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How To Supercharge Your New Frontiers Experience 10 Top Tips

How To Supercharge Your New Frontiers Experience: 10 Top Tips

By New Frontiers blog

How To Supercharge Your New Frontiers Experience 10 Top Tips

Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme has been supporting early-stage startup founders for over a decade. Phase 1 is a part-time programme aimed at validating the business idea. On Phase 2 – which runs over six months full-time – founders develop a wide range of skills that will enable them to turn their idea into a revenue-generating business.

The benefits of New Frontiers are wide and varied. But what can you, as the founder, do to ensure you get the most benefit from the programme? We put this question to our Programme Managers in an attempt to distil the most relevant and important tips into a single blog that will supercharge your time on the programme and help you become the best founder you can be. This is by no means the only advice your Programme Managers will have for you, but it’s a good place to start!

In no particular order, here are tips from 10 of our Programme Managers.

Paula Carroll, National Programme Manager at Enterprise Ireland

“If I was to give only one piece of advice (which is very hard), I would say use the time whilst you are on the programme to network! It is really important to get known within the startup ecosystem, and the best way to do that is to use the connections you will have access to whilst on the New Frontiers programme. Network with your fellow participants, with other entrepreneurs within the incubation centres, with the facilitators and mentors, and also get out to events to meet potential customers and funders.”

Tony O’Kelly, Programme Manager at ATU – Galway City + Mayo Campuses

“Prioritising market intelligence is crucial, as it serves as a compass for navigating the complex terrain of business establishment and growth. This involves a thorough understanding of your target market, including customer needs, preferences, and behaviours, as well as staying abreast of competitors’ strategies and industry trends. Such insight not only informs product development and marketing strategies but also shapes investment decisions and operational adjustments. By placing a strong emphasis on market intelligence, founders can make well-informed decisions, anticipate market shifts, and adapt their business models accordingly, enhancing the likelihood of long-term success and sustainability in a competitive environment.”

Orla Reynolds, Programme Manager at Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dún Laoghaire

“My recommendation to founders is to really understand the problem you’re solving and know your customer. Develop milestones and timelines: slowly is the only way to get somewhere quickly. Take time to methodically think through your options; look at where you are today, think about what you want the company to become, and begin to plot the steps necessary to achieve your goal. Everything will take longer than you think, and people will take a very long time to reply. Don’t stop moving forward. Even if it feels like you are going around in circles, that’s OK as long as you are spiralling up! Take time for yourself, too.  Remove your self-worth from the success or failure of the business.”

Nick Allen, Programme Manager at TUS – Athlone Campus

“For founders, learning how to acquire and retain customers is paramount. Steve Blank’s insight, often encapsulated in the simple yet profound model of ‘Get, Keep, and Grow’ customers, is a cornerstone in this area. For the early-stage business, the initial goal is to secure the first customer. This ‘Concierge’ customer, so named for their significance in representing the entire business at this stage, requires an unparalleled level of personal attention and service, a level that is challenging to maintain at scale. As the business grows, strategies to acquire and retain multiple customers need to be more streamlined, incorporating tools like CRM systems, sales teams, and efficient communication channels. However, the key takeaway for start-ups is to avoid getting bogged down in elaborate marketing strategies prematurely. Instead, the focus should be on the essentials: acquiring that first crucial customer, providing exceptional service to keep them, and finding ways to grow their value over time. This approach ensures a solid foundation upon which a business can build its future marketing and operational strategies.”

get keep and grow model from Steve BlankGemma Purcell, Programme Manager at SETU – Carlow Campus

“A valuable aspect of New Frontiers is group learning and peer interaction. The group brings together a blend of different skills, experience, and backgrounds. The peer-to-peer support is invaluable, as is the unique contribution each participant brings to the workshops. Being open and sharing expertise in the workshops is encouraged and is then reciprocated by peers in other workshops.”

Mary Casey, Programme Manager at TUS – Limerick Campus

“I would advise participants to approach the programme with a curious mind. Be curious, ask questions, listen intently and probe further so that you – as the leader – can make knowledge-powered decisions. This is the opportunity to investigate the business idea further, ensure you are creating an offering that people want and that they will pay for, making it commercially viable. Don’t be opposed to challenging your early assumptions. New Frontiers gives you the time to step back, carry out in-depth customer discovery by talking to customers to understand their needs, how they are fulfilling this right now, their challenges, their budgets, how they will benefit and achieve value from your offering. Continue being curious as you develop the first version of your product offering and your first business model. Be adaptable to change as you listen to your users’ feedback. New Frontiers opens a wide network to participants from facilitators, mentors, past participants, as well as other entrepreneurs, research centres, and agencies… Ask questions of them, seek advice, and leverage the wonderful startup ecosystem that surrounds you!”

Geraldine Beirne, Programme Manager at ATU – Donegal Letterkenny and Sligo Campuses

“Maximising the peer-to-peer network is a highly under-estimated benefit of participating in Phase 2 of the New Frontiers programme. It is so important to get to know your fellow entrepreneurs – exchange insights, share your challenges and solutions. Over the six months of the programme, you will get to know each other very well as you navigate the journey together. The learnings that the programme provides through the workshops and mentoring are, of course, invaluable in helping to make your business a success. But your peer-to-peer network adds another layer and can open doors to new opportunities. Leverage the diverse perspectives and experiences within your group – they will have a wide range of areas of expertise from marketing to finance, sector specific knowledge and a wide network of contacts that you can tap in to.”

Dr Eugene Crehan, Programme Manager at SETU – Waterford Campus

“Continuously refining your business plan and pitch deck, with the guidance and expertise of workshop facilitators and the New Frontiers team, is a pivotal aspect of laying the groundwork for your entrepreneurial journey. The business plan acts as a critical roadmap, guiding you through the complexities of launching your startup and strategising for customer acquisition. Its importance cannot be overstated, as it not only serves as a blueprint for your company’s direction and goals, but also as a dynamic document that evolves with your venture. Regular updates to your business plan and pitch deck are essential, ensuring they remain relevant and reflect the changing market dynamics and internal growth of your business. This process of constant refinement and adaptation is not just about maintaining a document; it’s about nurturing a living strategy that keeps your business aligned with its objectives and responsive to opportunities and challenges.”

Colm O’Maolmhuire, Programme Manager at TU Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus

“My advice to founders is learn to manage yourself. Create a structure or system to make the best use of your time and to track your progress. It may sound like six months is a long time, but it flies! It’s easy to relax in Month 1 (“Great, I got on the programme!”); however, if you do, it suddenly becomes a five-month programme. There’s lots to do, and the last month will be taken up with worrying about how you’re going to fund yourself afterwards. The successful founders realise you’re not about being on a programme – you’re about building a business. The best way to raise funding to keep the business going is to show you can deliver. And that’s why you need to use your time (and the support we give you) on Phase 2 wisely – so you can raise funding to grow a business you’ve already shown you can start. If you manage yourself and your time well during Phase 2, you will then have a stronger case to make by the end of it.”

Aoife McInerney, Programme Manager at MTU – Cork Campus

“An open mind will help you get the most from New Frontiers. YDKWYDK or ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ applies to all entrepreneurs, as does an immense pride in the business that you’re creating. New Frontiers is designed to support you to build your business by providing you with the time to really test your business model, access to experienced mentors, a supportive peer network AND by challenging assumptions you may have about your business. Realising that changes are needed can be tough, so to really benefit from the experience you’ve got to be ready to engage and participate with an open mind!”

New Frontiers is Enterprise Ireland’s national programme for startup founders. To learn more, read about the programme, check out the eligibility criteria, and find the application deadlines of your nearest programme.

About the author

scarlet-merrillScarlet Bierman

Scarlet 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 Winners Of National Startup Awards 2023

Congratulations To The New Frontiers Winners Of The National Startup Awards 2023

By New Frontiers blog

New Frontiers Winners Of National Startup Awards 2023

The annual National Startup Awards reward excellence in vision and innovation, marketing, and social impact. Open to rising stars across all industries and technologies, the awards help them on their journey to success by providing national and international exposure and credibility. The awards “shine a light on talented founders, innovative products and services, and startups with the potential for rapid growth”.So, who are the most disruptive, scalable, and fundable companies in Ireland? It appears that many of them are Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers participants and alumni. This year saw 14 New Frontiers startups collect awards after a tough regional selection process and live pitching to a panel of expert judges. Congratulations to all the startups who took part, and to the winners from the New Frontiers community below!

National Startup Awards winners 2023 from the New Frontiers programme

Category: AI Focused Startup

“The advent of AI has had significant impacts on the startup landscape and this category is open to startups whose value proposition is centred on artificial intelligence or that utilize AI substantially in their product or service delivery.”

BRONZE: Snappie Dev. Founder: Mihael Melnic (participated in the programme at IADT in partnership with UCD – 2023). Snappie allows users to create top-quality, unique and beautiful websites, instantly, at freelance prices, on a revolutionary AI-based platform.

Category: Tech Startup

“We want to recognise Ireland’s booming tech start-up community and celebrate and reward the nation’s best tech businesses.”

GOLD: ReaDI-Watch. Founder: David Byrne (participated in the programme at TU Dublin – Tallaght Campus – 2021). ReaDI-Watch is an innovation management system (IMS) – a digital platform built by innovation and R&D experts to help companies embrace and unlock their innovation potential across any industry. Using ReaDI-Watch as a centralised platform, they can build, track, protect, and manage  innovation and R&D strategy, including projects, teams, and intellectual property.

SILVER: LiveCosts. Founder: Ciaran Brennan (participated in the programme at TU Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus -2017). LiveCosts is a Blanchardstown, Co Dublin-based business with a simple goal. It tells construction companies if they are making money or not in real time. As is often the case, simple doesn’t mean easy. They collect data and apply it back to the main dashboard. Ciaran started the business in 2017 alongside his brother Niall and Diarmuid Quinn and Livecosts now has 15 staff.

Category: Early Stage start up

“The Early Stage Startup award is designed to recognise Startups that display great potential for future growth. Early Stage Startups can come from any sector but must be under 2 years old (From date of incorporation).”

BRONZE: HomeHop. Founder: Robert Kelly (participated in the programme at TU Dublin – Tallaght Campus – 2023). HomeHop streamlines maintenance and operations for property management companies across the globe. They can reduces maintenance costs, boost revenue, and scales business with HomeHop’s white-labelled, plug-and-play technology.

Category: eCommerce & Retail Startup

“eCommerce is the term describing the conducting of business through online channels, encompassing the outward-facing processes that touch suppliers, partners and customers, and including not just marketing communications but also sales, order taking, delivery, fulfillment and customer service.”

GOLD: Anewmum. Founder: Marian Kennedy (participated in the programme at MTU Cork Campus 2018). Anewmum has created postpartum self-care hygiene products that comfort and support new mothers.

Category: Emerge-Tech Startup

“Emerging technologies are perceived as capable of changing the status quo. Emerge-Tech industries include AI, information technology, wireless data communication, man-machine communication, on-demand printing, bio-technologies, and advanced robotics.”

GOLD: Sports Impact Technologies. Founder: Eoin Tuohy (participated in the programme at TU Dublin -Blanchardstown Campus 2020). Sports Impact Technologies has developed a sensor that monitors and reports any head impacts of a player to their coach, physio, or parent in real time.

SILVER: Druid Learning. Founder: Niamh Faller (participated in the programme at TU Dublin – Grangegorman Campus in partnership with IADT 2020) . The Druid Learning Enterprise content management tool transforms static and archived content, establishing an extensive digital repository for all your content assets. Prepare for AI by using your content to create training sets.

BRONZE: Agri Data Analytics Ireland. Founder: Jack Pilkington (participated in the programme at TUS – Athlone Campus in partnership with Maynooth Campus 2022). Agri Data strives to tackle the climate crisis through innovation in the agricultural sector, focused on reducing enteric methane emissions in line with Ireland’s COP26 pledge of a 30% reduction in methane by 2030. Agri Data Analytics Ireland is currently in the research and prototype development stage of creating a methane testing and monitoring unit called The Bovine Breathalyser which will record and process GHG emission levels produced by ruminant animals.

Category: Fintech Startup

“The rise of fintech has changed the way companies do business. This has opened up a world of possibilities. Businesses can offer more services than ever and for a fraction of the price of what it would have cost before.”

SILVER: Cytidel. Founder: Mathew Conlon (participated in the programme at ATU Galway and Mayo Campuses 2021). Cytidel helps security teams reduce breaches, save time, and stay secure. It offers vulnerability management, cyber risk management, and threat intelligence.

Category: Food and Drink Startup

“The Food and Drink industries play a major role in economic activity in Ireland with a wide-ranging impact on economic growth, employment, and local development.”

GOLD: BiaSol. Founder: Niamh Dooley (participated in the programme at TUS Athlone in partnership with Maynooth University – 2020). BiaSol is a range of milled grains with the ultimate zero-waste approach to reintroducing nutritional food back into the food chain.

SILVER: Well Spent Grain Ltd. Founder: Sunkyung Choi (participated in the programme at TU Dublin – Tallaght campus – 2022). Well Spent Grain is a food upcycling start-up based in Dublin, Ireland.
It collects brewer’s spent grain from local breweries and “spends it well” by creating high-quality and value-added food products such as snack bites.

