The grand finale is the programme showcase – yes, more pitching! – and graduation event.

Start Up In Cork! New Frontiers Rubicon CentreThe business ecosystem in Cork

As Aoife highlights, the business community in Cork is very strong and welcoming. Entrepreneurs can tap a vibrant business ecosystem (both state-funded and private) to help build their networks, find collaborators, and open doors, including Network Ireland (for women in business), the Tech Industry Alliance, CorkBIC, Accelerate Green (Bord na Móna), the Enterprise Europe Network, Cork Chamber and Cork Chamber Skillnet, BNI South, West Cork Business, and of course the Local Enterprise Offices. The Rubicon Centre actively collaborates with these organisations to ensure New Frontiers participants avail of all possible supports.

Research and innovation in Cork

New Frontiers is a programme for entrepreneurs with an innovative business idea. This means that access to world-class research capability is vital. MTU has an impressive research and development offering that participants can leverage. There are four Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateways at MTU. Gateways focus on key technology areas aligned to industry needs, aiding the research and development of innovative products and services through a dedicated team of full-time researchers and engineers. The four Gateways at MTU are:

  • Centre For Advanced Photonics & Process Analysis Gateway (CAPPA): with particular expertise in new photonics devices, medtech and pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, manufacturing technologies, devices and sensors.
  • Intelligent Mechatronics & RFID Gateway (IMaR): with particular expertise in new embedded systems, intelligent and connected smart sensors and devices, Internet of Things (IoT), automation and robotics, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technologies, process monitoring and analytics.
  • Embedded Computing & Software Systems Gateway (Nimbus): with particular expertise in new electronics/hardware, sensor devices and systems, mechanical design, miniaturisation, networks and wireless communications, software, data analytics, systems integration, controls and optimisation tools, UX (user experience) and UI (user interface), virtual and augmented reality.
  • Shannon Applied Biotechnology Centre Gateway (Shannon ABC): with particular expertise in new bioprospecting and bioprocessing – screening, extraction, characterisation and testing of bioactive molecules, identifying routes to scale-up, analytical and research services, and food innovation.

In addition, other relevant research groups include:

  • BIOEXPLORE research focuses on developing and applying the best platform technologies available to detect and treat both human and animal related diseases.
  • Clean Technology research focuses on promoting evidence-based sustainability.
  • Halpin research focuses on opportunities in the global maritime domain.
  • MeSSO research focuses on mechanical and energy systems and applications.
  • NutRI research focuses on food innovation, food microbiology, and public health nutrition.
  • The Process Innovation Engineering Research Group (PiERG) research focuses on providing solutions to the pharma engineering sector through its combined expertise in the development of predictive models and industrial pharmaceutical processing.
  • Ríomh research focuses on the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help solve some of our most pressing cybersecurity challenges.
  • The Enterprise Engagement and Experiential Learning Research Group (E3LRG) focuses on viewing the workplace as a valid and valuable centre for learning.
  • The Health Exercise and Sport Research Group (HEx-Spo) research focuses on exercise and sports performance optimisation.
  • The Sustainable Infrastructure Research & Innovation Group (SIRIG) research focuses on sustainable infrastructure developments.

The advantages of starting up in Cork

If you aren’t already based in Cork, you may be considering relocation. As Ireland’s second city, Cork has a growing population (the metropolitan area population is around 305,000) and a highly educated workforce and talent pool. It’s attractive demographically and economically, with many global players in the technology and pharmaceutical space (including household names such as Apple, Intel, IBM, Boston Scientific, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, and Janssen).
The south-west region accounts for some 25% – 30% of Ireland’s economic output annually. Cork city was voted the number one small European city for economic potential in the 2022/2023 edition of the Financial Times European Cities of the Future Awards. Connectivity and infrastructure are also good, with Ireland’s second-busiest airport providing access to all major European destinations, train and road links to the rest of the country, and a huge natural harbour which acts as a key international gateway for trade.
Cork also boasts a number of accolades that will entice you for non-work-related reasons. The food capital of Ireland, it’s one of the friendliest cities in the world, culturally vibrant, and sits in stunning scenery with a spectacular coastline – providing an excellent quality of life and access to a wide range of recreational activities. Paradise? The people of Cork certainly think so!

If you’re interested in the New Frontiers programme in Cork, you can check out their location page, visit, and connect with Aoife on LinkedIn. Applications for the next Phase 2 are closing soon, so register your interest via our online form and Aoife will be in touch to discuss your application.

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.

Lauren O Reilly and Bidemi Afolabi cofounders of ProMotion rewards

ProMotion Rewards Is Creating Real Value For Both Brands And Consumers

By New Frontiers blog

Lauren O Reilly and Bidemi Afolabi cofounders of ProMotion rewards

ProMotion Rewards is a consumer rewards startup that connects brands and shoppers. Founded by Bidemi Afolabi and Lauren O’Reilly, the company recently raised €725,000 in pre-seed investment. For this blog, we spoke to New Frontiers alumna Lauren about the journey so far.

Lauren and Bidemi met while completing degrees in pharmacy. In fact, they had an idea for a different promotion startup before having the lightbulb moment that led to developing the ProMotion Rewards app.

Because of their degrees, the founders were already immersed in research and gathering data. While working for a large retail pharmacy group, Lauren saw first-hand how retailers of all types need customer insights that they can turn into concrete business results. But are loyalty cards and customer feedback surveys enough? And, even if a retailer had this information, how can the brands themselves access this and what kinds of consumer trends are hiding in plain sight?

“From the retailer’s perspective, they own the sale. This means they own the related data, and they have the power to then action that data through their channels. We started thinking about the brands that are sold through these retailers; they don’t own the sale and they don’t have the connection with the consumer. A manufacturer of goods might distribute across supermarkets, retail shops, petrol stations, etc. How can they see who their consumers are across the market and reach them with the right offer, at the right time?

We wondered if we could provide really high-quality insights to these brands. We were also thinking about the consumer perspective and their desire for transparency as well as seeing a benefit from this data that can be held about them.”

This became a core of the ProMotion Rewards product – it had to be democratic for the brand but also for the consumer who was bringing all this valuable data to the table. Lauren and Bidemi had identified that the value lies in the receipt, because it’s the only way to really understand what a consumer is buying.

“We became really nerdy about receipts. We looked at how they work, and what their similarities and differences are. That’s where building the product started from, taking the true value from the receipts and rewarding consumers for their data. Obviously, they have complete autonomy and can choose which receipts to upload.”

Lauren and Bidemi have been at university together since 2016. They took part in the Trinity College LaunchBox accelerator with their first startup idea, so they knew they worked well together. The early-stage startup won the LaunchBox programme and gave the founders plenty of experience in essential areas such as the market research process.

“We have different strengths and weaknesses, so we are able to complement each other. Bidemi is the more technical one, he’s a self-taught programmer so he took on a lot of the work of researching the technology and how the product could be built and do what we wanted it to do.

My role was more in researching the value creation side of the product. We wanted to build something that kept the consumer in control but was still seen as very valuable by the brands – that’s the only way a product like this can work. I did lots of primary research with consumers and brands.

There is crossover with our roles, though, because we both like to understand how things work. But we have worn many different hats during this process and if something needed to be done, we just got on and did it.”

The scientific approach these founders brought to their startup is one of its core strengths. They used their own networks to undercover user perspectives early on, then branched out through family and friends to find a wider reach of consumers. The goal was always to bring the broadest range of voices into their research.

“I found that people are very willing to give up some of their time to talk to you if you’re genuinely interested in their problems and opinions. I was like a giant sponge soaking up what they were saying in the most unbiased way! Once we had the MVP, I went back to them to get their feedback. I made sure that people in different countries were trying it out too, as we want the app to be usable in other markets and part of that will be seeing what kinds of differences users in other countries would expect.”

Lauren and Bidemi are well embedded in the startup community, first with their involvement in LaunchBox, then by participating in New Frontiers. They also decided to locate in Dogpatch Labs, which helped them make connections and get introductions to the media industry and the consumer goods industry. As the startup was still in the research phase and not simply trying to pitch to them, these contacts were very willing to share deep insights and knowledge. In fact, Lauren was able to have conversations with some of the biggest and most influential brands out there.

The company is now in a major new chapter as it has secured pre-seed funding of €725,000. The investment was led by Laidlaw Scholars Ventures (LSV), with participation from Delta Partners and Enterprise Ireland. ProMotion Rewards has a new hire starting and will probably hire again soon. This next phase will involve developing the product and getting it in front of more consumers.

“Everyone tells you this, but it’s still a surprise when raising funding takes longer than you expect it to! We started preparing at the beginning of this year and we did the right thing in raising before we actually needed to. That did mean that possibly we jumped in a little before we were ready to, but it also meant that we had a clear idea of what investors needed to see from us.

