Tag: New Frontiers

Conor Grimes Spoonful Botanicals New Frontiers programme alumnus

Alumni profiles: An epic journey towards the dream

Conor Grimes Spoonful Botanicals New Frontiers programme alumnus

A big dream can grow from humble roots. It was a trip to India after graduating from college that started it all for Conor Grimes and Jayne Gavin.

While exploring Asia, the young couple visited spice markets and saw locals using fresh herbs and spices as a way to help inflammation. It ignited a new passion that grew into Spoonful Botanical.

“They were really promoting these natural foods and natural ingredients to combat inflammation,” Conor says. He started to think of home and his grandmother who was taking medication for arthritis at the time, which was particularly tough on her stomach. “So we decided to bring back home some of the spices to see if she could get any relief from it. And basically, she started getting great results.”

Having watched how the locals ground the roots into powder, they returned home with some basic ingredients. However, it was while trying to get the spices into their grandmother’s diet that the early stages of their product, Spoonful Botanical, began to unfold.

An avid foodie and Louth footballer, Conor was always interested in nutrition. Growing up, his parents ran a food business. “It was very organic at the start. We were giving it to her in jam jars and a few of our friends started taking the product,” he says.

They developed their own fermentation process which saw them mixing and blending the roots of the ingredients and then fermenting the spices with golden raisins. The result was a chutney-like consistency, something Conor’s granny could easily work into her diet. “And it started to slowly escalate from there, we got to the stage where we had 100 people tasting the product on a regular basis,” he says.

As business graduates, the couple were perhaps destined for life as entrepreneurs. “We always wanted to have our own setup but we never really knew if it was achievable. Jayne was working in a marketing company in Dublin, we weren’t 100% sure if it was going to take off,” Conor says. It was an approach to Enterprise Ireland and their acceptance into Phase 2 of the New Frontiers programme that saw things quickly gaining momentum.

“It’s not easy to get the product to the stage where you’re presenting to retailers. But with the help of New Frontiers and that kind of environment, it makes it a lot easier…”

“The hardest part was building up that confidence. With New Frontiers, you are surrounded by people who are in similar situations,” Conor says. For him, the practical nature of the course was instrumental. “It’s not easy to get the product to the stage where you’re presenting to retailers. But with the help of New Frontiers and that kind of environment, it makes it a lot easier, even just contacts around packaging, labelling, all that kind of stuff, those contacts were given to us.”

As a team player, Conor enjoyed being surrounded by other entrepreneurs. “You’re in that kind of environment where everyone wants to help each other but everyone also wants to be the best,” he says. When they completed Phase 2 of the programme, Conor and Jayne felt their product was market-ready and decided to go for it. They now have a team of 12 and are stocked in over 300 independent health food stores and pharmacies.

A food-based product, Spoonful Botanical has become popular amongst some sports stars. “There’s a lot of sports players that take it. To have it in their diets every day, just to have it for recovery after a training session, recovering from an injury, all that kind of stuff,” says Conor.

He believes the contacts and connections made while on the programme made a huge difference. Some of the mentors they met still work with them today and they continue to use a review section on their site that one of the participants created for them while on the programme. The €15,000 stipend also allowed them to fully invest their time in the product.

Overall, Conor believes the programme gave them the opportunity to make the dream a reality. “You’re fully focused and geared up to present your product and put your best foot forward.”

To read more about Spoonful Botanical, visit their website.

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Derya Kianda TechnologiesNew Frontiers programme alumna

Alumni profiles: Breaking the code, building the dream

Derya Kianda TechnologiesNew Frontiers programme alumna

Just one in two hundred people knows how to code. That’s a lot of people around the world relying on a small pool of programmers! This knowledge gap is something Derya and Osvaldo Sousa were intent on solving when they developed their no-code application platform, Kianda Technologies, in 2017.

The dream to develop their own tech startup was 16 years in the making, but back then – as a young couple studying in Portugal – it was difficult to see how they could make it a reality. “It was a bit risky for us back then. There wasn’t a lot of support. We didn’t have great examples and so it just faded away,” Derya says.

They moved to Ireland in 2007 and worked as IT consultants. Every evening, they went home and talked about what they were working on. They realised it was similar projects for similar companies, developing the same types of system over and over again from scratch. Wanting to simplify things for businesses and create a ‘no-code environment’, they came up with a new type of process automation software that would build custom workflows using a drag and drop interface.

“Less than five years ago, we had the idea and thought it was the right time for us to start,” Derya says. “The biggest risk was quitting our jobs and in terms of income, how were we going to manage? We had some of our own savings, but of course, that wasn’t enough.”

She was also on maternity leave with their second child, who was just four months old at the time. But they felt it was now or never. “We said, if we don’t do this now, we won’t do it again,” Derya says. We have to try. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We’d have to accept it. But we had to try. So we bit the bullet.”

The couple quit their day jobs and spent the first year working from their living room, building their platform while taking on some freelance work to help with living expenses. It was when they were completing the product build and seeking office space that the New Frontiers programme was suggested to them by the team at the LINC centre at TU Dublin – Blanchardstown.