SILVER: Wexbury Spirits. Founder: Mark Kavanagh (participated in the programme at SETU – Waterford Campus – 2022). Wexbury Spirits produces a range of vodka cream liqueurs made from Irish fruits.

Category: Medtech Startup

“Medtech is already diagnosing, monitoring and treating virtually every disease or condition that affects the human race. From sticking plasters to body scanners, ever more technologies are coming on stream to improve patients’ lives.”

GOLD: Gasgon Medical. Founder: Vincent Forde (participated in the programme at MTU Cork Campus – 2017). Gasgon Medical AirVault™ is a medical device developed by Gasgon Medical (Ireland), intended to remove air-in-line bubbles from intravenous (IV) infusion therapy.

Category: Product and Manufacturing Startup

“The Irish start-up scene may appear to be increasingly dominated by tech and service-focused companies but there’s still a huge market for product businesses.”

GOLD: Omuu Petfood. Founder: Frank Clarke (participated in the programme at DkIT in partnership with DCU – 2022). Omuu is a quality dog food designed by a leading Irish veterinarian. It’s a hypoallergenic dogfood based on insect protein that’s easy on sensitive stomachs and a sustainable product.

See the full list of regional and national winners on the National Startup Awards website. Congratulations again to everyone who took part. 

Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme at IADT Dun Laoghaire

Starting Up In Dún Laoghaire: Meet Programme Manager Orla Reynolds at IADT’s Media Cube

By New Frontiers blog

Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme at IADT Dun Laoghaire

Did you know that Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme is delivered at 18 locations around the country? The programme at the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) is delivered in partnership with University College Dublin, a short distance away in Belfield (Dublin 4).

We talked to Programme Manager Orla Reynolds about New Frontiers at IADT Media Cube, including her approach to programme delivery and the successful new partnership with NovaUCD. Orla brings a unique perspective to the programme, blending her past experience as a participant and a holistic approach to innovation and startup development.

A unique perspective on the programme

Orla Reynolds, New Frontiers Programme Manager at IADT

Orla Reynolds, New Frontiers Programme Manager at IADT

“I manage the programme at IADT, but I’m also an alumna! I took part in New Frontiers at TU Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus back in 2015 to 2016. My design startup manufactured an award-winning modular bookcase and other homewares. So I’ve seen the programme from both sides, and that’s key to how I do my job. I have a good sense of what agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office want, but also what it’s like to be the founder on the other side of that.”

Orla’s background gives her an unparalleled vantage point into the nitty-gritty of startup life, including the complex task of raising funding. But she is interested in much more than the market share, scaling, and exit strategy side of running a startup company. The programme at IADT also considers aspects such as the psychological and environmental impacts of being in business.

“Last year, I introduced sustainability onto the programme at IADT. Climate change is everyone’s responsibility, and it’s become vital to show investors that you’re thinking about this. Some founders start off thinking ‘I don’t run an eco-business, this isn’t relevant to me’, but when you look at the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it’s evident that sustainability applies across the whole business.”

Like other Programme Managers, Orla ensures that wellness is integrated into the programme at crucial junctures, especially during the two-month and four-month reviews. Good mental health isn’t a luxury or an afterthought; it’s integral to sustainable success. A founder who is mentally fit and emotionally balanced is better positioned to inspire their team, negotiate with investors, and make the kind of high-stakes decisions that are par for the course in the startup world.

“To be able to come back to yourself is important at these points. I myself suffered from burnout when running my business. You have to remember that, without you, there is no startup.”

A strong sense of community

A big benefit of the New Frontiers programme is the sense of camaraderie and community between participants. Media Cube is home to a variety of startups, and almost all of them were founded by New Frontiers alumni. Past participants are always willing to give time to the current cohort; some of them sit on panels at events, and there is also a VC in residence, Enterprise Equity. There are a lot of success stories within the building, which means it’s a very motivating environment to be in.

IADT Media Cube

The Media Cube at IADT

“The sense of community is what makes New Frontiers special. It’s a safe space for founders. I always say there are no stupid questions. I’m transparent with participants, and in return I expect them to be transparent with me. If something doesn’t make sense to them, we aren’t explaining it properly. Mutual respect and psychological safety are crucial. It’s all about the founders and how to best support them.”

Phase 2 at IADT is front-loaded into the first four months. Concentrating most of the learning opportunities into this time ensures that knowledge transfer is immersive and intense. Participants then have the last third of the programme to focus on putting all the advice, insights, research, and new skills into practice in their business. Orla’s transparency extends to scheduling, which she shares with her cohort on the first day of the programme so that they know what to expect and can plan their six-month journey with clarity.

One programme, two locations

Some New Frontiers programmes are run exclusively at one location. The IADT programme is one of those that is delivered in partnership with another institution. In this case, the partnership is between IADT Media Cube and NovaUCD.

“This alliance is an essential part of the programme’s architecture, particularly on Phase 2. The programme is run in partnership with NovaUCD. Half our participants will be based at the Media Cube and half at NovaUCD, with events also split across the two sites. What’s great is how the two institutions complement each other, which I believe enhances the range and depth of the programme. You have the ‘creative arts’ strengths of IADT balancing with the ‘technological’ strengths of UCD. The result is a symbiotic and collaborative relationship, meaning we can cater to sectors as diverse as medical devices, fintech, digital media, or food.”

The startup puzzle

Startup is a complex, multifaceted exploration that needs inputs from experts and mentors as well as one’s own intuition and reasoning. Orla describes the startup journey as a treasure hunt, where each piece of advice a founder gets is a part of a larger puzzle.

“It’s too simplistic to think that if you just find the right person, they will have all the answers you need. Each person can give you part of the puzzle, but it’s up to you to follow the trail and get the answers you need. Your own reasoning in decision-making really matters. You need to understand the choices you’re making – why you have decided this particular way or option instead of the other possibilities. If you’re clear in your rationale, you’ll find it easier to build trust with team members, investors, and stakeholders.”

Orla doesn’t just draw on her experience as a founder. Creativity is the thread that runs through her career, but she has worn many hats over the years, including as a professional dancer and bank supervisor. She has built skills in design, product development, mass production, exporting, intellectual property, brand development, and marketing. All this gives her a rounded and grounded approach to the programme.

“I’ve had to reinvent myself multiple times. Reflecting on my time as an early-stage founder: I’ve felt the disappointment from things not going my way, I’ve been a minnow up against huge competitors, and I’ve had the difficult meetings. I think that gives me a lot of empathy. I definitely don’t see my role of Programme Manager as one of box-ticking. I want to see progress, but I want the founders to feel empowered. New Frontiers was one of the happiest times of my working life, and I want to have that same impact on the next generation of founders.”

2023 New Frontiers participants - IADT - Nova

(l-r) 2023 graduation – Sidath Handurukande – CNUX Hub; Marita Kenrick – ARA; Ken Mason – Nugget; Iman Zolanvari – Qlindex; Rebecca Adamson – Aquila; Fergal Meegan – Assiduous; Orla Reynolds – New Frontiers Programme Manager; Ruth Guest – Sersha; Mark O’Brien – AI Interpreting; Helen O’Hara – Store My Stories; Rachel Gallagher – IADT Media Cube; Mihael Melnic – Snappie; Philip Brophy – Push Me; Brian Webb – Switchable; Tom Flanagan – NovaUCD; Anna O’Donovan – IADT Media Cube; Fionnghuala Ní Néill – IADT Media Cube; Michelle Doyle – NovaUCD. Credit: Conor Mulhern, EyeOn Photography

Graduates of New Frontiers at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT)

Twelve startup founders completed the first Phase 2 programme of 2022 at the Media Cube. In the six months since completing the programme, these startups collectively secured just over €930,000 in follow-on financial support or funding from Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices, private investment, and Science Foundation Ireland. The startups have collectively created 19 full-time jobs, two part-time jobs, and more than 15 internship positions (with national and international students). In addition, the startups have entered new export markets in the UK, Portugal, and Germany. See more details about the Media Cube’s showcase and awards event.

2022 New Frontiers at IADT

(l-r) Cormac Finn – SideTeams; Frank McNally – Peledor; Emi Takakura – Slice of Life; Dan Coen – Skippio; Davin MacAnaney – Hamilton Rock; Michael Doherty – MDD IOT; Eimear Vaughan – Karla; Jibraan Esoof – Strohab; Nessa Maguire – Eudaorg; Fiona Kiernan – Zeumed; Conor Duggan – TaxZap; Oisin McEnroe – SayLing; Lisa Geoghegan – SonaLife

If you’re interested in applying to the New Frontiers programme at IADT, you can head over to the IADT location page to learn more about what’s on offer and keep an eye on their upcoming application deadlines on our calendar page. You can also visit the IADT website for more information about the institute, and explore everything the Media Cube has to offer on their website.

[Featured image: (l-r) David Smith – President of IADT; Paula Carroll – National New Frontiers Programme Manager, Enterprise Ireland; Rachel Gallagher – Enterprise and Innovation Manager, IADT Media Cube; Fiona Kiernan – Zeumed; Cormac Finn –  SideTeams; Michelle Doyle – Strategic Innovation Partnerships, NovaUCD; Conor Duggan – TaxZap; Lisa Geoghegan – SonaLife; Tom Flanagan – Director of Enterprise & Commercialisation, NovaUCD; Orla Reynolds – New Frontiers Programme Manager at IADT]

About the author

scarlet-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.

Flower Child: Alexandria Kelly's Journey of Resilience and Business

Flower Child: Alexandria Kelly’s Journey Of Resilience And Business

By New Frontiers blog

Flower Child: Alexandria Kelly's Journey of Resilience and Business

The startup journey is famously bumpy. For every win, there’s a corresponding flurry of obstacles and problems. When we also have setbacks in our personal lives, it makes things even harder. Alexandria Kelly hasn’t just built a thriving business from scratch; she has done so while navigating tumultuous personal health challenges.

The tale of this founder demonstrates the power of grit, determination, and positivity. In a candid conversation, Alexandria unpacks her journey, the inspiration behind her unique products, and the lessons she’s learned along the way. Join us as we delve into the heart of Flower Child and the indomitable spirit of its founder.

Scarlet: Alexandria, your journey with Flower Child began as a blog in 2021 and has since transformed into a thriving business. How did this evolution occur in the midst of your personal health challenges?

Flower Child Alexandria KellyAlexandria: Yes, it started off as a personal project back in 2021. As I shared my gardening passion and other experiences on my blog, a community began to build around it. I was enrolled at SETU – Carlow Campus, studying for my BSc in Business with Marketing at the time. During a period of poor mental health, I was given a set of aromatherapy essential oils. The impact the products had on me was profound, and I started to experiment with the different fragrances and applications like candles. People I knew started asking me to make them, and before I knew it, I was developing a product range. It wasn’t planned as such, it all just happened quite organically.

By the end of 2022, I had graduated and found a full-time job in SETU Carlow’s Marketing Department. I worked on Flower Child in my spare time and the business was really beginning to pick up speed. But just as things were looking up, a severe seizure landed me in hospital with a brain injury. That was in January this year. I have been in and out of hospital, constantly grappling with my health. But I’ve always believed in focusing on what’s within my control. Instead of getting consumed by my health problems, I poured my energy into building the company.

Scarlet: Delving a bit deeper into your health journey, how has your illness impacted your career choices?

Alexandria: Epilepsy has been a part of my life since I was 11. I was misdiagnosed at first, but at 13 I received my diagnosis of frontal lobe Cortical dysplasia. Back then, I was experiencing up to 40 seizures a day. At 13, I underwent life-changing brain surgery. That operation brought some normality back into my life. I was still experiencing seizures – partial seizures, tonic-clonic seizures, and absent seizures – but it’s a world of difference from before the surgery. As we speak now, I am currently in hospital preparing for further brain surgery that will hopefully get rid of the seizures completely, but for now I am living with a daily mixture of seizure activity.

The flexibility of my job has always been crucial for me, considering my health. If I get sick or my health takes a downturn, I can’t keep to a regular work routine. I had to leave my position at SETU after my injury in January. I’ve always leaned towards entrepreneurship, partly due to my health pushing me in that direction. In the past, I’ve launched businesses centred around my hobbies and interests. It’s definitely the flexibility that drew me to entrepreneurship, and the possibility of setting my own pace and boundaries.

I know many people in similar health situations who feel that entrepreneurship is off-limits for them. But I’ve always seen it differently. I believe being an entrepreneur allows you to shape a livelihood that fits your unique needs and lifestyle. When I had my injury, I realised that Flower Child could cater to my health needs and provide employment for myself and others.

Scarlet: Your products carry a unique inspiration. Could you share a bit about that?

Flower Child - Lakeside Daydream candleAlexandria: Absolutely. My family home, Turra Lodge Farm, has a beautiful garden which my Mum and Nana designed and planted when I was younger. It is a cornerstone of my mental health. Luckily, my family has indulged my passion, or obsession, with gardening for years now and given me lots of creative freedom to develop different parts of it. That’s what my blog initially revolved around.