We worked on our value propositions – different investors have a different focus, so they need to be adapted – and got on a lot of calls. At the end of the day, we wanted an investor we could work well with and who could bring value to the business beyond cash. It’s a bit like a marriage; you have to get along and work well together.

If I went through this again, I would take the early start approach because there is so much involved to get through the process and out the other side.”

ProMotion Reward’s model of transparent data sharing couldn’t be more timely. Consumers are ready for more responsible technology products that respect their needs and privacy.

“I think people are generally tired of feeling spied on and don’t want their data combed through for profit. As pharmacists, we already take a very strong stance on privacy, so that was important to us from the get-go. The whole point of our product is that you have total control over what you share – if you open the app and snap a receipt, you know that’s what you’ve done. In addition, that data has now been anonymised.

In return, you get discount vouchers – or you can donate them to charity if you prefer. We’re giving control to the users and letting them put the benefit of using the app where they want. Brands get insights into consumer behaviour, which is really valuable to them, but without any personal data attached. I feel that our 100% transparency model is different from a lot of products. There’s no sneaky stuff happening, it’s all about direct value being created on both sides!”

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.

Startup In Waterford Dr Eugene Crehan Introduces Us To The South East Ecosystem

Start Up In Waterford! Dr Eugene Crehan Introduces Us To The Southeast’s Ecosystem

By New Frontiers blog

Startup In Waterford Dr Eugene Crehan Introduces Us To The South East Ecosystem

The sunny southeast isn’t just an idyllic holiday spot, it’s also an ideal place to live and work. Waterford – the country’s oldest city – has been voted the “best place to live in Ireland” and also boasts a vibrant network of business support agencies and organisations. The newly formed South East Technological University (SETU) delivers the New Frontiers programme at campuses in Waterford and Carlow.

Dr Eugene Crehan New Frontiers Programme Manager SETU WaterfordToday, we’re catching up with the New Frontiers Programme Manager at Waterford, Dr Eugene Crehan. He oversees all programmes at the Centre for Enterprise Development & Regional Economy (CEDRE) at South East Technological University (SETU), formerly Waterford Institute of Technology.

New Frontiers Waterford past participants include the CEOs of Engage XR (the first New Frontiers startup to become publicly listed), Taoglas, NearForm, Stitcher Ads, Sonru, Scurri, Open Back, Powerscourt Distillery, CMC Hygea, MotoKlik, PlantQuest, Tailr, and Flexiwage.

Eugene, tell us a bit about your background and your role as Director of Programmes at CEDRE.

My background is in international business development with AT Cross Pens, Baileys Irish Cream, and Waterford Crystal. I have lived in the USA and Dubai and have conducted business in over 50 international markets. I have been with WIT, now South East Technological University (SETU), since 2003 in various roles that support entrepreneurs.

In my role as Director of Programmes at the SETU Centre for Enterprise Development and Regional Economy (CEDRE), I managed the South East Enterprise Platform Programme (SEEPP), The Female Entrepreneurs Ireland & Wales project (FEIW), the Enterprise Start programme, and the Post Graduate Diploma in Enterprise Development (which was delivered to innovation and enterprise centre managers in Ireland).

I’m embedded in enterprise and entrepreneurship activities right across the SETU Waterford campus through my involvement with ArcLabs Innovation Hub, Growth Hub (HCI-funded student entrepreneurship programme), student enterprise initiatives and competitions (as a mentor), and research in areas of entrepreneurship. Outside of SETU, I’m involved with Kinetic Labs Waterford and the Enterprise Europe Network, and I Chair the national New Frontiers Programme Managers Forum.

I’m passionate about business and entrepreneurship development. In 2018, I completed doctoral research looking at the impact of investment in early-stage businesses and how it helps them to develop competitive advantages to grow their businesses. This research is highly relevant to the work I do supporting early-stage businesses on the New Frontiers programme at SETU.

It sounds like Waterford has a really strong offer for startup founders (or promoters, as we call them in the startup ecosystem). Give us some insight into what they can expect on your programme.

The SETU Waterford New Frontiers programme helps start-up promoters to make the transition from employment to entrepreneurship. We give them the skills to investigate their market opportunity, quantify it, and then craft a customer value proposition that is relevant to, and understood by, the target market. A key objective of New Frontiers is that the business has an investment-ready business plan at the end of Phase 2 of the programme. Basically, New Frontiers helps to reduce the fledgling start-up’s risks and dramatically increase their chances of success.

Our New Frontiers programme is located in the ArcLabs Research and Incubation Centre on the grounds of the SETU West Campus in Waterford and has direct access to the SETU Arena (open to the public) and the Waterford Greenway. ArcLabs is a purpose-built, fully serviced facility providing incubation and commercial space dedicated to the growth of young knowledge-based companies.

Many of the micro-enterprises and SMEs based in the ArcLabs have “graduated” from New Frontiers. Programme participants can meet and learn from more experienced entrepreneurs (tenant companies) in ArcLabs on an informal basis in the ArcLabs Café and increase their networks through these new connections as well as through New Frontiers alumni who regularly come in to share their startup experiences with participants.

We offer New Frontiers participants practical, interactive workshops, personalised mentorship, and free co-working space in the ArcLabs Innovation Hub. As the New Frontiers Programme Manager, I leverage my international business knowledge and years of experience working with early-stage businesses to help promoters navigate the challenges of planning and launching an innovative high-potential startup business.

In addition to being their mentor, I see myself acting as a regional knowledge broker – connecting New Frontiers participants with other appropriate entrepreneurship supports in the eco-system. This could be from the various research groups at SETU in Waterford and Carlow, the regional investment community, successful former New Frontiers participants (who remain in contact with us), and even SETU students who may become prospective employees. I work closely with Enterprise Ireland, southeast Local Enterprise Offices, the Southeast BIC, Leader Partnership groups, and the Southeast Development Office.

I have worked very closely with the New Frontiers team in Carlow since 2011. We support each other’s programmes, meet and advise each-other’s participants on our programmes across all SETU campuses, and arrange meet-ups for our respective participants. The commencement dates for our programmes in Waterford and Carlow are staggered in a manner that gives prospective entrepreneurs multiple opportunities to join New Frontiers across the southeast region.

A key feature of New Frontiers is that it is delivered by the technological universities and the institutes of technology. This proximity to knowledge providers has benefited countless startups on New Frontiers. Tell us more about the academic, research, and innovation side of your programme.

New Frontiers participants have access to the SETU School of Business in Waterford (which has managed the New Frontiers programme since 2011 and other start-up programmes since 1999). New Frontiers participant companies regularly take talented SETU Waterford students on work placements. I facilitate invitations for New Frontiers alumni to share their real-life business experiences with both under-graduate and post-graduate classes. In addition, Masters students have worked in teams on live enterprise challenges faced by New Frontiers businesses. Depending on the stage of product development, participants may benefit from introductions to SETU research centres.

SETU has been recognised as an outstanding performer nationally and internationally by Knowledge Transfer Ireland, securing multiple awards. This puts SETU in a unique position to offer research-based expertise to regionally based businesses via its three Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateways: Walton Institute, SEAM, and PMBRC.

  • Walton Institute is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation. It has a proven track record translating world-class research into market-ready products and services and has established an ecosystem of mobile service companies.
  • Pharmaceutical & Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC) is an award-winning research centre that conducts multidisciplinary research across three schools of SETU (Science & Computing, Health Sciences, and Engineering) in areas such as drug delivery, pharmaceutical characterisation, molecular biology, sensor technologies, and biomedical science.
  • South Eastern Applied Materials Research Centre (SEAM) is an industry focused applied research centre, providing innovative materials engineering solutions for companies from a wide range of sectors, including bio-medical devices, pharmaceuticals, micro-electronics, precision engineering, and industrial technologies

In addition, the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI) is a multi-disciplinary research group within SETU that studies the role of nutrition and lifestyle for human wellbeing. The NRCI enables scientists to conduct research across a diverse range of human health-related disciplines including biotechnology, eye health, cognition, biochemistry, cancer, and mental health.

RIKON is a hybrid centre of innovation in business technology management, based in the School of Business at SETU Waterford. RIKON’s BizTech strategists specialise in solving business problems and creating commercial opportunities through pioneering research advancements across business strategy, innovation, design, operational excellence, and technology optimisation.

What does the future of Waterford’s New Frontiers programme look like?