“We have to try. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We’d have to accept it. But we had to try. So we bit the bullet.”

“There were so many unknowns, so many things we weren’t aware of, it opened up so many opportunities for us,” Derya says. “Seeing other like-minded entrepreneurs, what stage they were at, seeing their journeys. Some of them were similar to me, some of them were just starting, and wanted to validate their idea.”

Derya found the programme very practical, “in terms of financial modelling and in terms of marketing, fundraising, networking, and hearing from the mentors.” It also helped navigate the Irish start-up ecosystem and to find out what support was available during and after the programme while receiving a €15,000 stipend.

“The mentors we had were really good. Lots of them were really insightful. It was all really practical. Real-life issues were covered. The pitching sessions were really good. Nerve-wracking but good.” She adds that she pitches “all the time” now.

It also helped build her confidence. “When we were both starting we heard some negative thoughts from other people. It really helped to build my confidence in terms of my own skills in running a business,” she says. Kianda Technologies was launched in November 2017. The company is growing quickly and has recently experienced a 40% increase in its customer base. The aim is to triple the team by the end of 2021.

Having taken the leap, Derya would encourage others to follow their dream. “It’s worth it, so worth it. If you think it’s the right time and it’s the right idea. People might say no, be prepared for it. But don’t let it stop you. Get the support that’s available, having people who have gone through a similar journey helps a lot.”

To learn more about Derya’s company, visit kianda.com

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Ivan Tuohy Great Visitor Experiences New Frontiers programme alumnus

Alumni profiles: Unlock your potential, back your dream

Ivan Tuohy Great Visitor Experiences New Frontiers programme alumnus

For hospitality expert Ivan Tuohy, it was a trip to Alcatraz that proved the key to unlocking the potential of a dream that had languished for years.

“It really hit me that the challenges that I had in my own workplace in Ireland were actually the same challenges that many attractions and museums had all around the world,” says Ivan, founder and CEO of Great Visitor Experiences. A hotelier by trade, he was working as a general manager for one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland and had recently completed an MBA at the University of Limerick.

It was 2018 and new innovations in technology were transforming user experiences across various sectors, but tourism operators were still relying on traditional tools like audio guides, maps, leaflets, in-person tour guides and stand-alone signage to engage their visitors; even in the biggest tourist attractions in the world. The tools were outdated. It was the cause of much frustration for Ivan and there was no obvious fix.

For international visitors, there was also a language barrier, with about 20% of visitors unable to understand audio guides or maps. “We had limited communication with the visitor, pre-arrival, onsite and after arrival,” Ivan says. “We didn’t have any tools in place from a digital point of view to capture that data. There was no real-time commercial information to drive onsite business.”

Ivan began to look for a digital solution that would immerse the customer in the visitor experience at every touchpoint, from start to finish and beyond. It didn’t exist. He was told he could source an augmented reality app but no app could integrate all their existing assets into one place. He thought, “No way, it needs to be bigger than that. We needed to build an ecosystem with just one omnichannel where attractions, museums and activities could all live together.”

“The New Frontiers programme was a fantastic first step. It really allowed me the time to focus on the idea, and to build some structure around it.”

The tentative steps towards developing Great Visitor Experiences, an interactive app that enables operators to engage with visitors, source data, tell stories and sell more, were underway. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Ivan felt that he had the relevant skills to make it as an entrepreneur. But there were fears.

“The first big problem was not believing in myself, in my own ability. And the other real problem was quitting the job and not having a salary,” he says. “It was a case of, I might have a good idea but how am I actually going to commercialise it and bring this to reality? I might take a chance on myself, but can I really do it?”

Ivan sought support and applied to New Frontiers. Once accepted, it all became very real. The programme put him on the path towards backing himself and his dream.

“The New Frontiers programme was a fantastic first step. It really allowed me the time to focus on the idea, and to build some structure around it.” It also brought out Ivan’s competitive spirit. “You’re in the room with 12-15 people, all with very good ideas and all coming from a problem from different angles. That support, that peer-to-peer network is great. But you’re dealing with people who want to succeed. It’s fairly competitive. It was a case of, I want to help people, but I also want to do well myself.” As for the mentors, “They really challenge you. They challenge you in a way you wouldn’t challenge yourself.”

Since launching in 2018, Great Visitor Experiences has scooped major innovation awards. The company works with leading attractions across Ireland and recently launched an All-Ireland Destination Guide. The team is working closely with operators to help them get access to the platform with the choice of a subscription or ticketing partnership model as they navigate COVID restrictions.

For anyone thinking of taking the leap and following their dream, Ivan has some advice; “Don’t be afraid.” He adds, “No one is going to back you until you back yourself. So if you can back yourself, and be open to listening to people, go for it.”

Want to learn more about Great Visitor Experiences? Visit their website.