When my mental health was low, I began practices of mindfulness, meditation, and breath work. So, each fragrance in my product range is not only a nod to my lifestyle but also designed to offer the medicinal benefits of aromatherapy. By using them, you tap into the natural essence of life.

In our family, we say that entrepreneurship is “in our blood”. We all, including my siblings and parents, run businesses. And when it came to Flower Child, the nurturing from programmes like New Frontiers and guidance from the Local Enterprise Office have also played pivotal roles. Joining the New Frontiers programme was pure chance. I just happened to be having a chat with someone on campus one day, and they suggested I apply. My lecturers were incredible too, always nurturing my entrepreneurial spirit.

Scarlet: What’s the best advice you’ve been given, and what advice do you give to others?

Alexandria: The best advice I have been given is, “Don’t trust the first answer you’re given.” That has helped me navigate many situations. The advice I give to other people is, “You are not your circumstances.” In life and business, you’re in control of how you play the hand you’ve been dealt, and you can overcome whatever life throws at you.

I’ve been given bad advice, too. I was told to scale before I was ready for it. The startup world often promotes a “go big or go home” mindset, but scaling too quickly in the past set me back rather than helped me forward.

My guiding principle is to never quit on a bad day. Being a founder is tough, and there are days you contemplate a regular nine-to-five. But for someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, the highs of being your own boss make it all worthwhile. When it comes to resilience, bad days are inevitable. They come and go, much like the waves in an ocean. The peaks make the troughs worth enduring. I suppose I’ve built up my resilience because I simply didn’t have a choice. Enduring my epilepsy has been a blessing. I don’t think “poor me”, I’m thankful for the challenges my health has thrown at me because it has made me who I am today.

Scarlet: Lastly, how do you balance work and personal wellbeing, and what’s next for Flower Child?

Alexandria: Taking care of my wellbeing is vital. One strict rule I adhere to is keeping my bedroom a no-work zone. Mornings are my own; I give myself the first hour of the day to properly wake up before diving into work. Ensuring downtime away from the business keeps my mental load balanced. Being part of a close-knit family, we often spend evenings together, even if it’s busy season and I’m in the workshop.

Looking ahead, the next twelve months are set to be exciting. We’re renovating a workshop, and I’m preparing to hire my first employees. From there, I’m keen to explore exporting and continue scaling Flower Child, but always organically!

Discover Alexandria’s world of inspired aromatherapy candles, melts, and sprays in her online shop at flower-child.ie, where you can also read more about her epilepsy or simply pick up some cool gardening tips!

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.

Dermot O Shea Taoglas On The Highs and Lows Of Building A 100 Million Business

Dermot O’Shea (Taoglas) On The Highs & Lows Of Building A €100 Million Business

By New Frontiers blog

Dermot O Shea Taoglas On The Highs and Lows Of Building A 100 Million Business

Dermot O’Shea and Ronan Quinlan founded Taoglas nearly two decades ago. Dermot participated on the precursor to the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme, the South East Enterprise Platform Programme (SEEPP), which was run by our Programme Manager in Waterford, Dr Eugene Crehan. Taoglas has grown from strength to strength, and at their recent graduation Showcase and Awards event, South East Technological University (SETU) in Waterford inducted Dermot into their New Frontiers Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame.

Enniscorthy-headquartered Taoglas is a leader in complex Internet of Things connectivity solutions. Its technology is applied in areas as diverse as mobility and infrastructure, transportation, smart industry, connected health, smart cities, and even in space. Earlier this year, the company made a deal with private equity backer Graham Partners that values the business at around $200 million.

Dr Eugene Crehan interviewed alumnus Dermot about his experience of SEEPP and his learnings from nearly 20 years growing a cutting-edge business.

Eugene: What motivated you to set up Taoglas, and what challenges did you face in the early stages of your business? I know that your co-founder, Ronan Quinlan, was based in Taiwan and you were in Wexford.

Dermot: My co-founder and I met in Taiwan. We both wanted to work in global Irish technology company and we both aspired to be entrepreneurs. Also, I think we had a great work ethic. We had both worked in the electronics industry for some time before that and were looking for opportunities in that area. After trying some different products and ideas, we were offered some GPS antennas from a vendor we were working with – used in Sat Nav units at the time – and they were an instant hit with many potential clients building GPS into their product for tracking or location-based services.

The biggest initial challenges were financial and size-related, for example, how do you hire people to do complex projects? Or, how do you win large customers as a small and new business? Building credibility while building up your cash flow so that you can deliver what you’re promising is tough. The first year of the business, the planning stage, happened in Taiwan where we were both based. Then my wife and I moved back to Ireland and registered the business here, as we wanted an Irish headquartered business with Taiwanese excellence in manufacturing. We’re still an Irish headquartered company today, and the name TaoGlas means ‘The Green Way’.

Eugene: Why did you join SEEPP and what did you hope to get from it?

Dermot: When you start up, you’re always wondering what you’re missing and what you’re not doing. It was like a kind of paranoia, I suppose. I registered for a Start your own Business course with the local Enterprise Board [Ed: the predecessor of Local Enterprise Offices] to refresh my business skills in areas such as cash flow, profit and loss, marketing, etc. Because we had an international business, the Enterprise Board pointed me towards the South East Enterprise Platform Programme (SEEPP). It had more content relevant to growing an international business. And that’s how I met you and came onto the programme.

Eugene: How did you find the programme? Did it meet your expectations?

Dermot: The programme offered a bit of everything. Apart from the funding support, it could also help out with relevant expenses. Let’s say you’d identified an important opportunity in the USA, the programme would contribute towards the cost of your flights to go there. But the financial support was only one aspect.

A big benefit was the interactions with the other participants. Typically, as a founder, you’re working away on your own in some temporary office in the attic or the garden shed. On the programme, we were all developing international business but there was a good variety of business ideas so none of us were in direct competition. There was a lot of camaraderie and we made connections that would last forever. That was really special.

But also, I have to say that the content of the programme was excellent. There were experienced business founders coming in to share knowledge in areas you might not even think about. I remember learning about how to really leverage the power of websites back when company sites were no more than a basic brochure. This encouraged us to think of our site as an interactive tool, which gave us a competitive advantage over bigger, more established companies. It was very educational.

“There was a lot of camaraderie and we made connections that would last forever. That was really special.”

What’s great as well is that you have kept in touch with all of us ever since. You don’t miss an opportunity to say good things about us and promote the business when you can. It really is a network for life.

After the SEEPP, we became an Enterprise Ireland client. One of the first things that EI did was match me up with a mentor, an experienced businessman who didn’t hesitate to tell me some very hard truths about the business. I found that really valuable. Whenever we needed support from EI, especially the overseas offices, they didn’t hesitate to pull out all the stops. A few years ago, we won some European Space Agency funding which is managed here by Enterprise Ireland, so at the moment we are working closely with them on that.

Eugene: How did you stay motivated and focused during challenging times when growing Taoglas?

Dermot: You have to have a true belief in yourself and the journey. You will launch products that don’t work. You will do stupid things. But that’s OK as long as you bounce back. To build a sustainable business, you need to build resilience. We’ve been through the recession, through Covid, and through the current supply chain issues because resilience is part of our culture at Taoglas.

As the founder or CEO, you can’t expect every day to be a great day. If things go right; you have to give everyone else the praise. If things go wrong, you have to take the blame. But it’s not the great days that define you. It’s the daily grind, the dedication, the ability to take the knocks and keep going. You don’t win business because your website is the best; you win it because you’re able to get in front of the right customer and convince them to choose you.

Regardless of whatever other drama is happening in the background, you keep on the mission. Persistence and hard work are what really pay off in business. If you’re in it for the champagne and unicorns, you’re better off going to Hollywood.

Eugene: At our event, you talked about the importance of work-live balance. As the CEO of a large company with teenage children, how do you maintain a work-life balance and what strategies do you use to avoid burnout?

Dermot: I didn’t have any strategies until six or seven years ago and that’s why I ‘burned out’ in 2017 and had to make some changes. Most CEOs and entrepreneurs are excellent at putting a good spin on things, especially in Ireland. “Everything’s fine! My arm’s falling off but everything’s OK!” We never want to say there’s anything wrong in the business, and of course that makes sense to a certain degree. You don’t want customers thinking things aren’t going well. So, it becomes second nature to keep saying everything is great. Maybe that’s why so many CEOs and founders feel lonely, in the early days especially.

My advice is don’t isolate yourself. Stay connected – talk to mentors, have coffee with a peer, go and talk to your customers. Some people don’t do well working from home because it is isolating, so get out there and be with other people.

“Persistence and hard work are what really pay off in business. If you’re in it for the champagne and unicorns, you’re better off going to Hollywood.”

For a while, I made the business the most important part of my life. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t, in fact, the most important thing. It’s maybe the fifth or sixth thing on my priority list now, and even our investors know that. Because if I’m not good and things aren’t good in my family life, I’m not going to be a good CEO. Now I work fewer hours, but I work more effectively and I feel that I perform better and can handle more stress. Experience helps as well, after 20 years in the job I’ve seen most things and problems that would have seemed impossible to deal with before are just bumps in the road now.

I made changes in my life such as giving up alcohol, eating better, and travelling less. I also built a management team that takes on some of the things I used to handle myself. It’s a process, and I think a lot of people forget that you have to work on yourself and not just the business. Some people have this mentally of, “If I go on this business course, everything will be better.” Actually, they’d probably be better off getting therapy or going to the gym or taking some time out. Entrepreneurs aren’t great at admitting weaknesses, but we should try to change that.

Eugene: I know you have ambitious plans for the business. How do you identify and evaluate new business opportunities, and do you have criteria to determine whether to pursue them?

Dermot: Yes, I have a very scientific process called my gut instinct. Well, that’s part of it anyway. I do have 20 years of experience and I also know who to ask for feedback on ideas. In the business, we have an innovation committee that works with our engineers, salespeople, customers, and suppliers to understand where the market it going and what types of products we should work on. This means that if we launch something that no one wants to buy, which we have done, we should have some early warning signs that it might be a bad idea. It’s not good to just decide for yourself and then hope for the best, so we have people and processes in place to help.

But at the end of the day someone – you – has to decide if it’s a go or no-go on a particular project. The data, feedback, numbers, experiences, analytics are good information, but you go with your gut instinct at the end of the day. If it’s wrong, you can adapt and change and will feel comfortable with that because it was your decision. If you had gone against your gut, that would be a really frustrating. Luckily, we have enough projects and products that we aren’t reliant on any one thing for success.

I do have ambitious plans for the business. If I look ahead 10 years, similar things are happening at Taoglas but hopefully we have more products in more markets. There are a few new areas I’m interested in exploring, like marine, mining, and maybe defence. We’ll have added new component lines, effectively creating more products that we can sell to our existing customers. We also aim to do one acquisition each year, allowing us to sell our products into new markets.

Last year, the company hit its target turnover of €100 million; our target is now €1 billion by 2030. After that, we’ll no doubt be chasing a target of €10 billion. But beyond that, we want to have a great company culture, with 12 or 13 locations around the world and up to a couple of thousand employees. I want Taoglas to be a great, fun company to work for.

Dermot O’Shea receiving his award at SETU

Dermot O Shea (Taoglas), SETU New Frontiers Hall of Fame - with Paula Carroll

(l-r front) Paula Carroll, National New Frontiers Manager at Enterprise Ireland; Dr Eugene Crehan, New Frontiers Programme Manager at SETU – Waterford Campus; and Dermot O’Shea, CEO of Taoglas. (l-r back) Brian Fives, Senior Development Adviser at Enterprise Ireland and Dr Tom O’Toole, Dean of the School of Business SETU


Dermot O'Shea, centre, receiving his award

(l-r) Dr Tom O’Toole, Dean of the School of Business SETU; Dermot O’Shea, CEO of Taoglas; and Dr Eugene Crehan, New Frontiers Programme Manager at SETU – Waterford Campus

Our congratulations to Dermot on his induction to the SETU New Frontiers Hall of Fame. Dermot joins two prior SETU inductees, David Whelan of XR Engage in Waterford and Edward Hendrick of Sonru in Wexford. Read more about the ceremony on the SETU website.

Read more about the awards ceremony and the recent graduates of New Frontiers at SETU – Waterford Campus, including award winners Praveen Kaur of Uoto, Chris McGarry of Migim, and Susan O’Neill of Sulu Solutions.

Four Female Founders With Game-Changing Startups In The Female Market - New Frontiers

Four Female Founders With Game-Changing Startups Targeting The Female Market

By New Frontiers blog

Four Female Founders With Game-Changing Startups In The Female Market - New Frontiers

There has been a global rise in startups created by women that are addressing the unique needs of women, solving issues faced by women, or creating products for women. This focus on the female market is something we’ve seen on the New Frontiers programme too, so we decided to talk to four outstanding female founders about their experiences.