In 2021, SETU secured €3 million in funding from Enterprise Ireland to deliver New Frontiers on its two main campuses of Waterford and Carlow. This funding will support emerging technologies such as fintech, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and smart agriculture. In collaboration with SETU Carlow, SETU Waterford will work with over 400 early-stage entrepreneurs over the 2021-2026 funding period. This includes 95 high-potential entrepreneurs who are eligible to receive the tax-free stipend of €15,000* that is given to each participant on Phase 2 of the New Frontiers Phase 2 programme.

*Past funding may affect your participation on New Frontiers/eligibility to receive the stipend, see more in our FAQs.

I highlighted some of your alumni at the top of this interview. The Waterford programme has been very successful over the years, how would you sum up the impact you’ve had on recent participants?

We had 48 Phase 2 participants between 2016 and 2020. Collectively, these promoters secured follow-on funding of €19.8 million, which is 13.2 times the cost of running the programme.

We survey participants about their achievements. For the period 2016-2020, they have reported:

  • 88 jobs created
  • €4.1 million in sales achieved, of which €1.2 million were export sales
  • 22 (46%) Phase 2 participants received Local Enterprise Office funding
  • 9 (19%) Phase 2 participants received Completive Start Funding (CSF)
  • 3 (6%) Phase 2 participants joined the southeast accelerator, NDRC @ ArcLabs
  • 3 (6%) Phase 2 participants received Enterprise Ireland High Potential Startup (HPSU) funding (approximately €450,000) plus private investment of €2.3 million

Some particularly successful companies are Engage XR, which raised €6.7 million through listings on Dublin’s Enterprise Securities Market (ESM) and the AIM in London with an implied a valuation of around €21.6 million, and OmniSpirant, which received €9.4 million in the Disruptive Technologies Fund 2020.

There was also the WIT spin-out, OcuDel, which came onto New Frontiers Phase 2 and later secured €560,000 in collaboration with WIT for the Enterprise Ireland Commercalisaton Fund for a human health study. Four companies have secured private investment matched by Enterprise Ireland’s HPSU division: MotoKlik – led by Jens Kopke, PlantQuest – led by Ger Carton, Tailr – led by Shana Chu, and Flexiwage – led by Anthony Cronin.

alumni logos New Frontiers programme Waterford(For more evidence that Waterford punches above its entrepreneurial weight, check out pages 10 and 11 of this edition of Waterford Chamber’s Network, Issue 20, Q3 2022. Five of the six businesses featured completed New Frontiers at SETU and the sixth is a tenant of ArcLabs.)

Finally, tell us a bit more about Waterford and the southeast region. Why do you think it’s so attractive for startup entrepreneurs?

The southeast region is experiencing significant change. The Waterford catchment area is the largest regional population in Ireland, and we’re seeing rapid population growth (doubling by 2040). In the city or in the countryside, quality of life is high with short commute times, affordable homes, cultural events, and proximity to breath-taking mountains and beautiful clean beaches.

Economically, we’re diversifying in response to national, European (post-Brexit), and global environments, as well as a changing demographic profile. There’s a strong presence of knowledge-based industry such as advanced manufacturing, biopharma, fintech, ICT, tourism, and agtech.

Waterford is a fantastic base for any business. Come for the natural amenities, stay for the connected and walkable city, the world-leading tourist attractions, and the internationally recognised research and innovation capabilities.

Waterford is currently recruiting for its next intake of Phase 2 promoters (deadline 17th November!). If you’re not ready to apply now, our provisional 2023 calendar will be available soon and you can register your interest (for any programme) in the meantime.

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.

The 7 Deadly Sins Of Bad Elevator Pitches

By New Frontiers blog

You may have a fantastic startup idea, but unless you can effectively communicate it to investors that is all it might ever be – an idea. The good news is that even the most terrible elevator pitches can be polished and honed until they sing.

If you’re looking for secrets to pitching success, then it starts with knowing what not to do…

1.     You’ve forgotten that you’re pitching to a human being

This is a very common mistake entrepreneurs make when they first start pitching. Rather than recognising that investors can be persuaded to be as passionate and excited about your startup as you are, it is easy to fall into the trap of treating them like the inscrutable sphinx. Yes, they need the hard facts but never forget that when you pitch, you are essentially marketing your business idea and the best marketing succeeds because it tells a story. Not sure what your business story is? We advise taking a big step back so you can rediscover what makes your particular business different from the competition.

2.     You haven’t said what problem your startup is solving

They say everyone has a book in them, and it seems we all have a startup idea as well. However, just like the likelihood of getting your book published is low, so too are the success rates for startups. You’ve probably heard the infamous statistic that 90% of new businesses fail. There are many reasons this occurs, such as bad financial management, insufficient growth, and poor leadership. However, one of the top startup killers is that the product/service did not solve a specific customer problem. We hope for the success of your startup that you have recognised the pain point that your business idea alleviates, and if you have then make sure to mention it in your elevator pitch!

3.     You don’t know your numbers

If you ever watched Dragon’s Den, you’ll know that investors love numbers! We’ve already explained how telling a story will stimulate the appropriate emotional response, but now you need to prove how this great idea of yours also works in real-world conditions. If you want an investor to part with their hard-earned cash and take a chance on your business, you will need to reassure them of your financial judgement with some compelling reports. More than anything else, investors want to know how exactly your idea is going to make money – so show them!

4.     Your elevator pitch is too fast

Whether due to nerves or because you’re trying to cram as much information into your elevator pitch as possible, speaking too fast can kill a pitch. People can only retain so much information, therefore it’s your job as the pitcher to make it easy for your audience to remember as much of what you say as possible. Forcing people to try and keep up with you is not going to win you any points. If you’re looking for some inspiration, bring to mind the most captivating human voices in film and television; the languid tones of David Attenborough, Morgan Freeman, Joanna Lumley, and Alan Rickman should come to mind!

5.     Your business idea is too abstract

Right now, you’re in the trenches with your startup. You’re up close and personal with every aspect of it and your head is chockfull with all the different ways it could go. Perhaps you’re deep into research and development at the minute or maybe you’ve been designing your marketing strategy. Before you approach an investor, it is important to distill all these jumbled thoughts down to what is actually important. At this early stage, they do not need to know every minute detail of your business (hence the term “elevator pitch”). Avoid sounding too abstract and knuckle down to precisely what your business is, who your customers are, and why that particular investor should care.

6.     You don’t have a use case

If you really want to stand out from the rabble of entrepreneurs vying for investors’ attention, a great way to do it is by sharing a real-life example of how a customer has already used your product. This ties in well with deadly sin number 2 because it helps you get to the crux of what your business idea is all about – solving a real customer problem. Nothing is as persuasive as showing that real businesses/customers have handed over real money – this gives potential investors confidence in your ability to gain traction. It also is a valuable device to use in your overall business story as well as a perfect opportunity to thread in some impressive numbers to really win them over.

7.     You didn’t practice your pitch

You’ve come to the end of another New Frontier’s blog and we are delighted to still have you with us, but in the words of economist E. F. Schumacher, “An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory.” Pitching is a learnable skill just like writing or singing, so pitch repeatedly, into the mirror and to your friends, and make tweaks along the way. While you don’t want your pitch to sound over-rehearsed, you do want to be very familiar with it so that when the opportunity knocks you are always ready to answer!

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.

Enterprise Ireland’s Action Plan For Women In Business targets diversity - New Frontiers programme

Enterprise Ireland’s Action Plan For Women In Business

By New Frontiers blog

Enterprise Ireland’s Action Plan For Women In Business targets diversity - New Frontiers programme

Enterprise Ireland has launched the Action Plan For Women In Business, an ambitious and wide-reaching strategy to achieve greater representation of women in business and, particularly, in business leadership across Ireland. We spoke to Sheelagh Daly at Enterprise Ireland to find out more.

Numerous studies prove that having women in executive positions and on boards leads to better outcomes for organisations – with better financial performance and higher employee engagement. Putting women in decision-making roles improves all kinds of business metrics, but we are still not seeing gender parity in business.

An ongoing commitment to gender balance

Focusing on gender balance in business is not new for Enterprise Ireland. There have been a number of initiatives over the past years aimed at improving the ratio, such as Going For Growth or female-only Competitive Start Fund (CSF) calls. The success of these is evident, with Enterprise Ireland investing in three times more women-led companies in 2019 compared to 2011.

Looking forward, it was clear that as the national agency for economic development, Enterprise Ireland had an important role to play in improving diversity in business. CEO Julie Sinnamon asked the agency to put together a plan.

“Harnessing the full talent and expertise of our diverse population will result in better businesses and faster economic growth. Unleashing the creativity and skills of more women represents an unparalleled opportunity for fuelling economic growth in Ireland.”

Julie Sinnamon – CEO, Enterprise Ireland

The plan has been piloted by Sheelagh Daly, Entrepreneurship Manager at Enterprise Ireland. She spent a year putting together the strategy and identifying the first 24 actions for 2020. She started by asking four key questions about the lack of female participation in enterprise: What are the reasons? What are the barriers? What needs to change? What additional supports are required?