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l-r Ann Marie Phelan - Tom Flanagan - Paula Carroll - New Frontiers at NovaUCD

New Frontiers Comes To NovaUCD At University College Dublin

l-r Ann Marie Phelan - Tom Flanagan - Paula Carroll - New Frontiers at NovaUCD

We are delighted to announce that NovaUCD will start to deliver the New Frontiers programme later this year, in partnership with IADT Media Cube. This five-year partnership will enable a total of 275 entrepreneurs, up to 55 annually, to develop their innovative business ideas with a view to building globally scalable businesses.

Part of University College Dublin’s Research and Innovation unit, NovaUCD is a purpose-built, state-of-the-art incubation facility for knowledge-intensive companies. The partnership with IADT, backed by €1.6 million in funding from Enterprise Ireland, means that there are now 17 locations across the country delivering this successful entrepreneur development programme. NovaUCD will help to meet the growing demand from emerging entrepreneurs based in the greater south Dublin area, incorporating South Dublin, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and North Wicklow.

Although new to the New Frontiers programme, NovaUCD already has a strong track record in delivering enterprise programmes to startup companies across the full spectrum of technologies. UCD’s entrepreneurship strategy has resulted in:

  • The development of the Nova East Courtyard (€6.5m), the establishment of the University Bridge fund (€60m), and the launch of the NovaUCD AgTech Centre Innovation Hub (at UCD Lyons Farm).
  • 61 companies currently being supported, with 605 employees.
  • 400 companies and early-stage ventures supported over the last 16 years (raising over €775m in equity funding).
  • A combined annual turnover for its companies of over €113m in 2018.
  • Thousands of jobs created over the years, 1,040 people employed directly in 2018; 950 of whom are based in Ireland.
  • The value realised in ownership exits has risen to over €210 million.

Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme helps entrepreneurs with access to a comprehensive package of supports including mentorship from some of Ireland’s leading business people, a tax-free stipend, and access to resources and incubation space. Some of our alumni are now households names.

Announcing the new partnership were Anne Marie Phelan (IADT Media Cube), Tom Flanagan (NovaUCD), and our own Paula Carroll (New Frontiers National Programme Manager at Enterprise Ireland). They are pictured above (from left to right).

“We are delighted to be working with the team at NovaUCD in delivering the New Frontiers programme for Enterprise Ireland. IADT has been delivering the programme since 2013 and has been responsible for the emergence of numerous successful companies including Cambrist, Snapfix, Ambr Eyewear, Dr. Coys and CheckVentory, all of whom are located in South Dublin, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and North Wicklow.

This new partnership will allow us to consolidate a myriad of enterprise supports and will go a long way to supporting start-up companies in the local region while providing them with expert insight and access to innovative practice-led research in design, technology, and entrepreneurship that has been integral to the Media Cube’s success. The next five years promises to be a very exciting time for entrepreneurs coming to IADT Media Cube and NovaUCD.” – Ann Marie Phelan, Enterprise and Innovation Manager at IADT Media Cube

“We are delighted to be partnering with IADT Media Cube in delivering a New Frontiers programme for entrepreneurs located in South Dublin. At NovaUCD we have gained considerable experience and expertise by supporting over 400 start-ups and early-stage ventures and in delivering a wide range of entrepreneurship programmes to support our entrepreneurs to grow and scale to reach their global potential. NovaUCD and IADT Media Cube complement each other with our different areas of expertise and I am confident that this will lay the foundations for a very successful series of New Frontiers programmes in the years ahead.” – Tom Flanagan, Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation at NovaUCD

“Enterprise Ireland is delighted to approve funding for the New Frontiers programme that will be delivered by IADT Media Cube in partnership with NovaUCD.  The addition of this programme with two experienced delivery partners will strengthen the reach and impact of the programme within the greater South Dublin area. Enterprise Ireland is proud to fund such a critically important programme like New Frontiers which is delivered across 15 locations nationwide.” – Paula Carroll, National Programme Manager, New Frontiers, Enterprise Ireland

The first IADT Media Cube and NovaUCD New Frontiers programme starts in October. If you think New Frontiers might be for you, the first step is to register your interest via our quick online form. Remember that applications close several weeks before the programmes start, so we advise you to begin the application process sooner rather than later!

About the author

scarlet-merrill

Scarlet Bierman

Scarlet Bierman runs a content-first marketing agency, Engage Content, and is Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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Project One Sky Developing Wellbeing Education For Young Adults

Project One Sky: Developing Wellbeing Education For Young Adults

Project One Sky Developing Wellbeing Education For Young Adults

Depression and anxiety have been on the rise in children. The HSE reports that almost 1 in 4 young people may experience depression before they are 19. The disruption this causes to their lives and education is significant. Project One Sky is a New Frontiers startup that is changing how we help young people develop their social, mental, and physical health. We talked to founder Dr Colm Fallon to find out more.

First things first, what’s the elevator pitch for Project One Sky?

Project One Sky is a human development and wellbeing programme designed to nurture resilience and to help students cope with and flourish in the modern world. Its aim is twofold – to teach students to look after their own physical and mental health in the context of a rapidly changing social, cultural, and technological world, as well as to affect society in a positive manner by focussing on the ethical components of wellbeing.