We asked them about their their ideas, learnings, inspirations, and priorities. The four alumnae are Heidi Davis of IdentifyHer (2021 alumna of New Frontiers at TUD Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus), Grainne Byrne of Norma Therapy (2022 alumna of New Frontiers at TUD Dublin – City Campus), Deborah Brock of Nua Fertility (2018 alumna of New Frontiers at TUD Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus), and Alison Clarke of Fembition (2022 alumna of New Frontiers at ATU – Sligo Campus).

Question 1: What does your startup do and why is this an idea whose time has come?

Heidi Davis of IdentifyHer (2021 alumna at TUD Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus)Heidi Davis: There are 440 million women going through the menopausal transition worldwide and 330 million of these women will experience symptoms that are negatively affecting their lives at work and at home. We know that about 60% of women that suffer from their symptoms will seek medical help, but only 30% of these women will get a diagnosis and treatment plan, leaving 70% of the women wanting help to suffer. The simple reason women do not get a diagnosis and treatment plan easily is that there are no clear diagnostic tests to establish perimenopause. Clinicians rely on self-reported symptoms on the frequency and severity of symptoms to establish perimenopause and prescribe treatment. We are developing a first-of-its-kind wearable biosensor and digital platform that can passively quantify & profile the frequency and severity of menopausal symptoms, providing women and clinicians with the necessary information to diagnose & personalise symptom management.

Grainne Byrne of Norma Therapy (2022 alumna at TUD Dublin – City Campus)Grainne Byrne: Norma is a psychosexual wellbeing platform and app. Our first product is a digital support programme for two very common conditions that impact sexual wellbeing, vaginismus and dyspareunia, which can affect approximately 1 in 5 in women.* These conditions can cause pain, anxiety, and difficulties with things like penetrative sex, inserting menstrual products, or undergoing a smear test. Our dynamic programme empowers these people with the knowledge and the tools to understand, manage and overcome these conditions at home today. Thankfully, in recent years, there has been a surge of much-needed, user-centric innovations in areas like cycle tracking, fertility, and menopause. At Norma, we are definitely excited to be riding the crest of this long-overdue femtech wave.

*When I use the terms “women” or “female” above and below, this acknowledges that we are including individuals who have vaginal/vulvar anatomy but may not identify with those gender labels.

Deborah Brock of Nua Fertility (2018 alumna at TUD Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus)Deborah Brock: Nua Fertility is revolutionising the field of reproductive health by harnessing the power of the microbiome to enhance and optimise fertility outcomes. We combine personal experience, scientific research, and innovative products and digital solutions to optimise the microbiome for fertility success. The idea behind Nua Fertility is one whose time has come as the area of the microbiome for reproductive health is one of the most innovative and growing areas in fertility health. There is a rising awareness of the significant role that the microbiome plays in reproductive health, and scientific advancements have highlighted its impact on various aspects of fertility.

With this increased understanding, individuals and couples are actively seeking effective and holistic approaches to enhance their fertility. They are looking beyond traditional methods and are eager to explore the potential of the microbiome in reproductive health. As pioneers in this field, our startup is at the forefront of this transformative shift, providing individuals and couples with new possibilities for achieving their dreams of parenthood. The time has come for our startup because we are at the forefront of an exciting and rapidly expanding field. By leveraging the power of the microbiome, we are offering innovative products and digital solutions that are backed by scientific rigor and personalised support. We are empowering individuals and couples to take control of their fertility health and explore the untapped potential of the microbiome in fertility.

Alison Clarke of Fembition (2022 alumna at ATU – Sligo Campus)Alison Clarke: Every day, women experiencing fertility problems walk out of their career, resulting in depleted talent pools and costing employers tens of thousands. Fembition is a pioneering women’s fertility and leadership platform for progressive employers who want to retain their top female talent, close the gender gap and build a more inclusive culture at work. Essentially, we provide analytics, networking and peer support for women in business who are experiencing a challenging fertility journey. One of the biggest challenges for many women is managing their career whilst they’re trying to conceive. We work with these women through our platform and provide resources, workshops, and live support.

Today, employers are more receptive to providing support for women’s health related challenges, as they acknowledge that this has an impact on productivity, performance, and morale. In addition, businesses are under pressure to close the gender gap. Later this year, its anticipated that the EU Pay Transparency Directive will be signed into law, meaning that employers will have the disclose their gap, and their strategy to reduce it. By supporting women’s health-related issues, employers are significantly more likely to retain these employees in the long term.

Question 2: What’s the single biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting your business?

Heidi Davis: Funds are not secured until they are in the bank. Changes can be made up until the final day, and we had exactly that. Changes to the amount being invested etc. at the last minute. These are challenges you can get around, grow from and maybe even be better off with in the long term, but it can feel very disheartening at that moment.

Grainne Byrne: Trusting my instincts has been the most valuable lesson I’ve learned since starting Norma. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the opinions and reactions of others when you’re launching a new venture or introducing a unique proposition. When I first talked about these conditions, I encountered puzzled looks from people who had never heard of them. This lack of awareness was down to the fact that they have long been under-researched, dismissed and neglected in our society. Many people have suffered in silence for years without the language to talk about these problems, never mind accessing tangible solutions! Having experienced chronic vaginismus myself for over three years, nobody understands the existing barriers to diagnosis, care and information better than I do. Therefore, if you’re building a solution to help solve a problem that you know inside-out, try to filter the feedback you receive and seek out sounding boards that can see the big picture, just like you do.

Deborah Brock: The biggest lesson I’ve learned since starting my business is about resilience. There have been so many ups and downs along the way, but what really stands out to me is the importance of being able to pick yourself back up after those knockbacks and keep pushing forward. You see, being an entrepreneur isn’t always smooth sailing. There are moments when things don’t go as planned, when you face obstacles and setbacks that make you question everything. But it’s in those moments that resilience becomes your superpower. For me, resilience is all about having that fire within me that refuses to let failures define who I am or what I’m capable of. It’s about staying determined and not letting the tough times dampen my spirit. Honestly. there have been many moments when I’ve felt discouraged, but I’ve learned to never lose sight of our mission and the people we are serving.

Our customers are the heart of everything we do. They’re the reason I started this business in the first place. They are the ones who keep me going, even when things get tough. When I have moments of doubt (there have been many), I look up above my desk and I see a smiling Sebastian (Nua baby) with a beautiful handwritten letter from his mum thanking us for creating Nua Fertility as we became part of her journey to bring him into the world- that’s what drives me forward. Resilience has taught me to view challenges as opportunities for growth. Instead of letting setbacks knock me down, I’ve learned to see them as steppingstones on the path to success. Each stumble becomes a chance to learn, adapt, and come back even stronger.

But it’s not just about bouncing back from failure. Resilience is also about maintaining a positive mindset. It’s about staying hopeful, even when things seem bleak. Trust me, there have been moments when I’ve felt overwhelmed and doubted myself, but I’ve learned to approach challenges with a problem-solving attitude. I search for creative solutions, knowing that there’s always a way forward, especially by surrounding yourself with the right people who give you good advice and always listen to those who have been there before and made the mistakes. So, if you’re on this entrepreneurial journey too, remember the power of resilience. Embrace the ups and downs, knowing that they’re all part of the ride. Stay determined, never lose sight of your mission, and keep serving those who rely on you.

Alison Clarke: Always ask for help when you need it. There’s no need to try to figure everything out on your own!

Question 3: What inspires you to keep going despite the challenges women still face in business?

Heidi Davis: Easy, what keeps me going are two things: 1. I have full support from my husband, and he is cheering me on always, on good and bad days. 2. To reduce the challenges that women face we need to continue pushing for change. It is great to be play a minor part of this by persevering and showing up every day to challenge the current ways.

Grainne Byrne: The simple fact that I can see other Irish women entrepreneurs succeeding with their businesses is a huge motivator for me. There is so much power in seeing yourself being represented. As they say, if you can see it, you can be it. Moreover, since I started building Norma, many female entrepreneurs in Ireland have readily and generously given me the time to pick their brain about their individual journeys. It has been so valuable for me to connect with those who are further down the road and have conquered similar challenges. Due to the strong entrepreneurship ecosystem in Ireland, I’ve also been able to develop a phenomenal group of female entrepreneurs that I can luckily call my friends. At the end of the day, being able to support one other through tough times and celebrate our respective wins together is what I find most inspiring.

Deborah Brock: What inspires me to keep going despite the challenges women still face in business is the incredible progress we have made and the potential for even greater change. More women started businesses in 2020 than men, showcasing the determination and resilience of women entrepreneurs! Despite these achievements, women still encounter barriers such as limited funding, gender biases, work-life balance challenges, and lack of support. However, these challenges only fuel my passion to create a more inclusive and equitable business environment. Addressing gender biases requires challenging stereotypes and advocating for equal opportunities. By breaking through patriarchal norms and showcasing our capabilities, we can change the narrative around women in business and create a more inclusive culture.

Despite these challenges, I am inspired by the progress we have made and the potential for further change. By sharing our experiences, raising our voices against biases, and supporting one another, we can bridge the gender gap in entrepreneurship and create a more inclusive and supportive business environment. I am motivated to make an impact and be a source of guidance and support for other women who may be facing similar challenges. By supporting each other, sharing our mistakes and imparting knowledge, we can continue to break barriers, challenge norms, and create a more equitable and empowering business landscape for women entrepreneurs worldwide.

Our work at Nua Fertility focuses on harnessing the power of the microbiome to enhance and optimise fertility outcomes. We are pioneers in this innovative and untapped field, highlighting the significant role the microbiome plays in reproductive health. By leveraging this knowledge, we are providing individuals and couples with new possibilities for bringing life into the world. While setbacks and knockbacks are a part of the journey, the motivation to pick ourselves back up comes from the belief in the transformative impact our work can have. The untapped potential in the field of reproductive health, coupled with our groundbreaking work at Nua Fertility, inspires me to persevere. We are at the forefront of this transformative shift, and by continuing to push boundaries, we can create a positive impact on the overall gender gaps that exist.

Ultimately, our mission is driven by the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to experience the joy of bringing life into the world. This is what keeps me motivated and determined to overcome obstacles, and it is a constant reminder of the importance of our work at Nua Fertility.

Alison Clarke: It’s expected to take over 130 years to close the gender gap. We all need to play our part. Just 50 years ago it was illegal for women with children to have any type of professional development – it was even illegal to step foot onto the trading floor at the London Stock Exchange. It sounds barbaric, but it wasn’t that long ago. When things get tough, I remind myself that if it wasn’t for the women that advocated for gender equality we’d still be there, and that I too have to play my role to make things better for future generations.

Question 4: What is your number one priority in the next six months?

Heidi Davis: Finalise our product development and raise our seed round.

Grainne Byrne: Without a doubt, our most important objective for the next six months is to launch and rigorously test our MVP. As I come from a consumer research background, staying close to the end user is a non-negotiable for me, as it’s critical that we build Norma to truly fulfil their core needs. Bringing this platform to life is such a gratifying and invigorating challenge, as it’s exactly the lifeline I needed when I was at my lowest with vaginismus. My co-founder, Dr. Natasha Langan, is a dual senior clinical psychologist and a COSRT accredited psychosexual therapist. In her private psychosexual therapy work, she is consistently faced with glaring need for a digital support platform like Norma. Something that collectively drives and excites us is the potential scale of the positive impact we can have on people’s intimate lives, all from the comfort of their own home, wherever that may be.

Deborah Brock: Our number one priority in the next six months is finding the right investor who is a great fit for our company and can support our ambitious growth plans. We are seeking an investor who truly understands the transformative nature of the microbiome-reproductive health connection and recognises the immense potential of our work. Additionally, we aim to highlight the research work we have undertaken with our fertility partner and showcase the remarkable results we are seeing in clinical settings. By sharing these outcomes, we can further establish the credibility and efficacy of our approach.

Finding the right investor who shares our vision and values is crucial for driving our expansion and reaching a wider audience. Their support and resources will enable us to scale our operations, expand our research efforts, and continue making a positive impact in the field of reproductive health. By focusing on securing the right investor and showcasing our research work, we can advance our mission of revolutionising reproductive health through the power of the microbiome.

Alison Clarke: PR is our number one focus. We want to make sure that those who crave the type of service we provide know its available, and that they can access it via their employer.

Our thanks to these four amazing women for their candid thoughts and insights. Find out more about their businesses at identifyher.ai, nuafertility.com, fembition.co, and  feelnorma.com.

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 rubiconcentre.ie, 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.

New Frontiers Celebrates 10 Years Of Supporting Innovative Irish Startups

New Frontiers Celebrates 10 Years Of Supporting Innovative Irish Startups

By New Frontiers blog

New Frontiers Celebrates 10 Years Of Supporting Innovative Irish Startups

One of the benefits of the New Frontiers programme – particularly Phase 2 – is the access to networking. Whether it’s exploring synergies within your programme cohort or more formal networking events, programme alumni agree that New Frontiers gives them lots of opportunities to build relationships far and wide.

Although interrupted by the pandemic, an annual networking event has been a regular feature of the programme over the past decade. This year it was finally back after the hiatus! Recent graduates from every programme around the country were invited to a day of informative insights and – importantly – opportunities to network with alumni from other locations. (To see a recap of the event, hop over to our YouTube channel. We will also be adding interviews with some of the participants in the coming weeks, so don’t forget to subscribe to the channel!)