“Women in leadership roles means increased profits, improved productivity, better returns on assets, and overall superior performance. We want companies making smart decisions about the senior management team that will help them be the best they can be.”

Sheelagh Daly – Entrepreneurship Manager, Enterprise Ireland

An evolving plan with multiple themes

Action Plan For Women In Business

Research demonstrates that – in general – women take a different approach to business, so the plan includes a commitment to working on a one-to-one basis with women as well as addressing systemic barriers that women tend to face. An excellent example of concrete action is a new grant for Enterprise Ireland clients that offer part-time leadership roles. While a grant already exists for full-time roles, this new funding reflects the reality that many women ready to take on such responsibilities may need more flexibility.

The scope of the plan is broad and in addition to the horizontal focus across Enterprise Ireland activities, we will see initiatives developed in partnership with other agencies, stakeholders, the private sector, and government departments. Input into policy development is likely to be significant as the plan evolves.

But if you were thinking this strategy is just about startups, think again! Research and development, education, mentoring, investment and venture capital, networking, leadership development, showcasing successful businesswomen, and bringing experienced female leaders back to work are all going to be a feature of the Women in Business plan.

“People with more senior management experience in their industry are more likely to spot opportunities for innovative new businesses, plus the beliefs and skills to go ahead with the idea. These people are also more likely to have the all-important network of connections that will make things happen in the business.”

Sheelagh Daly – Entrepreneurship Manager, Enterprise Ireland

The objectives of the Women in Business plan

In total, the plan comprises four main objectives, each with six associated actions that Enterprise Ireland has committed to starting in 2020.

Objective 1: Increase the number of women-led established companies growing internationally

  1. Drive the Women in Business action plan in each division of Enterprise Ireland
  2. Engage with financial institutions to deliver a finance and funding landscape that is accessible and inclusive
  3. Develop a #GlobalAmbition campaign featuring Women in Business leaders and initiatives
  4. Offer increased one-to-one engagement to women-led companies to effectively support growth ambitions and expansion into new global markets
  5. Ensure all Enterprise Ireland programmes and supports are designed to maximise participation by women
  6. Explore proposals for new finance offers to support scaling for women-led established companies

Objective 2: Increase the number of women in middle and senior management and leadership roles

  1. Introduce a new grant for Enterprise Ireland-supported companies to facilitate the recruitment of part-time senior managers
  2. Promote the benefits of diversity to enterprise and provide funding support for diversity planning to Enterprise Ireland-supported companies
  3. Work with external stakeholders to influence national policies to address identified barriers to women’s participation in enterprise
  4. Work with key stakeholders to facilitate Irish companies to improve gender diversity on their boards
  5. Target women managers in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies and within Enterprise Ireland for participation on leadership development programmes
  6. Promote a focus on diversity in the development of skills and talent for Irish enterprise through the National Skills Fora and within Enterprise Ireland

Objective 3: Increase the number of women becoming entrepreneurs

  1. Partner with key stakeholders to drive better access to finance and funding for women at all stages on their enterprise journey
  2. Collaborate with the Local Enterprise Offices to develop and grow female entrepreneurship in every county
  3. Target more women to become founders, mentors, and investors
  4. Ensure enterprise and entrepreneurship policy is aligned with the objectives of the Enterprise Ireland Women in Business plan
  5. Develop, support, and promote a national network of role models to interact with and inspire future entrepreneurs
  6. Promote a focus on women in business in the actions and funding of Regional Enterprise Plans

Objective 4: Increase the number of women-led start-ups with high growth potential

  1. Appoint a dedicated team in Enterprise Ireland to develop and drive initiatives directed at female founders
  2. Issue a series of funding calls targeting women entrepreneurs, and women researchers from third level institutions
  3. Pilot an initiative to include women leaders/senior managers in project teams spinning out from third level institutions
  4. Explore the potential to establish a women-focused seed investment group with key finance industry stakeholders
  5. Roll out national and regional communications campaigns showcasing women entrepreneurs
  6. Offer increased one-to-one engagement to women-led HPSUs and support female founders through mentoring with experienced entrepreneurs who have scaled their businesses

The Women in Business plan addresses a broad range of factors contributing to the under-representation of women in enterprise and will help to initiate sustainable and enduring change in the Irish economy. If you’d like to know more, you can download the action plan brochure, visit the Enterprise Ireland website, or talk to your Enterprise Ireland/Local Enterprise Office advisor.

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.

4 actions entrepreneurs need to take to scale up quickly New Frontiers Entrepreneur programme (1)

4 actions entrepreneurs need to take to scale up quickly

By New Frontiers blog

4 actions entrepreneurs need to take to scale up quickly New Frontiers Entrepreneur programme (1)

So, you think your startup is scalable. You’ve looked at your turnover, you’ve studied the market and you believe your business could handle a bigger piece of the pie. That’s great, but growing your business successfully requires not only a shift in operations but a change in mindset.

With all the research and speculation that goes on in the business industry, you can be sure there are known habits and practices that successful entrepreneurs adopt to grow their business. We’re going to share a few of them with you to get you started on your road to success.

Scale up your startup with these great business tips

1) Visualise success and set a deadline for it

The first step to getting where you need to be is to visualise success for your business in practical terms. Try asking yourself, what does my business look like at double or triple the value? “Scaling up” is a nice idea and a handy phrase to throw around when talking to investors, but it doesn’t come with a guidebook tailored to your business. The good news is that you know your business inside out and you know what resources are available to you. Use this knowledge to drive real action that contributes to business growth. Visualise what you want to achieve, give yourself a deadline to get there and then design a map. As with any goal, the deadline is crucial, so don’t be tempted to skip over that part!

2) Stop micromanaging and start delegating!

We’re sure you’ve heard this one before, but the question is, have you actually put it into practice yet?? There is no understating how important delegation is when it comes to growing your business. As an entrepreneur, you’re used to wearing many different hats and taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to everything you do. It’s this trait that makes the entrepreneur who they are, but you need to recognise when the time has come to take a step back and work on the business rather than in it.

To use the cliché, a healthy business is like a well-oiled machine, meaning it can run on its own. Your role needs to change from a management one to a leadership position so your business can have true value that exists beyond your name and your personal network. It’s time to create a strong senior management team that you trust to make important decisions on a day-to-day basis. When you have successfully done that, the next thing to do is to take a holiday. Yes! That elusive thing people with extra time do! If the business can run itself for a week or two, then pat yourself on the back because the value of your business has just increased.

3) Outsource the nonessentials

We recently wrote a blog covering this topic in more depth to help entrepreneurs decide if outsourcing is right for them or not. Have a read of it, and if you find it does make sense for your business, then we advise you to get going on it! Outsourcing is a fantastic way of getting access to high-quality skills at a cost-effective price. By outsourcing the nonessentials, you can focus on what you do best, streamline your processes and invest in the areas that really matter for business growth. As for those areas you can’t afford to outsource, automate them as much as possible.

4) Share wealth and opportunities amongst your team

We have already recommended that you should delegate by building a strong senior management team. However, if you’re going to invest in doing this, then you would want to make sure these key employees stick around for a while. For any business looking to grow, a high turn over of staff is a killer and a clear sign that something has gone wrong at the heart of your business. Hard working, loyal and talented people who want to help your business grow are vital to the lifeblood of a business looking to scale and you simply won’t compete on an international scale without them.

It’s a good idea to share wealth and opportunities amongst your key team members. This means not only paying your employees what they’re worth but incentivising them in other ways, such as offering them opportunities for self-development, investing in team bonding (whether that’s on-site or off-site), creating a pleasant workplace that has its own distinct character and perhaps even offering them shares in the company. Finding star employees is hard and so is keeping them, so it’s worth taking the time to make them feel valued because they are essential to the growth of your business.

If you’ve just finished the New Frontiers Programme, you might be wondering what comes next. If you’re looking to scale, you should definitely keep an eye out for the next Competitive Start Fund call. Providing access to fantastic one-on-one mentorship opportunities as well as funding, you’ll get all the support you need to take your business to the next level!

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.

A framework for founders how one VC thinks about pre-seed investments - New Frontiers

A framework for founders: how one VC thinks about pre-seed investments

By New Frontiers blog

A framework for founders how one VC thinks about pre-seed investments - New Frontiers

‘When Frontline say we invest early, we mean it.’

At Frontline, 70% of our investments have been pre-revenue and 60% pre-product. At Pre-Seed and Seed, there is little to be learned from intensive quantitative analysis pre-investment (woo). That said, over the past year and a half at Frontline, I’ve built a qualitative framework, designed around four key questions, to help me quickly assess the companies I meet. Together, I believe that these four questions are critical in predicting success. 