How did your own background shape the business?

I always say this company was 20 years in the making as I had mental health issues myself as a young adult. Academically, I had always done extremely well. Until I didn’t. The result of this was I ended up dropping out of university. When I returned to education some time later, I had already decided that I wanted something more from the experience than just a job. I was studying physics at university and started travelling a lot, becoming very interested in philosophy, yoga, and spirituality. I went on to obtain my PhD in Experimental Physics, then became a post-doctoral fellow and researcher. However, I didn’t want a career as a scientist, so I became a physics and science teacher in a secondary school.

How did the idea for Project One Sky come about?

I saw that wellbeing was starting to be introduced to curriculums globally. It was superseding subjects such as SPHE, CSPE, PE, and religious education here in Ireland. I saw there was an opportunity to teach all the things I had been learning about mindfulness, personal development, resilience, and healthy choices. Essentially, I felt we could better prepare students – socially and emotionally – for life in the digital age. This is what prompted me to start teaching wellbeing at the school where I worked, and the idea of Project One Sky grew from there.

What was the early stage of the business like?

I got onto Phase 1 of New Frontiers at TU Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus in 2018, but I didn’t manage to secure a place on Phase 2 when I applied. As a result, I took a year to focus on developing my business idea. Working with two schools in particular, I developed my MVP and then re-applied for the programme, at which point I got on. Phase 2 was very intensive and a lot of hard work, but I was absolutely ready for it by that point. I was starting to build my client base when the pandemic hit, which obviously affected the company significantly. I had to pivot how the business worked and how we delivered our programmes. But going online actually allowed us to scale much faster, so I was able to increase our customer base by 500%.

I had never built a website before, so that was a learning curve for me. I managed to bootstrap the website and video editing until I could get help with it. I developed a network of experts (sleep experts, nutritionists, etc.) around the country, who could deliver the video content we needed to make the courses engaging. This is how we developed the digital workshops that were ready to be delivered in the classroom, facilitated by a teacher who can organise the time and help to lead in-class discussions.

What is covered in the programme?

I wanted to go into a wide range of topics that might be relevant for young people. I didn’t just want to cover ‘easy’ topics but get into deeper, more philosophical or challenging themes as well. There are 10 modules in total:

  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Breathwork
  • Meditation
  • The natural world
  • Truth telling
  • Ethical smartphone use
  • Resilience
  • Connection
  • Positive habit forming

Everything is delivered over an online learning management platform to make it easy for the school to fit it into their timetable. There are no logistical issues, they have access to the materials for the whole year and it’s up to them when and how they use it. Our experts present their topics by video and there are additional materials to help the teachers lead class discussions and project work. We’ve also used gamification tactics to make sure that students will stay engaged.

What’s next for Project One Sky?

I’ve started to grow my team, which has been challenging in the pandemic. Right now, I’m focusing on talking to potential customers about signing up for the 2021-22 academic year as this has to be finalised before the schools break for the summer.

We’ve had excellent feedback from the schools currently running our programmes, and from students themselves. We will continue to roll out into Irish schools – both at junior cert and leaving cert level. After that, a next step for us will be getting into the UK market. Wellbeing isn’t as integrated into the curriculum over there, but it seems that schools are very receptive to this type of approach.

And finally, what key piece of advice would you give to other entrepreneurs starting out?

Over the past year, there were times when my own and my company’s capabilities were stretched to their limits. What helped me through those times was knowing that my project could make a real difference to people’s lives. My advice to others would be: don’t be an entrepreneur for the sake of it; rather, choose to do something that’s bigger than you. And, of course, look after your wellbeing!

About the author

scarlet-merrill

Scarlet Bierman

Scarlet Bierman runs a content-first marketing agency, Engage Content, and is Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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Spilling The Beans event provides great insights for food sector startups New Frontiers

‘Spilling The Beans’ event provides great insights for food sector startups

Spilling The Beans event provides great insights for food sector startups New Frontiers

Dominic Mullan, former New Frontiers Programme Manager at the Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT), Dún Laoghaire, recently organised an event called Spilling the Beans, delivered by TU Dublin and IADT for food sector programme participants and alumni from across the country. In this article, he shares some of the insights from the event.

‘Sure, launching a start-up is so much easier these days, with all sorts of tech tools and open-source options drastically reducing upfront costs and time to market,’ or so they say! While that may be true of purely digital plays, the same can’t really be said for food ventures. A chat with any food founder will undoubtedly involve tales of the strife associated with raising investment, establishing an efficient production model and building strong channels for distribution. It was this trio of challenges that the Spilling the Beans event aimed to address for current and past New Frontiers participants with a focus on food.

Programme alumni Shane Ryan of fiid (LIT) and Alison Stroh of Dr Coy’s (IADT/TU Dublin) joined us to share the learning points they have amassed along the road to scale. Providing further valuable insights were Stephen Twaddell, Chair of the Food Investment Syndicate within HBAN; Louis Eivers from the HPSU team at Enterprise Ireland; and Jacquie Marsh, the driving force behind the growth of the Butler’s Pantry up to its sale in 2018.