This year’s New Frontiers Annual Networking Event was held in Mullingar on 23rd March. Three panels were held, hosted by our MC, Conor Carmody, with a lunch break providing valuable and timely sustenance over chats and introductions. There was also a breakout session (allowing participants to discuss their 2023 priorities in small groups) and plenty of other opportunities for attendees to mingle and exchange contact information.

Our thanks to the following alumni and supporters of the programme for agreeing to be on our panels:

New Frontiers, 10 Years Growing – alumni panel

  • Kevin McCaffrey, Tr3dent
  • Yvonne Comer, Rugby Smarts
  • Deborah Brock, Nua Fertility
  • Raj Lyons Chohan, EV Energy

The Funding Horizon – panel discussion 

  • Chris Burge, Spark Crowdfunding
  • Christine Charlton, LEO Westmeath
  • Brian Sheridan, Enterprise Ireland

Building Scale – fireside chat

  • Feargal Brady, No Frixion
  • Rory O’Connor, Scurri

This was a special year for the New Frontiers family as the programme is 10 years old. Since 2013, New Frontiers has supported an incredible 5,000 early-stage entrepreneurs in a wide variety of sectors, with 1,700 going on to Phase 2. New Frontiers startups have raised many millions in funding (in fact, New Frontiers alumni made up a significant portion of successful Competitive Start Fund applicants – this fund has recently been replaced by PSSF, which we will be writing about soon) and created jobs all around Ireland.

Today, the programme is delivered at 18 locations nationwide. Beyond networking, benefits of the programme include training, mentoring, incubation space, access to research and development capabilities, and a financial stipend during Phase 2 (€15,000 tax-free). It’s the ideal programme for first-time entrepreneurs of any age and most sectors are eligible. You can see more features of the programme and eligibility criteria on our About page.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up with news from the programme and our current and past participants!

About the author

scarlet-merrill

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 Alumni Case Study Adrienne Magnier and Zarasyl

Alumni Profiles: Adrienne Magnier and Zarasyl

By New Frontiers blog

New Frontiers Alumni Case Study Adrienne Magnier and Zarasyl

Adrienne Magnier’s startup story is one of a serendipitous business opportunity followed up by five years of hard work. Her company, Zarasyl, has created a “miracle cream” for horses and companion animals. Read on to discover how Adrienne charted her path to international success.

Adrienne previously worked in software development, bringing software products to the health and human services market. This meant she already had a deep understanding of what it takes to develop and deliver a product to market and work with customers on a global scale. Adrienne’s husband is involved in the thoroughbred horse business in County Meath, so the couple were around horses every day.

Around five years ago, they were introduced to the technology behind Zarasyl. The formulation was the result of a decade of research at Cambridge University (UK) and was initially developed for human use. Adrienne and her husband knew that a few people had been using the cream on animals, and decided this was a business opportunity worth further exploration.

Starting small with some initial batches of samples, they started to use Zarasyl on the farm and trialled it with a group of local vets and horse owners. The feedback was really positive! From initial research, Adrienne decided to bring this technology market. She focused on the regulatory and compliance requirements involved in bringing the first product, an equine barrier cream. Zarasyl Equine was launched to the market in August 2019 – initially in Ireland and then expanding into the UK.

“From the outset when you look at what you have to do to bring something to market in a space like this, it’s overwhelming. And as a business owner, you wear so many hats on any given day – regulatory, operations, sales, marketing, financial… You must focus on them all to be a success. That’s why New Frontiers was a great programme to be on. It looks at all those skills and how they come together.”

But what is Zarasyl exactly? It’s based on novel silicate technology.  Silicon is the third most common trace element in mammals and is essential for healthy connective tissue growth.  Zarasyl provides the ultimate healing environment – a barrier that is breathable and highly moisturising. The cream is also steroid-free and antibiotic-free, making it very safe for animals and owners.

Zarasyl Equin The Miracle CreamBecause Zarasyl is a new product, buyers may not know what it does, how it works, or why it’s so effective. This means that Adrienne’s first step in selling the product would typically mean a visit to the veterinary surgery, farm, or horse yard to have a face-to-face discussion with the buyer. These trips became impossible during Covid-19, so Adrienne turned her attention to the USA, reaching out to buyers individually and asking if they would like to trial the product.

This is how Adrienne painstakingly grew her base in the USA. Once restrictions had been lifted, she was able to start attending US conferences and trade shows. In time, word of mouth gained momentum and people started getting in touch with the company directly. Today, a host of leading equestrians and veterinary surgeons – both here and in America – use and endorse the product.

“A team of veterinary surgeons at Cornell University who came across Zarasyl were so enthusiastic about the product that they instigated a study. A paper has just been approved for publication in the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine and will be published quite soon.”

The company’s second product is for companion animals and launched in January this year. Adrienne has managed to really leverage organic growth and word of mouth in growing her business, with a continued focus on educating vets about the products. Zarasyl is listed by three of the four largest veterinary distributors in the US, which is a fantastic result in such a short time.

One of the most important things about Zarasyl is the absence of antibiotics and steroids. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is working hard to tackle the use of antibiotics because antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today. In addition, any animal that competes is subject to very tight anti-doping and controlled medication restrictions, limiting what can be used to treat them.

Skin problems such as dermatitis are one of the most common reasons for dogs to be taken to the vet, and lots of other domesticated animals suffer from skin issues. Zarasyl is a novel product that’s very safe for pets, as well as their owners, when their skin is compromised.

But even novel products need a solid business behind them to succeed. Having decided to leave her job and focus on the startup full-time, Adrienne applied to New Frontiers. She joined the programme at Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) – Athlone Campus, arriving just before the end of Phase 1. She found the programme, and the financial stipend, very helpful during that period.

“New Frontiers provides a good team environment while you’re working on becoming a rounded business owner. The other participants come from different backgrounds and are building different businesses, but you feel you’re all in it together! There is great structure to the programme and the access to experts is very valuable. You really feel like you’re with people who have your back and want you to succeed. The support is what I would call realistic but positive.”

Adrienne’s team up to now has mainly been composed of consultants and advisors, but now that Zarasyl is an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Startup (HPSU), she is working on her first hires. She has licenced the global rights to the Zarasyl technology, so her ultimate goal is to be in every vet’s dermatology toolbox around the world. She is focused on continued growth in the US market and other markets are opening up on a weekly basis. She is also focused on the product roadmap based on the underlying novel technology.

Adrienne’s approach to product validation and marketing has really paid off. Her advice to other startup entrepreneurs embarking on this stage of the business is to be mindful of rushing ahead too quickly.

“Don’t try to be all things to all people. You may have various potential markets, but you won’t have the budget to go after all of them at once. Rather than diluting your reach, stay laser-focused on your route to market. We launched our second product recently and for now we are concentrating primarily on veterinary surgeries as our route to market, which includes educating vets about Zarasyl and why/when it’s the right choice. You can’t take on everywhere at once.”

To learn more about Zarasyl, visit https://zarasyl.ie/

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.

Business advice from New Frontiers Programme Manager Jenni Timony

Former Programme Manager Jenni Timony Shares Insights For Startup Founders

By New Frontiers blog

Business advice from New Frontiers Programme Manager Jenni Timony

Jenni Timony is a past New Frontiers Programme Manager and, more recently, the founder of her own startup – FitPink. In a wide-ranging conversation, we explored Jenni’s three decades of entrepreneurial experience, and how it has shaped her approach to her new business.

Jenni Timony former New Frontiers Programme Manager and founder of FitPink

Jenni Timony, former New Frontiers Programme Manager and founder of FitPink

Based in Donegal, FitPink is an activewear business selling functional fitness clothing for women. The company takes a women-focused approach to product development: designed for women and run for women. Starting off with leggings and sweatshirts, Jenni soft-launched the company in 2019, fitting the work around her day job at the Innovation Centre in ATU – Sligo Campus. In fact, she didn’t work full-time on FitPink until November the following year.

The business had its full launch in January 2020, eight weeks before the pandemic hit. Jenni feels that the changes in lifestyle and shopping habits caused by Ireland’s lockdowns probably accelerated the growth of the startup by two years. It brought people into ecommerce that previously would not have bought online, meaning the brand got in front of people much faster than might have happened otherwise. Luckily, these customers also proved to be very loyal.

But it’s a myth to think that if you just launch a website, you can simply sit back and watch the sales pour in. FitPink’s success to date is not accidental. What learnings from previous ventures did Jenni bring to this business? How did she get here?

An early introduction to business

Born in Ireland to an Irish father and Indian mother, Jenni’s family immigrated to Australia during the 1980s recession. She attended high school in Australia and then returned to Ireland for university. Unfortunately, the family’s time living abroad meant that Jenni would have to pay ‘international student’ fees. These being out of reach, she decided to work instead and became self-employed at the age of 18 – starting off with a café and later moving into pre-packed food.

The food company made sandwiches, which were distributed across the country into schools, hospitals, airlines, and retail. With 35 full-time employees, this was a challenging business from the start.

“A mistake that many entrepreneurs make, that I made myself, is falling into a business. You see an idea, you decide to jump in and do it, and from that point you are operating from a position of blind faith rather than informed decision-making. You haven’t researched the market or the industry. I made that some error myself with the sandwich business.

It was a situation where there was demand for the product and very little competition (apart from one publicly listed company, Kerry Group). I just saw this as an opportunity to compete, but what I should have been asking myself was ‘Why are there no competitors in this sector?’ Some of the reasons might have been that food products are very low-margin, have a short shelf-life, are capital- and labour-intensive… It’s really difficult to make money in that kind of business. If you look at the big companies that make products like these, you’ll see that the profit margins are slim to none.

That’s the kind of learning that I always advise other entrepreneurs to take on board at the very start. Do the cold research. Don’t fall in love with the idea until you’ve really looked into it!”

Market research and product-market fit are essential for a business to succeed. Some of the most famous companies in the world took years to find their sweet spot. Even if you’re already weeks or months into your idea, it’s always worth stepping back and doing that research. If you decide not to go ahead, that’s still a good decision.

Lessons from recession

Jenni’s sandwich business stayed the course despite the challenges. But when the last recession hit, it became an early casualty. The company had always ploughed turnover back into the business, meaning there were no cash reserves in place to help cushion the effects of the downturn. It’s one of the common reasons that businesses fail when hit by external or internal shocks; lack of cash is a risk factor for any business – regardless of size or age.

Jenni is adamant about operating on data and not gut instinct. This means research at the very start of the business, but also continually exploring the data in the business and looking into other ways of doing things as the years go by. One example she gives is Facebook Ads. These would have been a go-to for almost any B2C company a few years ago, but given they are universally in decline now, it’s crucial not to be overly reliant on them as a sales pipeline and start experimenting with ads on other channels.

“It’s really important not to get fixated on what’s working for you now, because that won’t necessarily be what works for you next year. This requires continuous research and keeping your eyes open. People have a tendency to assume they know who their customers are, but you must remember to keep researching them and listening to them. And don’t forget to also look outside of that circle to who else might be a good customer or what trends are coming along that your brand might be a good fit for. It’s about being open to opportunity and open-minded – that’s what we call the ‘growth mindset’. I think it’s important to make sure the whole team has that growth mindset.”

Every sector and industry has its opportunities and pitfalls, but it’s important to understand that these cannot be blindly applied, and a good entrepreneur will look at their specific business and context when making decisions. Start with your goals and establish what kind of business you want to run – then work back from there to decide how this will play out in the day-to-day operations of the company. What is different at FitPink given Jenni’s experience working in and advising successful businesses?

A recipe for success

“I was careful not to outsource customer service or fulfilment. Lots of business owners might see these as obvious overheads to optimise through a third party, but I would argue that these are part of the customer experience and therefore core to the business. I don’t see many businesses with 98% un-incentivised five-star reviews that have also outsourced their fulfilment.

It’s said that you can do things when you’re small that you won’t be able to do when you scale, and we’re holding on to doing these things for as long as we can – at FitPink, customer queries and fulfilment are completely manual. I don’t know if we’ll be able to do that when we are selling into multiple other countries and languages, but we can for now and that’s vital.”

There’s a lot of advice out there about outsourcing everything you can and automating every possible process within the business, but it isn’t right for everyone. Purpose-driven businesses and those that leverage values-based marketing have been championing approaches like Jenni’s for some time. A good rule of thumb is to outsource strategically and in a way that gives you good levels of control. For cash-strapped startups, it’s a balancing act between operational effectiveness and affordability.

“When you do need to outsource something, staying involved and understanding the ins and outs of what you’re asking for is important. Marketing is a good example; not all agencies can deliver the kind of value that a startup entrepreneur is looking for as agency fees are quite high and the return you can expect from some of the activities often isn’t there. However, if you’re able to put in as much effort or time as the agency, you often get much better results. If you find an agency that is transparent and happy to work in partnership with you, this can be much more productive.”

While the pandemic proved to be an unexpected boon for FitPink, the startup is now closing its third ‘proper’ year in business. In a reversal of the usual startup timeframe, Jenni sees the coming year as offering the biggest challenge so far, with the economic downturn and cost of living crisis presaging a tougher market for the company.