1. Can you convince me to quit my job?

The first question I ask myself is, would I quit my job at the fund and work for these people on this problem? I know, it seems like a completely crazy idea, you (the founder), are here for the VC’s money, not to get them to join your team. Consider this though; when you pitch to a VC, you are looking to inspire and excite. At our stage of investment, it’s about taking a leap of faith and believing in your vision and your team’s potential. Surely, this is also what you do when pitching talent you are looking to hire. So, if you can convince a VC to invest in you, great. If you can get a VC to actually join your team, all the better.

Sarah Tavel was so excited after meeting the founder of Pinterest that she invested and swiftly left Bessemer to join the company. Pinterest is now a $15 billion business. It wasn’t that way when Sarah joined — it was still another startup trying to break through the noise.

So, why is this is a good heuristic to access early-stage companies? The key assumption we’re making in venture is that you’re going to build a big business and the essential ingredient in building a big company is the ability to hire the best. In the early days, you’re unlikely to be competing on compensation, option grants are a long way from ever paying the bills, and the hours will likely be long and hard. The one thing that will attract top talent is your ability to tell a compelling story, display a truly unique insight into the problem you’re solving and to be overwhelmingly impressive when you first meet candidates. The team isn’t assessed just on who’s in the room, it’s imagining who might be in 12 months time.

2. From Chihuahuas to exit, can you find a big enough market to scale?

At Frontline, we track all the reasons why we pass on companies — market size, competitiveness, price, strength of team, etc. We then review all the companies we’ve passed on and check in on how they’re doing using the metric of funds raised (not ideal, we know, but it’s a simple public indicator of success).

Surprise, surprise; our data has shown us that multiple cases where we liked the team but passed on the opportunity because we thought the market was too competitive, we were often wrong. The reality is that good teams can succeed in hot markets. In those cases where we also liked the founders, but passed because we felt the market was too small, we have found that founders go on to struggle.

“When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact.”

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffet lives by this mantra and the data proves it.

Even if you’re good — when you go after a small market in the early days you tend to go deeper into the niche rather than expanding outwards. This can cap your upside and in venture, if we don’t think there’s a viable route to an investment returning half our fund, we are likely to pass on it. Here’s how that practically plays out, on the back of an envelope:

  • Frontline Ventures Fund II: $70 million
  • Target ownership at exit: 10% – 20%
  • Required company value at exit: $150 million – $300 million
  • B2B SaaS forward revenue exit multiples: 5x – 10x (if growing minimum 2X YoY)
  • Company revenue required at exit: $15 million – $60 million
  • You can usually never expect to own more than 10% of any market, so the smallest addressable market we consider for an investment is about $150 million — in reality, to find that market segment you need to look for +$1 billion markets (or be able to make the case that the market is growing or that you can create it)
  • This is fund by fund. Some funds don’t care about ownership/exit multiples – they just care if they think you can build a $10 billion company and can they get a slice of it.

Larger target markets give you flexibility in the early days to figure things out. Longer-term, you must then narrow your focus as you get closer to your customer because once you go deep on a customer segment, it becomes much harder to get back to a larger market without pivoting the company.

One of the best (non-software) examples of this is Chihuahuas. (Yes, you read it correctly). Imagine you’re starting a pet-food business and you decide to start with gourmet, home-delivered meals for Chihuahuas. Let’s say it’s a $50 million market (🤪) that no one is addressing specifically, you can get a big slice of this right? Sure, there are plenty of Chihuahua owners. Plenty of them might have a high willingness to spend on their dogs’ health. But what if it turns out Chihuahua owners aren’t as loose with their wallets as you thought? You’ve gone too deep too early and now all that adorable marketing collateral goes into the bin.

What you could have done is start with the pet food market (multi-billion dollar market). Move down into the dog food market (still multi-billion dollar market). Then go gourmet. Still a huge market and very competitive. But if you follow the rule that you’re never going to own more than about 10% of a market in a best-case scenario, it is always wise to target the larger opportunity. Chihuahuas might turn out to be the right answer — but so might the Maltese or perhaps Pugs. (Analogy inspired by the very cool Butternut Box.)

3. Can you spot the shift beneath your feet?

The world is changing by the day. Yet, major shifts in platform and underlying technology only really happen once every couple of years. The shift to mobile in 2009/10 and the shift to cloud in 2012/13 spawned dozens of new unicorns. In the UK, the opening up of financial regulation in 2014 has since spawned some of the most successful breakout European companies in recent memory.

Often the way these changes empower startups is by opening up new distribution channels. Founders are up against sophisticated sales teams with great brand awareness and multiple routes to reach their customers. But what these incumbents gain in scale they lose in awareness and speed. New routes to customers inevitable open up – and founders that can find these channels early are on their way to building great companies.

One of the best examples of this is the rise of self-serve in SaaS. Founders like Melanie Perkins of Canva that recognised the early trend rode the wave of lower acquisition costs and viral distribution when it was at its peak, and has now built a huge company. Older companies such as Hubspot had to transition from an inside sales-driven growth model to a freemium product-led strategy. For a company like Hubspot, making that transition is expensive and hard. As a startup, you can do it tomorrow.

As a founder, it’s important to recognize key changes in technology and/or customer behaviour that will allow you to create new value. Was there a missing piece of functionality that previously did not exist, and that you can now leverage? Old products become bloated by features whilst new paradigms make better, faster and cheaper products possible. This is a startup’s opportunity. Think about mobile-GPS enabling ride-sharing and food delivery, or AJAX enabling fast content consumption in a browser, or accessible machine learning frameworks like TensorFlow opening opportunities for new analysis.

4. Who are your beachhead customers?

Finally, when meeting new founders, I am always looking for beachhead customers. If a product is to be adopted by new customers, a general rule of thumb — pulled from Zero to One — is that it has to be 10 times better than the existing alternative.

Of course, on day one your product isn’t going to be 10x (lol) better for all your potential customers. It’s not even going to be close for a lot of them. But customer pain is a sliding scale. For most customers, your initial product might only be a 2/3x improvement. But there will be a group for whom the pain you are solving is most acute.

Find these customers and obsess over solving their problem. When you do, nurture them. Grow a loyal and effective group of early advocates who love your solution. Leverage this group to raise capital and as you develop your offering you’ll find you’re a 10x solution for more and more of the market.


Early-stage VCs don’t look that closely at the product or the technology as those are rarely the things that trip up early-stage founders. It’s almost always one of the below:

  • The team isn’t right.
  • The market is too small.
  • The market isn’t ready.
  • The company is unable to find early customers.

If you’re speaking to us, know that this is the lens through which I evaluate an opportunity. I know it isn’t perfect, but I hope this gives you some guidance on how to shape your approach. And, if a VC turns you down, don’t be too disheartened. I got turned down by Frontline when I was in the early days of fundraising.

There are myriad reasons why you can be rejected; some subjective, others less so. At Frontline, we try to give constructive feedback to all the companies we engage. It can be hard to tell a founder you don’t believe in them personally, but more often than not, that’s the real reason. For founders, figuring out why VCs make the decisions they do is another part of what it takes to build a big company.

And remember, the ‘picking’ part of venture is tough. It’s as much our job to get it wrong as it is to get it right (+50% of pre-seed investments fail). But we want to partner with founders as early as possible – and as soon as you have a vision and a plan together. Ping me on if you want to chat or just tell me why most of the above is wrong.

About the author

Finn Murphy Frontline Ventures New Frontiers programmeFinn Murphy

Finn Murphy is an Associate at Frontline Ventures, an early-stage venture fund specialising in B2B software. He spends most of his time searching for and working with the most ambitious founders in Ireland, Europe and the US. Finn focuses on finding founders at the earliest stages of company formation due to his recent experience building his own company and running the growth team at another early-stage startup.

With a First-Class Honours degree in Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering from Trinity College Dublin under his belt, Finn had many doors open to him but was instinctively drawn to the startup environment. In college, he built a successful software business to digitise ID cards, starting with his classmates at Trinity. It was during the creation of this company that Finn learned the difficulty and necessity of raising external funding when building high growth startups.

Today, Finn loves working one-on-one with entrepreneurs and helping them find their path to building world-changing companies. In his spare time, if not glued to his laptop, Finn is most likely to be out kite surfing in Dublin Bay or planning his next adventure abroad.

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

Financial advice every startup entrepreneur needs to hear

By New Frontiers blog

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 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.

Innovation: give your SME a competitive edge with SBIR

Innovation: give your SME a competitive edge with SBIR

By New Frontiers blog

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

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 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.