Stephen Twaddell, Chair of the Food Investment Syndicate within HBAN
Jacquie Marsh, former Director of Butler’s Pantry
Jacquie Marsh, former Director of Butler’s Pantry
Louis Eivers, HPSU team at Enterprise Ireland

Investment: When, and how, to raise money?

On quite when is the right time to raise money, both Alison Stroh and Shane Ryan would recommend holding off as long as you can before completing a seed round. Instead, make the most of supports like Local Enterprise Office (LEO) funding, Foodworks Ireland and Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF) to build a more investable proposition. For Shane, this allows you to demonstrate to potential investors just what you have been able to achieve with a small team and limited resources. Clearly, as Louis Eivers of Enterprise Ireland pointed out, be careful not to stretch things too far before taking investment and possibly missing out on the commercial opportunity or running out of cash entirely.

Assessing your investment proposition

Jacquie Marsh shared her checklist for assessing a food sector investment proposition:

Product: Does it address a problem or a need experienced by a lot of people on a frequent and repeat basis? What is its unique point of difference? Crucially, is the consumer prepared to pay a proper price that will avoid the need for discounts and offers that erode margin?

Strategy: Is there clarity in terms of the short-term and long-term strategy? Is the focus on growing a family-owned business, for example, or on the type of dynamic growth that could lead to a trade sale?

Founder: Is the founder ambitious and passionate, as well as bringing expertise in the product area or in sales and marketing? Do other team members and key hires offer strong complementary skills? Are the founders well equipped to network proactively and positively with possible advisors and investors?

Synergy: Is there a strong sense of culture and values within the team? Are these aligned with the founder’s own values and outlook?

Customers & Sales: Is there evidence of significant sales and an ability to generate sales? Have the founders been able to build good relationships with their early customers?

Finance: What have the team achieved so far with their limited start-up resources? How far will the immediate investment requirement carry the venture before focus needs to return to the hugely time-consuming process of raising more money?

Adding to this, Stephen Twaddell encouraged founders to remember that they themselves are the core element of any investor proposition. He said, “You can change and influence most things in a project, but it’s hard to change people.” So don’t be shy about telling of your passion and your story so far.

Stephen also flagged a positive development in the food ecosystem recently which saw Hilliard Lombard (ex-CEO of Valeo Foods) and David McKernan (ex-Java Republic) launch Biavest – Ireland’s only dedicated food investment vehicle – with their first investments being with Nobó and Offbeat Doughnuts. For Shane Ryan, this type of smart sector-informed money trumps non-specialist investors every time.

The production dilemma

Alison Stroh

While the question of in-house or outsourced production seems to offer only two possible answers, the third and resounding response from our panellists was that, while your production model is important, it pales into insignificance against the potential power of your brand. This, for investor Stephen Twaddell, is where the magic lies and where the most value can be created. Generally, your customers will not know and will probably not overly care if you produce in-house or through production partners. It is your brand and the quality of your product that will influence their buying behaviour.

The possible exception to that is where your brand story specifically ties in with a method or place of production. Take by way of example the Wicklow Wolf Brewing Company, of which Stephen is Chair and whose brand story includes messaging such as Independent by Nature and beer brewed the Wicklow Way.

In the case of fiid and Dr Coy’s, both notably offering ambient products, specific technical requirements meant outsourcing production to partners in the Netherlands and Belgium respectively was the only realistic option, and the model has worked well for both. Louis Eivers of Enterprise Ireland clarified that outsourcing production within the EU presents no obstacles to High Potential Startup (HPSU) investment, provided the venture is still likely to create 10 jobs in Ireland. Bord Bia support on the other hand is typically predicated on production being within the Republic of Ireland.

For Jacquie Marsh, who built a business focused on short-shelf-life products, The Butler’s Pantry’s in-house production model was underpinned by two key strategic considerations: firstly, achieving a margin that would not have been possible otherwise; and, secondly, being nimble and adaptable in terms of offering quality and variety to the customer.

As for any entrepreneur, the risk of seeing outsourced partners effectively stealing your product ideas was on the mind of a number of our New Frontiers participants. Shane Ryan was quick to point out that, yes, they probably will copy your ideas, as will other companies and quite possibly your retailers too, which brings us back (once again!) to the key role of brand, brand, brand! As Jacquie Marsh pointed out, the big players are afraid of emerging, nimble players with brands that are so much more engaging and relatable for the consumer.

The distribution challenge

Shane Ryan

The “biggest challenge for food start-ups in Ireland” and “a total nightmare” was how Alison Stroh and Shane Ryan characterised the whole area of distribution, and both had lots of helpful perspectives for food founders who are looking to establish strong distribution channels.

Both companies deliberately managed their own distribution for extended periods before securing central listings or significant distribution agreements. The donkeywork of supporting dozens of stores across Ireland yielded huge value in terms of learning about the marketplace and building relationships with store managers.