Focus on your core values

External shocks are always easier to navigate when a startup is built on strong foundations. Jenni’s focus on customer service means that the people who buy FitPink products are passionate about them and help spread the word. The team sees this play out in all kinds of ways – for example, if they get a sale in a new area geographically, they see a mushrooming of sales in that same area six or eight weeks later. The company’s quality and environmental credentials also factor in brand loyalty.

“We’re the opposite of fast fashion. While we don’t use ‘recycled polyester’ because it’s not a very technical fabric – we opted instead for a high-quality product at an affordable price. I think that’s important in the current climate. We’re the same quality as our international competitors but at half the price, and right now that’s very important to people.

From the day we started, we used biodegradable packaging (it decomposes at the same rate as a banana skin). Competitors have taken our lead and adopted that since, and I’m glad to see it because that’s great for the planet. Since day one, we’ve supported Plan International – one of the largest international child-centred development organisations. Even through we’re just a tiny business finding our way in the world, I believe that we all have an impact. That’s the power of compounding. It would be great if all startups had that attitude.”

FitPink plans further growth in the Irish market and is moving into the UK market. Jenni intends taking it one step at a time so that she maintains control over those things that are so important to the brand, such as value and customer experience. She will keep operations in Ireland for as long as possible, rather than distributing the team too early. It’s a sector that’s full of opportunity, and FitPink has already proved it can gain traction with its winning combination of quality and comfort without compromise!

About the author

scarlet-merrill

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.

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.

Start your business idea with New Frontiers Phase 1 - Martina Goss

New Frontiers Phase 1: Start Your Business Off On The Right Foot

By New Frontiers blog

Start your business idea with New Frontiers Phase 1 - Martina Goss

In this blog, former Programme Manager Martina Goss explains how to maximise the opportunities available to you on Phase 1 of New Frontiers.

So you have the innovative business idea and received the good news that you have secured your place on Phase 1 of New Frontiers. Now the fun begins – it’s time to start validating the commercial potential of your idea. But with so many things to do, how can you ensure that you maximise the use of your time on Phase 1 and ensure you are on the right track towards validating your idea to arrive at a go/no go decision? Here are some points to consider to help you stay focused on what matters most.                        

The three stages of a startup

Whether you are just starting out as a first-time founder or are a serial entrepreneur, there’s a chance you may have heard of the three stages of a startup: problem/solution fit, product/market fit and scale. As you begin your entrepreneurial journey, think of New Frontiers Phase 1 as a great resource for helping you navigate towards problem/solution fit. Simply put, think of this as the point you arrive at when you have a potential solution to a market problem – a problem that has been validated with a small group of early customers, also known as ‘early adopters’. If you try skipping the problem/solution fit stage it will soon catch up with you – possibly when you launch your product only to find out that nobody wants it, or is willing to pay for it…

Your journey to problem/solution fit will involve you having to test a number of assumptions about your business model, ensuring that your proposed product is desirable (customers want it), viable (customers are willing to pay for it) and feasible (you can actually build it).

ensuring that your proposed product is desirable (customers want it), viable (customers are willing to pay for it) and feasible (you can actually build it)The innovator mindset

So, where do you start? As the founder of your startup, a good place to start is to look inward and ensure you are starting with the right “innovator’s mindsets“. Ash Maurya, the creator of the popular one-page business modelling tool the Lean Canvas and CEO & founder of Leanstack, has created a list of these known as the 10 Continuous Innovation Mindsets. Aptly, first and foremost, mindset number 1 is “Love the Problem, Not Your Solution”.

“Love the Problem, Not Your Solution”

Sometimes, for a founder or innovator, this mindset can be particularly hard to embrace, especially if you have already spent a huge amount of time, money and energy building out your solution without having first done any problem discovery work with potential customers.

Embracing this mindset is critical because it ensures that you are actually solving a market problem – ideally, one that has a large market opportunity and is financially worth solving.  There is a reason the word problem appears at the first stage of a startup. After jotting down your business idea on a Lean Canvas, one of your first steps should be to conduct problem discovery interviews with different customer segments in your target market.

Problem discovery interviews are critical for allowing you to gain insights and a deep understanding of the problems and pains that customers are experiencing with their current solutions (i.e. your true competition). Having this knowledge helps to shape the design of your solution and allows the innovator and entrepreneur within you to build something of value, which is 10x better than the way it is currently being done today. Getting traction and paying customers is the ultimate goal of any start-up, and to get there you need to ensure you are building something that customers want and are willing to pay for.

Phase 1 of New Frontiers is a fantastic opportunity for you to test your idea in a safe environment surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs. This short phase is not just about attending workshops and subsequently making a Phase 2 application, it is all about applying the knowledge and advice you are being exposed to and using it to help you validate your idea with the market, allowing you to move towards a go or no-go decision about your idea.

Getting the most from Phase 1

With everything you’ve just read in mind, here are my 10 tips for your New Frontiers Phase 1 journey:

  1. Dream big but start small. Balance your long-term ambition with the now. Big dreams start with small actions – commit 100% to completing the necessary market validation work.
  2. Fully engage with the Phase 1 programme and resources offered. Facilitators and programme managers are there to support you. Asking questions is free.
  3. Set aside time weekly for the validation work described above, which may require you to put in additional hours in the evenings and the weekends. This is when focusing your energy on what matters most becomes critical.
  4. If you don’t already, try getting into the habit of setting small goals and staying accountable to them. Start acting in order of priority. It is very easy to get distracted into further building out your solution, but if you haven’t conducted enough customer problem discovery interviews you need to re-focus. Learn to say no to other distractions.
  5. Drop your need for perfection. Idea validation is a time for exploration and curiosity. Be curious, agile and adaptive. Ask big questions.
  6. Use the insights, evidence and feedback that you are getting from the market to adapt, pivot or reshape your thinking about your business model and possible solution.
  7. If you do not come from a business or commercial background, don’t fret. Accept that learning is all part of the New Frontiers entrepreneur development process.
  8. Starting a new business can be stressful and lonely so ensure you seek the support of family members or friends. If you are lucky to have a co-founder, team members or advisors be sure to get them on board and involved.
  9. Understand the criteria and expectations of a New Frontiers Phase 2 application.
  10. If at the end of Phase 1, you decide your idea is a no-go but you are still passionate about start-ups, you can always apply the knowledge and skills you have learned elsewhere. The transferable skills will be valuable for other business opportunities, or you could join another Irish startup (they are always looking for co-founders!)

Going beyond Phase 1

If, by the end of Phase 1, you have uncovered a problem worth solving and are starting to see early signs of traction, a natural next step in progression would be to continue your New Frontiers journey by applying for Phase 2. Phase 2 is a competitive process, so the more you have validated and de-risked your business model and assumptions in Phase 1, the better equipped you are for making a good Phase 2 application (there are other selection criteria for Phase 2 and you will receive further guidance on this during Phase 1). It may be the case that you may have a limited window between the completion of Phase 1 and submitting an application for Phase 2, so you need to be fully engaged and committed to the Phase 1 validation process. Use your time wisely – invest it, don’t spend it!

Securing a place on New Frontiers Phase 2 will open up a host of invaluable supports for your startup. For example, the financial support of a €15,000 tax-free stipend, expert-led workshops, personalised mentorship, access to Institute/University facilities, investor pitching panels, widening of your commercial networks and – critically – being on a programme funded by Enterprise Ireland (ranked first globally by PitchBook in terms of venture capital funding deal counts). New Frontiers really can create new beginnings and new opportunities for your startup.

Next Steps

If you have a potentially innovative idea lurking in your head, take the first step today by finding your nearest incubation centre and registering your interest in their next New Frontiers programme. Don’t let your ideas go to waste. 2022 could be your year. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Best of luck!

About the author

Martina Goss Dundalk New Frontiers ProgrammeMartina Goss

Martina Goss was previously the New Frontiers Programme Manager at Dundalk Institute of Technology (Regional Development Centre) and Dublin City University (DCU Invent). She is a certified lean startup coach with Ash Maurya (creator of the popular one-page business modelling tool Lean Canvas) and coaches on his 90 Day Start-Up programme.

Martina is a qualified chartered accountant, having spent 20+ years working with business owners across a wide range of industries. She runs her own startup training, coaching and consulting business offering supports in the areas of Lean Canvas, customer discovery interviews, financial modelling and finances for startups.

She is a practising member with The One Thing – the company behind the Wall Street Journal’s best-selling business book of the same name. The One Thing focuses on the surprisingly simple truth behind achieving extraordinary results.

Darragh Lynch Uccello New Frontiers programme case study

Alumni Profiles: Tipping Point In A Search For The Dream

By New Frontiers blog

Darragh Lynch Uccello New Frontiers programme case study

A letter from a stranger proved to be the catalyst for Kerryman Darragh Lynch, who had worked as an executive for huge conglomerates in mining, oil, and gas across the Middle East and South America for most of his adult life.

Darragh had grown accustomed to the big salary, the opportunities to travel across the world, and the high-end perks that came with his job. But after 21 years, the appeal of ‘stuff’ was wearing thin.

Darragh wanted more fulfilment in his career. As a starting point, he pursued an MBA at the University of Western Australia and started consulting. Darragh explains that the MBA would help him to “burst through my own glass ceiling. I had about 13 different projects that I was working on all at different stages.”

A friend from New Zealand was keen for Darragh to hear about a new invention his father-in-law, Andy DePetra, was working on. A born inventor, Andy was known to work on five or six things at a time. Darragh was halfway through his MBA, but this latest invention caught his attention.

Having been diagnosed with arthritis a few years before, Andy was inventing a kettle “that not only looked good but one that would ease the struggle and still enable him to maintain his independence.”

The early stages of creating a prototype for the Uccello Kettle began. It involved a month-long stay in China to find a suitable supplier for one part of the kettle. Other parts and raw materials were sourced in Germany and the UK. They also had to adhere to different regulations in each market.

“We had to get it from idea to prototype,” says Darragh. It was a steep learning curve, “because, when we did this, we were pretty new to it.” 

The Uccello Kettle – a unique tipping kettle that moves around the body of water so you don’t have to lift or balance it – helps people with impaired mobility reclaim their independence. It was initially stocked in Australian shops by partnering with distributors with strong retail expertise and large national networks.

“It needs to be something that, if you win the lottery tomorrow, you would continue to be engaged with it.”

But it was a letter from one of the kettle’s early users, indicating how much the kettle had impacted her life, that changed everything for Darragh. The project, one of many at the time, became his main dream.

“I began to think that maybe this is the thing I was looking for. The kind of food for the soul I was seeking, something I can actually make an impact with. So, I started to dive into the whole industry of disability.”

Darragh put everything into Uccello Designs and, after much research, decided to launch in Europe. He moved back home to Ireland with his family. However, having spent so many years away, with few connections in Ireland or Europe, he felt he was starting from scratch.

“We knew what we were talking about when it came to the product. We knew the product inside out, but everything else had to be developed,” says Darragh. He sought out help and discovered Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme.

“We hadn’t established a real persona for the customer; the brand and future products had to be worked on. With the New Frontiers programme, we started to think about how we can build a relationship with our customers.”

The programme also helped him launch Uccello Designs in new markets. For Darragh, the guest speakers were game-changing. “We had speakers every second week. They were high calibre,” he says. One of those speakers is now the company’s CFO and they also work with a marketing expert introduced to Darragh on the programme.

Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme gave Darragh a sense of validation, opened up networking circles in Europe, and accelerated the growth of the business.

Last year, the turnover for Uccello Designs was over €1 million. They are continuing to expand the team in Ireland and across other markets in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Plans are also underway to manufacture a product range in Ireland.

The self-proclaimed introvert is now living his dream. For other potential entrepreneurs, he suggests going for it. “It needs to be something that, if you win the lottery tomorrow, you would continue to be engaged with it.”

See the kettle on the Uccello website.

Turn Dreaming Into Doing! Updates From The New Frontiers Programme

Turn Dreaming Into Doing! Updates From The New Frontiers Programme

By New Frontiers blog

Turn Dreaming Into Doing! Updates From The New Frontiers Programme

Paula Carroll - New Frontiers National Programme ManagerPaula Carroll is the New Frontiers National Programme Manager at Enterprise Ireland. She is the connection between Enterprise Ireland and the 18 locations that deliver the programme around Ireland. Her role is incredibly varied and on any given day she may be welcoming new participants on the programme via Zoom (at the moment), running a programme managers’ meeting, or promoting the programme on the radio or in press interviews. If you’ve been to any New Frontiers events, pre-Covid, you may well have met Paula as she makes a point of attending showcase events and launches across the country.

I caught up with Paula to find out how the past 18 months have affected the programme and what plans she has for New Frontiers as we emerge from this latest lockdown.

Scarlet: I know you put a lot of work earlier this year into conceiving the national marketing campaign that people may have already come across. There have been ads on media sites and social media, plus some interesting articles in the newspapers. Can you tell us a bit more about the campaign?