New Frontiers -a crowdfunding conversation with Crua Outdoors

A crowdfunding conversation with Crua Outdoors

By New Frontiers blog

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.

New Frontiers Innovation Vouchers Technology Gateways Enterprise Ireland

Extend your R&D capability with an Innovation Voucher

By New Frontiers blog

New Frontiers Innovation Vouchers Technology Gateways Enterprise Ireland

Are you an Irish SME looking for help with research and innovation? Have you a product or service that requires expertise currently outside of your existing R&D capacity? The Technology Gateway Network, in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland Innovation Vouchers, can help!

Technology Gateways

The Technology Gateway Network is composed of 15 specialist gateways, situated within 11 Institutes of Technology around Ireland. We focus on key technology areas which are aligned to industry needs in areas such as polymers, photonics, mobile, coatings, industrial design, mechatronics, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, wireless technologies and precision engineering. Each centre works in conjunction with industry to aid the research and development of innovative products and services through a dedicated team of specialised engineers.

Technology Gateway Clusters

To boost the power and knowledge of the Gateways, three unique gateway clusters have been developed to enhance the delivery of research and innovation for Irish SMEs. These clusters are in the areas of Applied Internet of Things (A-IoT), Engineering, Materials and Design (EMD Ireland), and Food and Beverages. Each cluster consists of relevant specialised gateways and a dedicated support office, which can assist you with any questions you may have about the Technology Gateway Network or the upcoming Innovation Voucher call.

What is an Innovation Voucher call?

The Innovation Voucher scheme is run by Enterprise Ireland and opens approximately three/four times a year. Small and medium-sized companies can apply for a €5,000 voucher for the purpose of gaining academic support in research or innovation from a listed knowledge provider. Vouchers are valid for 12 months from the date of issue and can be used throughout the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway network. However, you must apply for a voucher during one of the open calls. The latest call for Innovation Vouchers opens today (26th April 2017) and closes on Wednesday 10th May. For more information about the vouchers, you can see the FAQs on the Enterprise Ireland site, or contact either the A-IoT or EMD Ireland support offices.

How can Technology Gateways and an Innovation Voucher help your company?

We strive to have a close connection with industry and this shows in our results. Since 2013, we have provided support to over 500 Innovation Voucher projects throughout the network. Last year alone we supported over 210 projects. We view each project as unique and as a result the assistance we provide is tailored to its specific needs. Our specialist gateway teams ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget, and provide a wide variety of support and assistance ranging from prototype production, business model development, process optimisation, customer interface, technical specification, new service development and technology audits. We can even help with the voucher application process itself.

But don’t just take our word for it! Irish companies such as Incereb, Bustard Heating and Kilkenny Cooling Systems have all collaborated with various gateways through the Innovation Vouchers scheme and experienced the benefits of the network.

Case studies

Incereb has developed a novel EEG electrode scaffold, known as the butterfly device. This device will enable technicians to apply in minutes the internationally recognised montage for optimal neonatal EEG brain monitoring and seizure detection. Incereb collaborated with the MiCRA Gateway through a series of Enterprise Ireland Innovation Vouchers, as well as 100% Incereb funded, projects to co-develop the electrode which will be incorporated into the butterfly device scaffold. The prototype arising from this investigation is a fully functional device suitable to be scaled up for production.

We have prototypes which work, and are very close to what we think will be the final product. The documentation and final report on the project was top class, and slotted immediately into our technical and design history file. We have absolutely no hesitation in recommending MiCRA to any interested party.

Jim Roche – CEO, Incereb

Bustard Heating is an SME based in Donegal that provides a range of heating and plumbing services to the domestic and commercial building markets. As an ancillary to their core heating and plumbing business, the company instalsl a range of renewable energy and heat saving products. One such product is their Mobile Heat Switch, used to autonomously control heating and hot water systems by SMS phone text activation. Through an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher, the PEM Gateway in IT Sligo undertook an investigation to optimise the existing mobile heat switch device by re-designing the control box interface so that a manual time-clock activation device could be integrated, offering the end user both remote and manual setting functions. This included a 3D printed component to realise the design modifications and to test compatibility with the existing heat switch device.

Operating in a progressive and fast changing building services market it is important that we act on end user feedback to optimise our products. The R&D input supported by the Innovation Voucher initiative was invaluable in helping us realise necessary and further potential for our heat switch device.

Trevor Bustard – Bustard Heating

Kilkenny Cooling Systems is a leading manufacturer of refrigerated storage equipment for the dairy, brewing and food processing sectors. A sector where Kilkenny Cooling Systems is particularly prominent is the beverage cooling industry. Through an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher and Partnership Feasibility study, the TEC Gateway undertook a performance assessment of the company’s Kilkenny VS prototype beer cooler and bench-marked it against competitor cooling systems such as a conventional ice bank system and a full glycol system. The Kilkenny VS Beer Cooling System went on to be shortlisted for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland Award for Innovation in 2015 and the 2016 IBEC Environment Award for best new product; winning the latter.

The Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher scheme played a key role in the progress of our VS Beer Cooler R&D project. I would strongly encourage any business considering undertaking their own R&D to avail of an Innovation Voucher. Having expertise on hand such as that provided by Nimbus was extremely helpful and definitely contributed to this project’s successful outcome.

John Smee – Kilkenny Cooling Systems

Next steps

If you think the Technology Gateways can help your company, get in touch through the Technology Gateways website, or contact the A-IoT or EMD Ireland support offices.

Various Innovation Voucher clinics are also being held in regional centres to provide information and assistance with Innovation Voucher applications. Check out how they can help and register online.

This post was published in collaboration with the Technology Gateway Network

About the author

Grainne Foley EMD Ireland Technology Gateway NetworkGráinne Foley

Gráinne is the Marketing Executive of EMD Ireland, a cluster group of six Technology Gateways operating within the engineering, materials and design sector. The cluster strives to provide companies nationwide with access to the wide range of expertise within the Gateway structure, who can support and aid the development of research and innovation in industry.

New tricks my journey from administrator to entrepreneur

New tricks: my journey from administrator to entrepreneur

By New Frontiers blog

New tricks my journey from administrator to entrepreneur

It had always been at the back of my mind to start a business. A group of us had been a lifetime in education, working in international schools. We knew what we were doing. Teaching and learning was at the centre of what we did – and now we were going to practise what we preached at school and try something new as lifelong learners.

For me personally – at the end of another six year contract and after more than 30 years in international education – it was a good time to stop and use my knowledge in a different way.

An industry we knew

The new business we set up was to serve an industry we knew well. It wasn’t quite clear at first in what areas I would notice the differences between life as a salaried school leader and that of an entrepreneur. Some of the skills from my previous life were useful, which is just as well, as the necessary change from the administrative to the entrepreneurial mind-set does not happen overnight: I knew how to plan, budget, structure, communicate, and write – all skills that were useful in setting up the company.

New learning: Part 1

The first major difference was, however, that as a self-employed company director and shareholder, you are your own support team. No PA. No IT manager. No in-house accountant. No website manager.

Learning the auxiliary skills takes time, and you can’t just ask someone to: run those numbers for me, please, or write a short report: what if we did this, instead? You go through a phase of feeling uncomfortably out of control over things that you used to take for granted. The accounts. The invoices. The receipts. The reports and web updates.

But then it gets better. Until you realise that mastering these skills will not, of themselves, pay the bills.

New learning: Part 2

It is very easy to stay busy just keeping things in order, but it is vital to move on quickly. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to create an entrepreneur out of rough administrative clay – but sooner or later this must happen. You have to sell. You have to market. Perfecting administrative systems is a hard habit to break.

But fine tuning a great product that people do not know about or might not want to buy is time wasted. Develop the concept, try it out on a few (only a few will respond), get the feedback and then get it in the marketplace. We went too quickly with certain ideas, wasting time and money. We had to be patient with others, and all the time instead of just perfecting something, you are pitching and selling a new product that your research tells you people might buy.

A new support team

Like my former students, and as a new learner, I looked for support and affirmation. Our shareholders provided a good deal of this – but they were also looking to me as we got the business going. I found the direct support I needed in three ways:

  • From the Local Enterprise Office in Donegal
  • At CoLab – a superb business incubator attached to the Letterkenny Institute of Technology
  • Through the New Frontiers programme and with the help of Enterprise Ireland

The great thing is that you do not have to attempt this kind of transformation on your own. The Donegal LEO was in some ways a hard taskmaster, but we learned a lot very quickly as we applied for and then received a Business Priming Grant. We heard about CoLab from our graphic designer – and in a month or so we had been allocated a hot desk. You cannot begin to estimate the positive effect of the environment that this provides – the stories, the experience and the inspiration of people all of whom had ideas and were ‘going for it’. The younger ones knew things we needed to learn, and we had one or two things that our fellow risk-takers might find useful in return.