On the question of central listings with retail chains, Alison sounded a note of caution: yes, central listings mean that store personnel can order in your products from their hand-held devices, but “if only they did!” It is more than likely that you will still need to engage a merchandising team to visit stores and encourage managers to place orders.

For Shane of fiid, relationships built with store managers in the early days have proven to be the foundation of major in-store campaigns which might not have been feasible or affordable otherwise.

Both fiid and Dr Coy’s now work with major distributors, which allows them to focus less on logistics and more on brand, which is all the more important when you are likely to be competing with the likes of Unilever for your distributor’s attention.

For Jacquie Marsh, it’s crucial to focus on retailers that really fit your brand and customer profile, while Stephen Twaddell would encourage any food start-up to focus initially on developing quality growth with one retailer before spreading yourself thinly across multiple retailers or geographies.

Key conclusions for food startups

So a conversation that was intended to focus on three aspects – investment, production and distribution – kept coming back to the same theme time and time again: brand, brand, brand!

About the author


New Frontiers Dominic MullanDominic Mullan

Dominic was the Innovation, Commercialisation & Development Manager at IADT – Institute of Art, Design & Technology in Dún Laoghaire – and the New Frontiers Programme Manager at the Media Cube. Dominic has worked closely with startups since 2000, and his expertise spans both the public and private sectors… [Read Dominic’s profile]

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New Frontiers companies are rising to meet COVID-19 pandemic challenges

New Frontiers companies are rising to meet COVID-19 pandemic challenges

New Frontiers companies are rising to meet COVID-19 pandemic challenges

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, companies and individuals have acted fast to come up with innovative solutions to the many new challenges facing all areas of society. As one of the leading medtech hubs in the world, Ireland is certainly leading the charge. We look at various New Frontiers companies that have been playing their part.

Darren Robb & Facteq

Facteq, which brings innovation to workspaces, has been manufacturing sneeze guards and Perspex barriers for shop staff and health care workers. Their shop counter shields can come in any size and are made with “clean room” specification materials so are non-porous and wipeable. Facteq founder, Darren Robb, was a New Frontiers participant at Sligo and Letterkenny Institutes of Technology.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/facteq-ltd

Sonia Neary & Wellola

Start-up Wellola developed a practice management and patient portal designed to bring medical facility communications into the 21st century. The company was co-founded by Sonia Neary, a New Frontiers alumna who participated in the programme at TU Dublin – Tallaght. Now Wellola has partnered with the HSE’s Digital Transformation Team to launch a COVID-19-focused portal combining secure communication software for healthcare professionals with a complimentary patient app called HSE Portal.

https://irishtechnews.ie/hse-wellola-secure-patient-communication-portal

https://www.hsecovid19.ie

Keith Lynne & MyClinic365

Keith Lyne is the co-founder of MyClinic365 and came through the New Frontiers programme at IT Tralee. In response to the current emergency, MyClinic365 is making its telemedicine platform free for GPs in Ireland for the duration of the crisis, reducing the administrative burdens inside GP surgeries and improving patient relationships.

https://www.siliconrepublic.com/start-ups/myclinic365-free-gps-telemedicine-coronavirus

Tony Ryan & Medvault

Medvault, founded by Tony Ryan who is a new Frontiers alumnus from TU Dublin – City Campus/IADT, provides an analytics solution for GP surgeries. The company partnered with GP Buddy to create a free COVID-19 GP Screening Form which will help to facilitate patient screening for COVID-19. Over 350 GP practices are already signed up, seeing an estimated 50% drop in the pressure from phone queries as they channel patients through the platform.

https://www.screeningform.com

Hanan Swan & Slunchbox

Hanan Swan, an alumna from Dundalk Institute of Technology/DCU New Frontiers programme, recently launched Slunchbox, a hot school meal delivery platform. In response to COVID-19, Hanan has pivoted her idea to deliver hot meals to the vulnerable in our communities. She accepts donations (€4 buys a meal for a vulnerable person) and has so far raised over €5,000 via the company’s crowdfunding campaign.

https://www.slunchbox.com

https://www.gofundme.com/f/slunchbox

Gurusharan Singh Gogna & HealAir

Coming through the New Frontiers programme at Athlone Institute of Technology, Gurusharan Singh Gogna’s startup, HealAir, uses safe plasma technology to kill airborne viruses and bacteria. They are currently seeking funding for microbiology tests and manufacturing. The patent-pending, simple and stationary unit is destined for high-risk areas such as surgery waiting rooms, ICUs, aircraft, or any enclosed space requiring air sanitisation.