Paula: Enterprise Ireland hasn’t undertaken a national marketing campaign for New Frontiers in the past number of years, which meant that awareness of the programme spread more as a result of word of mouth, recommendations from the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), referrals from alumni, local campaigns conducted by the Institutes of Technology or universities, and of course via this site which acts as a kind of central hub.

We decided that it was time to raise awareness at a national level, and so with the Enterprise Ireland marketing team, we implemented a national marketing campaign to achieve this. We settled on a campaign theme, which focuses on ‘turning dreaming into doing’, as we felt this really encapsulates what New Frontiers is all about.

We want to encourage people who have had that little voice at the back of their heads for a while to take the leap to entrepreneurship through the programme. So, we’ve featured some great case studies in our campaign (you can read these here on our blog, they feature Ivan Tuohy, Derya Sousa, and Conor Grimes) and used ads on media websites, social media, and the radio to spread the word. We really wanted to highlight the huge impact New Frontiers has had on our alumni.

If you’re a potential entrepreneur, or even a business advisor or investor, we encourage you to look into New Frontiers if you’ve never heard of us before. It’s a well-established programme run by passionate, expert programme managers and located in the country’s best incubation centres. It’s not just a door to Enterprise Ireland or Local Enterprise Office funding; the facilities, networking, access to expertise, and third-level research capability make it unique in Ireland and even abroad.

Scarlet: For those who don’t know much about New Frontiers, we have lots of practical information right here on the site. But could you tell us a bit more about the background of the programme? Any insider knowledge we should know about?

Paula: People sometimes assume that New Frontiers is a new programme. In fact, it dates back to the late 1990s, when it was known as the Enterprise Platform Programme (EPP). Enterprise Ireland took over the programme in 2012 (it was previously run by the Institutes of Technology).  Since that time it has become a really important part of Enterprise Ireland’s regional strategy. New Frontiers runs in 18 locations around the country, so it is a key part of our national approach to encouraging entrepreneurship. Today, 59% of participants are outside of the Dublin area, so there is a real geographic spread.

Since 2012, over 4,000 people have been through Phase 1 of the programme and around 1,500 participants have completed Phase 2 (the full-time phase lasting six months). 32% of alumni are women and 68% are men. We really encourage women to apply, because we believe this should be an even split. The stipend paid during Phase 2 should ensure there isn’t a barrier to any particular group being able to commit to a full-time programme.

We carried out a comprehensive evaluation of the programme, which was published last year. Some interesting statistics that came out of that were:

  • 25% of alumni go on to receive additional Enterprise Ireland support
  • There is an 83% survival rate for New Frontiers companies
  • We identified an attributable turnover of €302 million for New Frontiers companies (2012-2019)
  • Alumni give us a net promoter score of 86

Scarlet: I know that the content and delivery of the programme is very important to you. Can you tell us a bit more about that, and what changes might be coming?

Paula: It’s really important that the programme stays relevant for participants. We review it constantly and we’re always ready to improve or change things as necessary. Last year, when the first lockdown kicked in, we had to adapt very quickly to ensure that people in the middle of a programme were not adversely affected.

New Frontiers went from 100% in-person to fully online overnight. That was a huge challenge, and it is a testament to our programme managers and their teams that this transition happened with minimal disruption. No one was ready for a national lockdown, but everyone, including the institutes and technological universities that deliver the programme locally, has been amazing.

There were, of course, trade-offs in going online. A big benefit of New Frontiers that alumni often mention to us is the opportunity to network and share insights with other participants. That’s a hard thing to fully replicate via Zoom or Teams. On the other hand, we realised that some of the material from the programme is just as effective when delivered virtually. If a workshop, for instance, is held online, this can help a participant save on travel time and costs while getting just as much value from the education as if they were in the room.

I can see that in the future we will offer a bit more flexibility in how the programme is provided. This means that participants in remote rural areas might be more inclined to apply because they won’t have to travel in every single day. It also means that participants will have access to the full list of mentors from the EI Mentor Network, regardless of where the participant or mentor is physically based. This will be of huge benefit, particularly if niche expertise is requested.

So, post-Covid, I think we’ll see Phase 1 happening mostly online and Phase 2 taking a blended approach – most likely 80% in-person and 20% online. The in-person interactions are so important to entrepreneurs that we will make sure they stay. The support, advice, encouragement, and even friendly (?!) rivalry that occurs within any cohort is an enriching feature of the programme.

Scarlet: That’s so true, lots of our blogs by alumni mention how important the interpersonal relationships were to them. What other changes are we likely to see coming to the programme in the coming months and years?

Paula: We recently secured a new tranche of funding for the programme so that it can run for another five years. But we also managed to secure funding to implement a funded Phase 3 for the programme, having successfully trialled this previously. This means that each year there will be 30 – 34 funded places on Phase 3, which will be distributed across the programme geographically.

These spots will be for the startups that have the potential to become Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Ups (HPSUs). Our HPSU Unit will work closely with these entrepreneurs with a view to fast-tracking them to HPSU status. It’s a great opportunity.

Enterprise Ireland has a platform called EI Learn, which is made available to Enterprise Ireland clients. In the future, we’ll be making more use of this system by giving New Frontiers participants access to the large volumes of learning content that is available on it, with our own area where they can also interact with each other.

We know that there are some sectoral or knowledge niches where entrepreneurs need extra support and we’re looking at creating specific content to meet these needs, potentially bringing in expertise from abroad. This of course wouldn’t be feasible for face-to-face situations, but thanks to the EI Learn digital platform it’s now a real possibility.

New Frontiers is heading into its second decade with a great track record and an amazing team of experts ready to help the next generation of entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality. If you think New Frontiers might be for you, check out the eligibility criteria and then register your interest at your preferred location. Intakes for each location’s Phase 1 and Phase 2 happen at different dates throughout the year, but you can keep an eye on deadlines for applications over on our calendar page.

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.

Conor Grimes Spoonful Botanicals New Frontiers programme alumnus

Alumni profiles: An epic journey towards the dream

By New Frontiers blog

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.

Derya Kianda TechnologiesNew Frontiers programme alumna

Alumni profiles: Breaking the code, building the dream

By New Frontiers blog

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

Ivan Tuohy Great Visitor Experiences New Frontiers programme alumnus

Alumni profiles: Unlock your potential, back your dream

By New Frontiers blog

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.

Project One Sky Developing Wellbeing Education For Young Adults

Project One Sky: Developing Wellbeing Education For Young Adults

By New Frontiers blog

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-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.

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

By New Frontiers blog

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 and New Frontiers alumnus. He is the co-founder of award-winning tech startup, Equine MediRecord.

Pierce is an ex-professional rugby player having played with Leinster Development and then the US professional rugby league, which is now called Major League Rugby. He won a rugby scholarship to Trinity College, where he completed his Bachelor’s in Political Science and History while a member of the Trinity Rugby Team, which won an all-Ireland 7s title in 2012 and he made the Irish Universities team that played against England in 2016.

It was while studying for his Masters in Business and Management at Trinity that Pierce first had the idea that led to the development of Equine MediRecord. It was an idea that won him the Trinity College All-Tech Innovation competition, and the platform was developed after CTO Simon Hillary joined the team.

Equine MediRecord is a system that provides simplified medical record compliance for equine yards through a regulator-approved digital medicines register. The platform is used by hundreds of yards in Ireland, the UK, and France. The team is also on the cusp of expanding Equine MediRecord into other markets.

Pierce was named in The Independent’s 30 Under 30 in 2018 and was a national finalist of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur 2019. He is the founder, chairman, and racing manager of Blackrock Racing Syndicate that has horses in training with Irish Derby-winning trainer, Joseph O’Brien. He is also the co-founder and chairman of the non-profit social enterprise, Secret Street Tours, that runs tours given by those affected by homelessness who share their story while exploring the cultural and historic landmarks of their local area. It’s aim is to empower their guides with skills and confidence to take the next step toward independent living.

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-merrill

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.

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

By New Frontiers blog

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 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 startup, Immersive VR Education, lists on Irish Stock Exchange

New Frontiers startup, Immersive VR Education, lists on Irish Stock Exchange

By New Frontiers blog

New Frontiers startup, Immersive VR Education, lists on Irish Stock Exchange

Former New Frontiers participant company, Immersive VR Education, was recently listed on the Irish Stock Exchange’s Enterprise Securities Market. The Waterford-based technology firm raised €6.7 million before expenses through listings on Dublin’s Enterprise Securities Market (ESM) and the AIM in London. The placing of 60,000,000 shares of 10p each implied a valuation of £19.3 million (around €21.6 million) on admission and the deal was oversubscribed.

Immersive VR Education is a virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) software company dedicated to transforming how educational content is delivered and consumed globally. Their virtual reality teaching platform for schools, universities and businesses allows people to create a virtual classroom to bring together teachers and learners from anywhere in the world.

The company was founded in October 2014 by husband and wife team, David and Sandra Whelan. David participated in the New Frontiers programme at Arc Labs (Waterford Institute of Technology’s Research and Incubation Centre) in 2016 and recommends the programme to ambitious entrepreneurs involved in a start-up business. A WIT graduate, he believes the AR/VR market is growing and as hardware becomes more affordable, growth will gain further traction.

“We are at the forefront of this as a VR software and technology group operating in the niche education sector, we provide students, educators with a customisable learning environment.
New Frontiers is a place where you can shape your idea into a business with a group of peers and prepare your business plan for scrutiny from venture capitalists. It’s been instrumental to establishing a solid base for our continued success and the contacts we made during the programme will of course always be useful for advice and guidance going forward.”

The first New Frontiers participant company to list on the Irish Stock Exchange

Eugene Crehan, the New Frontiers Programme Manager at Waterford Institute of Technology, said:

“Immersive VR Holdings is a great example of how an innovative technology start-up can benefit from the business development skills workshops and mentor supports available as part of the New Frontiers programme. By being technically innovative and building a solid investor-ready business plan on the New Frontiers programme in WIT, Immersive VR Holdings secured investments at several stages of their development, culminating in an IPO within three years of being on New Frontiers.”

Immersive VR Education’s listing on the Irish Stock exchange celebrates a number of firsts:

  • it’s the first IPO for an Irish tech firm on the Irish Stock Exchange’s Enterprise Securities Market (ESM) since its inception in 2005
  • it’s the first New Frontiers participant company to list on the Irish Stock Exchange
  • it’s also the first technology firm in the southeast ever to list on the Irish Stock Exchange

Virtual and augmented technologies as an education tool

Immersive VR Education’s free, award-winning platform, ENGAGE, allows educators and trainers to put together their own content in a virtual setting, inspiring students whether in a classroom, lecture theatre, operating theatre, or on the surface of Mars. The company has also won global accolades for its showcase experience, Apollo 11 VR. This multi-award winning educational experience is based on actual events and recreates the full Apollo 11 mission, using original NASA audio and mission data recorded during the 1969 moon landing. It has recently been announced that the Apollo 11 VR experience will feature as part of the launch collection for Oculus Go. In 2017, the company also launched an early release experience of the wreck of the Titanic.

The startup works with businesses and organisations such as Oculus, the BBC, HTC, the Royal College of Surgeons, and the University of Oxford. Post-IPO, the company is looking to establish ENGAGE as the world’s leading digital education and corporate training platform.

[featured image: Sandra Whelan, co-founder of Immersive VR Education, rings the bell at the Irish Stock Exchange. (l-r) Eugene Crehan (Director of Programmes, CEDRE, WIT), Sandra Whelan, Ciaran Cullen (Manager, ArcLabs) and David Whelan (CEO and co-founder, Immersive VR Education). Credit: SON Photographic]

About the author

scarlet-merrill

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.

Featured startup Bruno Lanvin, Dmbook

Featured startup: Bruno Lanvin, Dmbook

By New Frontiers blog

Featured startup Bruno Lanvin, Dmbook

Dmbook Pro is a Dublin-based company providing ICT solutions for hotels. With over 10 years in hotel management, Bruno Lanvin recognised flaws in the traditional spreadsheets, paper and email communication network used in hotels all across Europe. It was this initial observation that lead to the creation of Dmbook Pro.

Bruno has worked in the hospitality industry in France, Scotland and Ireland, but he didn’t initially plan on transforming hotel communication networks. But as Front of House Manager, once having identified a problem, it was in his interest to form a solution. Hotels are an old establishment, but like every business they rely on the need for effective communication between personnel,

“I had this pain of trying to make sure the communication was efficient between all the teams and all the shifts rotating around the clock.”

Making sure the right people have the right information whilst changing shifts and working on separate teams was an everyday struggle. It was this ongoing problem that caused Bruno to develop a concept which started out very simply – an online diary, “a platform to put everything [on] where people could access information.”

Building on a simple prototype

Bruno’s brother, Rémi Lanvin, a web developer, helped create this online diary as a side project. At this stage, the online diary functioned by allowing users to simply go between dated pages (today, tomorrow, last year, next year) and input simple text entries. Particularly useful was how users could set goals and mark them as done. Bruno brought this prototype to the hotel he worked for and from here the stone that caused the ripple of interest across the hotel industry was thrown. After 18 months, whilst still working full time and developing this project on the side, Bruno and Rémi had paying customers. It was this growing interest that caused the brothers to stop looking at their creation as a project and instead as a company. They created a business plan and within one year secured 85 customers across 8 countries, including the USA.