The training and discipline that New Frontiers Phase 1 and the application for Phase 2 provided accelerated the whole process. As we entered Phase 2 of the training, the company was using both the skills and knowledge brought from the world of education, and applying the new mind-set from the world of business, first to generate and then convert new leads.

The transformation of the old dogs is by no means complete, but we feel privileged to be working in this environment and to have the opportunity to learn the new tricks that will transform our lives while enabling us, we hope, to shape the world of international education in rather a different way than we did before as teachers and administrators.

About the author

Andy HomdenAndy Homden New Frontiers

Andy trained as a teacher in the UK and Australia, and has worked in international education for most of his career. As a teacher and school leader he specialised in curriculum design and school start-ups. He is now CEO of Consilium Education, an educational consulting company of highly experienced education professionals offering support with school start-ups, strategic planning, preparation for inspection or accreditation, feasibility/bench-marking studies and campus refurbishment. They also offer professional development programmes and careers advice for teachers who wish to work internationally. Consilium also publishes International Teacher Magazine.

Innovation Vouchers: helping SMEs to develop creative solutions

By New Frontiers blog


Innovation Vouchers are an excellent way for companies to tap into leading research expertise in order to develop a solution or product at the pre-commercial stage. The scheme allows businesses to improve their innovation capability and builds links between Ireland’s public sector knowledge providers and the SME community.

Innovation Vouchers were launched by Enterprise Ireland seven years ago and have proved phenomenally successful. Some 1,400 applications are received every year, around 70% of which are successful.

Innovation Vouchers offer Irish SMEs the chance to connect with knowledge providers around the country in order to develop a solution or product. Vouchers are worth €5,000, valid for 12 months and can be redeemed at one of the 38 registered centres that provide leading academic expertise (ROI and NI).

As the name suggests, vouchers can be used for any kind of product or application that is truly innovative, such as:

  • new product/process development
  • new business model development
  • new service delivery and customer interface
  • new service development
  • tailored training in innovation management
  • innovation/technology audit

Innovation Vouchers are the only Enterprise Ireland funding you can cumulate with the New Frontiers grant of €15,000. A company can apply for up to three vouchers, if one of those is a co-funded voucher (see below). Vouchers are only redeemable against the net cost of the services provided, so the company will have to cover the VAT cost of the voucher – which will be billed by the knowledge provider in question.

How does it work?

There are currently two main types of voucher:

Standard Voucher (€5,000)

A standard voucher is valid for 12 months and can be used with any of the registered knowledge providers. You must apply for a standard voucher during one of Enterprise Ireland’s open calls. There are usually three calls a year, in Q1, Q2 and Q3. Dates are published on the Innovation Voucher page of the Enterprise Ireland website. N.B. The latest call has just opened and closes on Wednesday, 20th May at 3pm.

Co-funded Fast Track Voucher (€5,000)

This option is suitable for companies that have already been awarded two Standard Vouchers and are not eligible for more; OR where timing is short and the company cannot wait for the next call for a Standard Voucher.

The co-funded voucher is for projects costing up to €10,000, paid for on a 50/50 basis by the Innovation Voucher and the company. For these projects, the company and the chosen knowledge provider must jointly agree on the programme of work before submitting the application. Applications can be submitted at any time, and a decision can usually be given within three weeks.

The rules

To apply for an Innovation Voucher, the company must be:

  • An SME (fewer than 250 employees and a turnover below €50 Million/balance sheet below €43 Million)
  • A registered Irish company, in any sector other than the agricultural sector (specific supports are available to this sector from the relevant agencies)
  • A for-profit privately held company (non-profits, charities, semi-states, trade associations, sports clubs, company representation bodies and non-commercial organisations are not eligible for Innovation Vouchers)

Other points to remember:

  • Applications can only be made online via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application system.
  • You don’t have to be an Enterprise Ireland client or have an Enterprise Ireland Development Advisor to apply for an Innovation Voucher.
  • Vouchers may only be used for work with one of the registered knowledge providers – they are publicly funded organisations such as Universities, Institutes of Technology and research centres.
  • Companies can only have one “active” voucher at any time. A voucher must be redeemed by the knowledge provider, and the VAT costs paid in full by the company, before another voucher can be applied for.
  • The intellectual property developed during the project is owned by the company, unless agreed otherwise.

Innovation vouchers have been used in areas as diverse as retail, business services, forestry, telecoms & software, engineering, life sciences, electronics and food.

Maximise your chances of a successful application

Applying for an Innovation Voucher is very straightforward, but as always a little preparation can save you wasting your time on an application that has no chance of success:

  • Read the comprehensive FAQs on the Enterprise Ireland website (PDF), it explains all the criteria and procedures involved.
  • Make sure that you are eligible. You must be a registered company (not a sole trader) and meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Make sure that your project is eligible. The vouchers are available for a wide variety of solutions, but activities such as software/web development and marketing/advertising are excluded.
  • Make sure you complete the application form fully. You need to demonstrate the highly innovative nature of the solution you intend to develop, and the benefit that this will bring to your company.

Examples of companies that have benefited from Innovation Vouchers

Monford Ag Systems – GrassOmeter

Steven Lock is an award-winning TV producer and director. It was in 2010, while filming the series Farmers – A year on the land, that Steven first saw what an issue grass measurement is for farmers. Most use a plate meter – as the name suggests, it is essentially a large disc that moves up and down a pole, allowing an average height reading to be taken – which is cumbersome, slow and not very accurate.

A chance conversation with Dr John Whelan, from Trinity College, led Steven to look into the Innovation Vouchers scheme. He applied, and the voucher allowed him to have the resources of a researcher for a month to look at developing a different way to measure grass. A second voucher was obtained, allowing a mechanical engineer to look at replacing the plate with sensor technology so that the product works as effectively on slopes as it does on the flat.

The GrassOmeter, as the product is known, is currently in the last stages of testing. Steven has secured €1.4 Million in funding, registered two patents and brought on board legendary Apple designer, Jerry Manock, as Head of Design. Steven’s team is now working hard on the final touches that will bring the GrassOmeter to market

It’s a wonderful scheme, because it really does encourage innovation. It’s what prompted me to wonder if there was a better solution to grass measurement. If the vouchers didn’t exist, then neither would the GrassOmeter.

Equiniche Sciences – Harmony Feeder

Dr Michelle O’Connor is a Veterinary Physiotherapist. She had a concept for a hay feeder that would enable stabled horses to eat at ground level and throughout the day – solving the physiological and behavioural problems associated with intermittent feeding and eating in an unnatural position.

Having successfully applied for an initial voucher, Michelle worked with Athlone Institute of Technology’s Centre for Industrial Services and Design to develop and prototype the main polymer body of the feeder. The following year, 2012, a second voucher was used to develop the rubber mesh system which controls access to the hay (both the material and the configuration of the mesh were researched).

The Harmony feeder can be secured at ground level in the stable and holds enough hay for a day, which the horse pulls out from the bottom –  mimicking the natural grazing position. The product has received three patents – in the US, the EU and New Zealand. It was launched in the Irish market at the Equus Live Exhibition, Punchestown, in November 2013 and won the inaugural Innovation Award.

As we had limited funds, the scheme gave us the impetus to get started. Without access to the expertise provided, we would not have been able to visualise our product and bring it through development.

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.

What I learned from the New Frontiers programme

What I learned from the New Frontiers programme

By New Frontiers blog

What I learned from the New Frontiers programme

I founded my visual effects startup, Glue, in 2013 and was looking for a dedicated startup programme that would complement my industry experience with the business knowledge and structure I required. In 2014, I participated in Phase 1 of New Frontiers, and subsequently went on to Phase 2 later in the year.

I learned a huge amount on the programme and Glue is gaining momentum; we’ve been able to grow our team and develop custom systems to improve our processes. Looking back, I’ve identified seven areas that were key to my startup journey.

Building on an idea

New Frontiers was my first major step in starting up the business. Personally, I found it extremely helpful and challenging in so many ways. First of all, it challenges you to dismantle your idea and test to see if it’s a viable business model. This happens with group discussions, one-to-one meetings, review stages and presentations. Secondly, it helps you to build your idea from the ground up, while putting proven business theory into practice.

Creating processes

Establishing business processes was the most important aspect to benefit Glue. We have now developed processes and backend structures that allow us to keep track of projects and to clearly show both staff and clients how each project is progressing at the various stages. Not only this, but putting solid terms and conditions in place for new customers helps avoid confusion down the road. For us, it’s a simple ten-line document which lets both parties know where they stand before work commences. The help given by New Frontiers in streamlining this process alone has been invaluable.