Martin Tighe & Univiv

Univiv, founded by Martin Tighe who took part in New Frontiers at Athlone Institute of Technology, is developing solutions in areas such as agriculture and aquaculture. Their product, Virex (patent pending), is a safe and effective human anti-viral formulation, already proven to kill the H1N1 human form of swine flu in pigs. They are accelerating production to treat COVID-19 infections. Taken orally and made with “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) certified ingredients, it will be a preventative dose to quell infections before they start as well as treat infections. Univiv is currently awaiting funding to manufacture the first 100,000 doses and hopes to deliver in one month.

https://univiv.com

Jag Gunawardana & MediPlex

Before the emergency, the startup was working on MediPlex, a product to enable full e-prescribing, compliance, and related functionality – about to trial with local pharmacies. When Jag, who participated in New Frontiers at Sligo and Letterkenny Institutes of Technology, saw how pharmacies were responding to the COVID-19 crisis, he realised that part of the solution he was building could be applied to these services. He produced a slimmed-down version of the product that focuses on capturing prescriptions, sending it to the selected pharmacy, enabling pharmacy-patient communication, and taking payments. It decreases risk by minimising patient-pharmacist contact and improves customer service.

Tom Cotter & Rash’R

Cork New Frontiers alumnus, Tom Cotter, started a high-end eco sports apparel company called Rash’R. In response to demand, they have started to make washable, reusable face masks with disposable replacement filters. Currently, these are being sold to bulk buyers such as corporates rather than retail.

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6650435016650297344

Do you have an idea in response to the pandemic?

Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, and IDA Ireland have launched a joint rapid-response call to fund research, development, and innovation (RD&I) activities that will deliver significant and timely impact for Ireland within the context of the current emergency. This call will be closely co-ordinated with the rapid response call launched by the Health Research Board and the Irish Research Council.

Some of the innovations from Enterprise Ireland companies

The level of innovation and blue sky thinking triggered by this international emergency has been quite extraordinary. Many new products and ideas will continue to be used and valued well into the future. Synergies and collaborations have sprung up in the most unlikely of places. It’s a real sign of hope in these troubled times.

About the author

scarlet-merrill

Scarlet Bierman

Scarlet Bierman runs a content-first marketing agency, Engage Content, and is Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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Listen to your market and always be ready to pivot your idea - New Frontiers - Pierce Dargan

Listen to your market and always be ready to pivot your idea

Listen to your market and always be ready to pivot your idea - New Frontiers - Pierce Dargan

In this blog, New Frontiers alumnus Pierce Dargan discusses his decision to pivot his business idea and what has gone into building a strong and successful startup. Pierce was careful to get extensive feedback from prospective customers and research his idea thoroughly before making his decision.

When I started working on my own business, over four years ago, it was on a very different idea. Part of the entrepreneurship module for my masters at Trinity College was working on a startup idea. Mine was a marketplace for farmers to look for products and services in their area – such as feed, fencing and manure disposal services – so they could compare prices and make informed choices about suppliers. My background is equine farming, and I felt that a price comparison site, which is very common in a lot of markets, was lacking in farming. I won a number of awards for this idea, including the Trinity College All-Tech Innovation competition.

The importance of validating your market

During the validation phase of my startup, when I started to talk to the farmers I was hoping would become my customers, many told me that price was not their biggest pain point. People generally felt that price was not the big issue for them and in fact they stayed with suppliers because of factors like quality assurance, quick delivery times or credit terms. I spoke to people across Kildare, Cork and elsewhere for this validation phase, and I was very fortunate to meet people who were honest with me about the idea before I spent both time and capital developing a solution. It is important to listen to your potential customers rather than just people in your immediate circle, such as advisors, friends and family. The customer is always the most important person.

When the people I was talking to told me price comparison wasn’t their biggest issue, I always asked what their biggest problem was. Time after time, people in equine yards told me that they were having issues keeping up with the large amounts of paperwork required because of frequently changing equine welfare regulations. Racing trainers and equestrians have to keep medication records for their horses to satisfy regulators and drug testers. Some yards have hundreds of horses, each with their own drug and vaccination regimen. It gets very complicated very quickly and if records are wrong it can lead to heavy fines and, in the most serious cases, prosecution. The yards I was talking to said that if I could develop a solution for this issue, they would be very interested.

Always listen to your target customers

It was at this point I realised that there was a large opportunity to try and build a regulatory technology system to be an education tool that would help ensure compliance for equine yards and help promote equine welfare and transparency. It was a difficult decision to pivot the idea. I had won awards for my original farm marketplace idea and it was hard to let go. However, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says, always listen to your customers. It is a common trap that entrepreneurs fall in love with their ideas and don’t listen to what their customers actually want.

Once I pivoted my idea, I knew I would need a CTO who had experience in digitising regulatory paper processes. It just so happened that I ran into a friend from secondary school, Simon Hillary, who had just finished optimising workflows from paper to digital systems for the Oireachtas. Simon came on board, and we started the process of getting our system deemed compliant as a medicines register by the Turf Club (the horseracing regulatory body) here in Ireland and their equivalents in the UK and France.

Early-stage development with support and funding

I completed Phase 1 of New Frontiers at IADT mid-2017. From there, we were accepted onto the Trinity LaunchBox, and I completed Phase 2 of New Frontiers as well. Our Local Enterprise Office has been very supportive, and we’ve had a priming grant and business expansion grant from them. This has all been very helpful, because in all pivoting the idea took two years – refining our solution and getting into the finer details of the regulation.

By 2018, we were ready to launch with an initial cohort of users. That’s when my brother, Finlay, who has a background in finance, joined as our COO. Our app manages the whole compliance process for yards, centrally tracking the what, when, why, and how of medications being administered. Trainers or owners can invite vets and staff onto the system so that everything is tracked and recorded safely and securely.

Our pivoted startup: Equine MediRecord

We already have hundreds of yards on our system across Ireland, the United Kingdom and France, tracking thousands of horses. Our system is the first and only system to be approved as compliant to replace the paper regulatory documents, and the only system in the world ensuring compliance in the equine industry. We won a number of competitions, including the One Zero Conference, ‘Best Use of Mobile’ at Energia Digital Media Awards, and Most Innovative Equine Technology in the UK. We were also accredited with the Business All Star in ‘Regulatory Technology’ at the All-Ireland Business Summit. I also made it into the final 24 (out of 1,600+ applicants) of Ireland’s Best Yound Entrepreneurs, representing the Irish Midlands Region and Kildare at the national competition in September.

As we all become more aware of animal welfare issues, regulations are being strengthened and people need systems to ensure medical record compliance for their animals. Equine MediRecord is looking to enter new markets by the end of the year; we’ve just signed clients in the USA and Argentina and are talking to regulatory bodies inside and outside Europe. We’re also diversifying into other types of equine activity, such as horse breeders and polo teams. None of this would have happened if I had fallen in love with my original idea and been unable to pivot.

About the author

Pierce Dargan Equine MediRecord New Frontiers alumnusPierce Dargan

Pierce Dargan is a fifth-generation racehorse owner and breeder, ex-professional rugby player and New Frontiers alumnus. He is the co-founder of award-winning tech startup, Equine MediRecord… [Read Pierce’s profile]

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

Financial advice every startup entrepreneur needs to hear

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

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

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

4 financial tips for startups

1. Tighten up your cash flow

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

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

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

2. Get financial and tax advice

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

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

3. Have access to a bank overdraft

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

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

4. Consider outsourcing

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

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

About the author

scarlet-merrill

Scarlet Bierman

Scarlet Bierman runs a content-first marketing agency, Engage Content, and is Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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Drone Consultants Ireland (DCI), were announced by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar as winners of the Ireland Regional Competition of the 2018 ESNC (European Satellite Navigation Competition) awards.

Drone Consultants Ireland (DCI) wins regional competition of ESNC 2018

Drone Consultants Ireland (DCI), were announced by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar as winners of the Ireland Regional Competition of the 2018 ESNC (European Satellite Navigation Competition) awards.

Drone Consultants Ireland (DCI) was announced by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, as the winner of the Ireland Regional Competition of the 2018 European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) awards.

DCI won the regional competition with its Jack-In-The-Box concept and will represent Ireland as they proceed to the European Finals which take place in Marseille at the ‘Space Oscars’ during European Space Week on the 4th December 2018.

Jack-In-The-Box is a self-sustaining, aircraft-deployable drone system that can be parachuted to remote and inaccessible locations, enabling it to gather critical data where natural disasters occur. This technology has the potential to assist rescue services in saving lives and calculating the safe and efficient deployment of resources.

DCI is based at the Media Cube in Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT). The company was founded in 2016 by Ian Kiely and Peter Downey to provide consultancy and support to a variety of emergency response services, government entities and private clients as well as organising and hosting the Drone & Tech Expo Ireland. Ian Kiely is a recent alumnus of Phase 2 of the New Frontiers programme at IADT.

Receiving the award, DCI’s COO Ian Kiely said,

“We are really excited to receive this award and are also looking forward to attending Space Week in Marseille in December to compete for the top awards. We believe this product has significant potential and we are working to bring it to market. DCI is a growing company and we are looking at partnerships and preparing for funding in the immediate future to launch a successful commercial product. We are grateful to the New Frontiers programme and for the ongoing support from Enterprise Ireland and The Media Cube at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) in Dún Laoghaire where we are currently based.”

Bruce Hannah, CTO of the National Space Centre and head of the Irish judging panel said,

“The Jack-In-The-Box entry from DCI demonstrates the potential which satellite navigation data holds to deliver life-saving new technologies to the world stage. The DCI entry leverages existing technology alongside innovation with exponential potential. We wish Ian and his team every success in Marseille.”

Annie Doona, President of IADT, praised DCI for their commitment to research and development,

“Innovative companies like DCI make more than a commercial impact – their technology has the potential to save lives in the aftermath of a vast array of natural disasters. Through their risk-taking and tenacity, we all stand to benefit and we wish them every success in the finals of the ESNC competition.”

For further information, contact Ann Marie Phelan, Enterprise & Innovation manager at the Media Cube, IADT: annmarie.phelan @ iadt.ie / 086 701 5922.

About the author

scarlet-merrill

Scarlet Bierman

Scarlet Bierman runs a content-first marketing agency, Engage Content, and is Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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