Core team and culture

I also believe that culture is incredibly important, even at early-stage. I think every startup should make clear decisions about how their company will behave and ensure that all staff enjoy what they do and are happy with the work they’re producing.

So much of these thought processes have benefited from specific  personality tests given during the programme to identify how an individual ticks and to develop symbiotic relationships between staff, based on their particular strengths and insights.

Knowing how you think and what type of person you are will allow you to understand how others perceive you. I have applied some of the lessons learned from the personality tests given throughout the programme to my whole team – with great results. This allows you to plan more efficiently and allows staff to identify qualities in each other that are necessary for delivering the best product.

Pitches and sales

There is a lot of great advice given regarding presentation skills, something I was quite poor at in the beginning but which I quickly improved upon through pitches to the class and at review stages. Basic things, such as having your pitch video recorded so you and your colleagues can dissect it and give constructive feedback, or being supplied with templates and pacing advice all come together to help you pitch better.

One very important factor in running a business is, of course, sales. How to successfully sell is paramount to the success of your business. There were many great tutors on the programme, such as Andrew McNeille and Dermot McKonkey, who both opened my eyes regarding sales and negotiating. I would happily purchase training videos from the tutors on this programme, simply because the information given is so in-depth; I still find myself looking over class notes from time to time.


A lot comes down to the individual entrepreneur, but if you are driven to make your business a success you’ll find that there’s a huge amount of information available to you on the programme. From the basics of structuring everything you do to clearly defining goals and milestones, you will learn many elements to help you set up and run your business.

Mentoring was a great help, as were the one-to-one sit downs with experienced professionals – which allow you to review each stage you have reached and gain great insight and knowledge.


The €15,000 grant paid over the course of Phase 2 (six months) gives you the space to concentrate on your business idea and give it the time and focus it needs to develop.


For a digital video creation company like mine, the networking aspect has been especially helpful. Not only to share experiences and advice with like-minded entrepreneurs, but also as a test bed for us to sell our services.

New Frontiers gives you information on many business events throughout the course. Managing your time effectively is certainly one of the most difficult aspects, but ultimately the most rewarding as you learn and develop under their structured guidance.

Anyone can learn how to start up a business, but having the right mentors and structure around you will make the process easier and help it to happen sooner. Even if you know that you have a viable product or service, it requires a certain mindset to take the leap – especially if you have been working for someone else for years. It can be daunting at first, but my advice is to jump!

About the author

Ray-Mongey-New-FrontiersRay Mongey

Ray was a New Frontiers participant at DIT and is founder and Managing Director of Glue, a visual effects company. The vision behind Glue was to combine techniques and technologies from video games, animation and filmmaking to provide the kind of blockbuster effects usually only available from big studios. They work on all types of project – from films to exhibitions, safety training videos to service/product explainer videos and anything in between. By enhancing videos with 3D animation, Glue creates a more engaging, immersive experience – although always with an eye on keeping production time and costs down.

Getting your fundraising strategy right

Getting your fundraising strategy right

By New Frontiers blog

Getting your fundraising strategy right

Raising capital is never easy, but it’s also essential for growing a successful startup. The hunt for investment is highly competitive and there is no guarantee of success, so knowing how and where to solicit funds is crucial. As always in business, preparation is the key!

To start with, it’s important to understand that in fundraising you are effectively “selling” yourself and your business opportunity. It takes a lot of work, and a little bit of luck, to find an investor who’s the right fit for your company.

In simple terms, you need a plan so that you can:

  • assess the financing options available;
  • decide on the correct course of action;
  • agree a timeline; and
  • ensure the internal resources, commitment and expertise are in place to properly execute the plan and meet any due diligence requirements.

Once the strategy is clarified, focus on the key priorities that will get you there!

Match the right investors to your opportunity

Fundraising is a time-consuming and lengthy process, so focusing on too many investors is a costly mistake. Start by identifying the type of investors that are interested in your sector and companies at your stage of development. Put together a list of potential parties, based on strategic fit and financial strength. Ideally, you want a backer who brings industry know-how and contacts, as well as money (including follow-on money) – so choose wisely.

Tell a compelling story

Investors want to see a scaleable business with a huge addressable market in which you can have a defendable market position. However, this is of no value unless the funders believe there is also a strong management team in place that can deliver on the opportunity.

Make sure that the business proposition and management strength is clearly communicated in your business plan and presentation. This, along with a realistic valuation and plausible exit strategy, is a winning formula for all financiers.

How much?

Simplify, simplify, simplify! Streamline the business plan by splitting it up into easily understood milestones. Quantify the resources and monies that need to be raised for each milestone. Remember that at early-stage funding you give away more equity to investors, so it makes sense to match your subsequent funding rounds to key milestones so that later money can be raised at a higher valuation.

Focus on building relationships with potential investors

It’s good to start the process early – i.e. before your funding needs become urgent – so that you can determine if a particular funder is a good fit for your company, and vice versa. Aim to get introductions to your target investors through your network and work on building trust through every interaction.

Follow-up regularly with interested parties, letting them know that you have achieved certain milestones. However, for many successful companies, a change in strategy may be required along the way and don’t be afraid to communicate this – after all, agility and the ability to “pivot” the business illustrates a capable management team.

Keep it going…

Never think of raising money in isolation – always have your eye on the next round. Use PR to promote the business, new products and customer wins to create the “sizzle” factor that will ensure potential investors are always watching your space!

About the author

jackie-quinn-new-frontiersJackie Quinn

Jackie Quinn is an Enterprise Ireland mentor and founding Director of QCF Corporate Finance, an independent corporate advisory practice that handles acquisitions, disposals, fundraising and strategic planning.

Jackie has over 20 years’ experience in a range of corporate transactions – from acquisitions to disposals, mergers and financing. She has worked with companies across sectors such as technology, energy, manufacturing, food, waste management, construction, retail, distribution and services.

The importance of support in early-stage startup

The importance of support in early-stage startup

By New Frontiers blog

The importance of support in early-stage startup

Creating a successful business is a complex process, which involves lot of hard work and determination. Continuous support from all the stakeholders is required throughout the life-cycle of the business; however the initial phase is perhaps the most critical.

Events in the initial stages usually shape and drive the short and medium-term strategy of a company. In the following paragraphs I will try to highlight the importance of early support in general and the help we received from Enterprise Ireland at the very early stages of our business; and how that helped us to define a roadmap and determine our future direction.

Ask for help from the beginning

When I initially thought about setting up Tuition Desk, I was looking for someone who could help me determine if my idea was viable and had commercial value, but also to provide me with some initial direction. I started looking at various options, including banks, angel investors, VCs, as well as government agencies.

I did some research on the Enterprise Ireland website and came across a program called New Frontiers that I felt might suit me at this stage. I looked at the programme content and found that it provided exposure to most of the components involved in the initial stages of setting up a business, including directions on how to validate an idea in the market.

Business validation and business models

Anyone looking to set up a business should validate their idea before spending any further resources on it. Validation provides initial direction and the opportunity to refine the business model at the very early stages, which is less easily done once the business is underway.

My company is a web-based market place that operates within a complex tutoring market. We have refined our business model a number of times using the tools and techniques we came across through the New Frontiers program. For example, we came across a tool, called the Business Model Canvas, which helped us to break down our business model into difference components and visualize it to establish which components were missing or under-developed. The financial models taught were also very helpful for understanding our financial needs. Having no previous financial experience, I thought these tools really allowed us to shape our finances and analyse our investment needs.

New Frontiers combines support and training

We also had opportunities to speak and discuss our business idea with a large number of experts; they provided valuable advice which helped us formulate a short and medium-term strategy for our business. One such valuable contact was Ian Cleary, who delivered the digital marketing sessions. Having come from a technical background, I had very little exposure to sales and marketing training, which are the fundamentals of any business. New Frontiers provided me with opportunities to attend well-structured training sessions that gave me much-needed exposure to digital and inbound marketing techniques.

[Getting support] has given me the encouragement and direction to take my business forward with self-belief and confidence.

My mentor, Alistair Kidd, was also very knowledgeable and always had ideas to improve the business. Getting basic training related to setting up business, meeting experienced mentors and advisers and having an unlimited number of discussions with peers related to my business has given me the encouragement and direction to take my business forward with self-belief and confidence.

I believe that, without this exposure, the progress of my business would have been much slower and I would have gone in numerous directions that proved less effective – learning things the hard way instead of hitting the ground running.

About the author

adnan-ajmi-new-frontiersAdnan Ajmi

Adnan is a software industry professional with over 16 years’ experience. He is a New Frontiers participant at Blanchardstown; his company, Tuition Desk, is a web-based marketplace that connects students with quality online tutors and provides them with useful online collaboration tools.