Dmbook platform New Frontiers Enterprise Ireland

New Frontiers – direction in uncharted territories

As much as they could value their strengths, they could also recognise their weaknesses.  Bruno knew that his in-depth knowledge of hotels, although key to his success so far, would not be enough to take his company to the next goal – a multimillion euro international business. As he says, “Hotels are not start-ups,” and so Bruno visited a Start-Up Ireland event in Cove. It was here he learnt of New Frontiers and after sending his application was invited to pitch for Phase 2.

“We made more progress in the six months with New Frontiers than in the six months before.”

Bruno attributes this to the direction they received regarding finances: how to raise finance, how to approach investors, who to approach, how to duplicate the success they had had so far, and how to secure more clients. Other invaluable support included sales and marketing advice, and valuable networking – being a part of a community of knowledge for start-ups, they could ask questions and get the answers they needed, while also exchanging experiences and learning opportunities with other participants.

Going forward

Dmbook Pro has expanded from its brotherly beginnings to a company with five employees and big ambitions. With this new expertise on board, they have created a fully functioning website, are currently developing a mobile app for Dmbook Pro and are targeting English-speaking markets, including the USA. Their goal is clear: to be in over 3,000 hotels by the end of year 3 in western Europe.

About the author

scarlet-merrill

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.

Eamon Crosby BriteBiz New Frontiers programme

Case study: BriteBiz – business management solution

By New Frontiers blog

Eamon Crosby BriteBiz New Frontiers programme

BriteBiz is a Galway-based technology company that specialises in end-to-end business management software. The company’s CEO, Eamon Crosby, took part in the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.

Since qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with PwC 12 years ago, Eamon Crosby has been involved in founding and managing a number of different companies, mainly in the service and events industry. “I had been involved first hand in managing and scaling various companies. We constantly came up against roadblocks with the amount of administration load involved and continually sought ways to streamline processes. Although we were always using modern management tools such as Salesforce and Quickbooks, there was no efficient way to integrate them and create a streamlined, end-to-end solution.” notes Eamon.

A lack of end-to-end solutions for SMEs

He points out that, “Over my years at PwC, I had worked with several large blue chip companies that used highly bespoke and integrated systems, such as SAP or Oracle, but this same streamlined process did not seem to be available for small and medium sized companies, particularly those that wanted a cloud solution.” After many failed attempts to find a better integrated cloud-based solution for SMEs, he decided to go it alone and set about developing the solution for himself – and so the adventure began.

“We developed the software in-house over a two-year period, and began to deploy it within a small number of beta customers. It really did have a hugely transformative effect, allowing companies to scale more rapidly and cut costs significantly through integrated systems,” says Eamon. “BriteBiz acts as an end-to-end solution from lead generation and capture on your website to product and service management, from quotes and e-contracts to booking management, from credit control to payment processing. BriteBiz also has many unique features not available in any other system currently on the market, such as client portals and worksheets for each individual deal, as well as resource allocation. Essentially, it takes the best parts of a CRM, project management system, payments platform and resource management and bundles them all together in a beautiful, easy to use cloud application. BriteBiz makes it easy for companies to do business, particularly companies in service industries.”

A solution that works across many sectors

After a successful deployment within the initial early adoption customers, Crosby and the rest of the team started to notice that other companies across different industries, and across the world, were suffering from the same problems and pain. The application has become a particularly good fit for the hospitality industry. “We work with several hotels and provide them with powerful tools for their sales and marketing teams to manage weddings and events,” notes Eamon.

“We knew that there was a huge potential market for BriteBiz, but there was a significant challenge in developing the correct sales and marketing strategy to achieve this. We became aware of the GMIT New Frontiers programme and decided to apply. The programme has been hugely beneficial in formulating a strategy and developing the best route to market for BriteBiz, we would highly recommend it to anyone starting off a new business, particularly in the tech sector,” says Eamon.

Britebiz is currently scaling from its Galway office and now has customers across Ireland, the UK and the US. “We are looking at bigger markets outside of Ireland, particularly the US. We are targeting the SaaS (Software as a Service) marketplace, which is estimated to reach $300 Billion by 2025. As BriteBiz also has a payment platform, we will also be targeting other high-value markets such as construction industries, the legal profession, IT and healthcare sectors. Our payment platform is currently being expanded to included digitised direct debit, and we will be working more on the payments part of our system over the years ahead, as Fintech technologies continue to develop.”

The company plans to grow its workforce within Ireland over the coming months and years. If you are a company looking for the perfect end to end business management solution, or you are looking for a role with an exciting tech company, take a look at the BriteBiz website. The New Frontiers programme at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology is delivered at Innovation Hubs in Castlebar and Galway.

[The image above shows Eamon Crosby from BriteBiz receiving the New Frontiers Best Emerging Business award from Conor O’Dowd, KPMG]

About the author

GMIT School of Business New FrontiersPhotograph by Aengus McMahonTony O’Kelly

Tony is the New Frontiers Programme Manager in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). His main expertise lies in finance, manufacturing, sales and procurement across a wide range of business sectors. He has experience in automating business processes and managing projects from conception to delivery; skills he brings to the structure and delivery of New Frontiers in GMIT…  [Read Tony’s profile]

Featured startup Aidan Duff Fifty One Bikes New Frontiers

Featured startup: Aidan Duff, Fifty One Bikes

By New Frontiers blog

Featured startup Aidan Duff Fifty One Bikes New Frontiers

Aidan started his career as top level amateur cyclist in Ireland, going on to race in France for over six years. When he returned to Ireland, he naturally started working in the cycle industry, initially in retail and then moving into distribution.

The early beginnings of Fifty One, Aidan’s startup, can be traced back to a trip he took to some of the most reputable bicycle manufacturing facilities in Italy and Germany. Despite their reputations, Aidan came away somewhat underwhelmed by the standards he saw in the processes and finishing involved.

Despite the lack of manufacturing facilities in Ireland, Aidan was convinced that he could do better. With his solid industry background – Aidan had already established one of the largest distributors on the island of Ireland – manufacturing his own range of world class bicycles was the logical next step.

Custom-made in Ireland

fifty one bikes new frontiers startupIn early 2015, Aidan started Phase 2 of the New Frontiers programme, at the Synergy Centre in Tallaght. With the feedback and validation processes that the programme takes entrepreneurs through, Aidan decided that while his concept was strong, the delivery itself could be improved on. He needed to establish a real niche, a truly unique selling point. The programme is not for the fainthearted, and you need a lot of drive and motivation to take part. Market research, and trial and error, are both vital parts of the process. As Aidan put it:

“My idea was a really, really good concept, ticking a lot of the New Frontiers boxes, but when I put it out to people within the industry, the feedback was a little bit muted. People I trusted were saying: look, you can do that better than this, you need to go back and redesign it. On paper it looked good but the feedback from industry mentors and contacts was that it wasn’t enough. I felt a little bit embarrassed, because I was developing something within an industry that I knew, and here I was, a third of the way through New Frontiers and I literally had to rip it up and start again, so I started to feel a little bit of pressure at that point.”

Aidan cannot stress enough how much respect he has for his fellow New Frontiers participants. It’s a great mix of people with very diverse backgrounds, tackling projects that are sometimes very far removed from their previous experience. In many ways, Aidan was working from the safety of a known industry and well-established relationships, but he was also aware of the competitive and ruthless nature of the industry. Aidan concentrated on the elements he felt were the most important, and which would add to his core competencies:

“The great thing about New Frontiers is the unbelievable network you have at your fingertips – you come into contact with specialists you would never normally meet and certainly couldn’t afford as a startup. The New Frontiers programme is a fantastic tool for anyone wishing to start an export-oriented business. The benefits are too long to list but the course content and the structure it gives you are remarkable. It’s also a potential gateway into Enterprise Ireland CSF (Competitive Start Funding) and HPSU (High Potential Startup status), which is very useful for scaling companies.”

Following a clear plan

fifty one bikes new frontiers startupAidan says the early stages of startup are vital to get things moving. He recommends creating the best network you can as early as possible. Although no one is going to grow your business for you, you’d be surprised at the help you will get if you reach out. Define what the overall goal or mission is, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Break jobs into bite-size chunks, define a road map and tick the boxes along the way. It takes time and you will go off course on a number of occasions, but a concise plan forces you to regroup and regain focus regularly.

Aidan reiterates how ideal the structure of New Frontiers is, as it essentially sets out this roadmap and helps you overcome the challenges that every startup is bound to face at some point. It’s structured around milestones and prevents you going around in circles. Sometimes, it can be hard to keep on top of the programme work AND keep your own project progressing. Aidan says, inevitably you derail from time to time, but that’s where your support network comes into play. The course managers have seen it all before so they can advise you on where to go from there. The consultants giving the workshops are all very experienced, too. Aidan worked closely with trainers such as Alan Costello, who helped put potential problems and issues into perspective. Aidan’s accountants, solicitors, trade marking, etc. all came from people he met on New Frontiers. Aidan says the best way to overcome inevitable challenges are with skilled, passionate people by your side.

Bringing it all together

Last year, Fifty One secured substantial investment in Ireland and from an industry-specific source in Germany. This will facilitate entry into the German and overall European market and give them a little more weight with suppliers. Fifty One is also an Enterprise Ireland HPSU (High Potential Startup). The carbon fibre framesets for the bikes are manufactured here in Ireland – instead of opting for lower-cost mass production in Asia, frames are custom-made to the precise specifications of the customer. The result is a completely bespoke bike that allows the owner to be part of the design process, which ironically is how bikes used to be made when Aidan first started out. The company is also developing a customisation tool that will allow customers to design and order their perfect bike online.

Aidan has a clear long-term plan for his startup, and with the right use of technology and customer focus will achieve his ambitious scaling goals.

“In short, to scale for the first phase of our growth plan, we will need to hit our revenue and employment numbers and establish a brand in a niche premium segment. From there we will have the credibility to leverage the brand image and add additional products, territories, and revenue streams.”

www.fiftyonebikes.com

About the author

scarlet-merrill

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.

Tips for making a successful Phase 2 application

Tips for making a successful Phase 2 application

By New Frontiers blog

Tips for making a successful Phase 2 application

There are some basic mistakes often made by applicants to Phase 2 of the New Frontiers programme. Here are my tips on how entrepreneurs can craft a compelling argument and avoid the most common pitfalls when it comes to preparing their applications.

Entrepreneurs are positive, energetic and driven people; they believe they can do anything they set out to do.  But if they come across someone who doesn’t believe in their idea the way they do, it can lead to doubt and uncertainty.

Applying for Phase 2 can be one of those times when these two perspectives collide. You know all the good things about your business proposition – why can’t they just agree with you?! Having been a business person and Programme Manager for a number of years now, I’ve come to the conclusion that where there is a mismatch in understanding such as this, it’s usually down to communication. The entrepreneur doesn’t hear what the programme requirements are, and those reviewing the application don’t see what they need to know, written down in black and white on the form.

The Phase 2 application form

It’s a form with two sections: Section A is for your personal details and Section B has 14 questions covering your business proposition, market, past experience, business model and proposed implementation. It’s a lot of detail. Given the very competitive nature of the application process, you need to put your best foot forward. Complete ALL the questions, do not leave blanks. Give sufficient detail to answer the questions, and do not just copy and paste texts from elsewhere.

Relevant, in-depth answers

Read and answer the actual question asked. For example:

  • In Section 1.2, you are asked to describe the attractive & credible market opportunity you have identified. This does not mean that you should describe the product/service features again; it means identify the scale, value and possible growth of your identified target markets.
  • In Section 3.2, you are asked to give details of your primary competitors. This does not mean that you should list three company names; instead provide a comparison/landscape, and demonstrate your Unique Selling Points and sustainable competitive advantage
  • In Section 4.2, you are asked if you have any current or potential reference customers. ‘No’ is not an adequate answer, even if you are at concept/pre-startup stage. You need to show that you can think of a customer, as well as think like one.

Convince and convert

The questions on our application form are designed to elicit answers that enable you to show that you are the one who can build a strong, sustainable business – from where you are now to where you plan to go, with the help and support of the New Frontiers programme. It’s about selling you (and your team, if you have one) as well as the business – not just about the product/service.

Phase 2 is all about preparing participants to make their case to external, professional investors. You must be able to show your ability to communicate what you are setting out to achieve – clearly and professionally, in both your writing and presentation. It’s good to be positive and ambitious, and have substantial goals, but you also need to be credible and prepared to back up your claims.

The pitfalls to avoid

The most common mistakes that let an application down are as follows:

Typos

Please re-read your form one last time before you send it – spelling mistakes and other errors at this level are indicative of a lack of professionalism. It’s not an English exam, but error-free text helps to create a positive initial impression.

Using an application form for a completely different programme

I have received applications clearly mentioning other agencies and even jurisdictions.

Not updating copied and pasted content

If your text comes from somewhere else, the chances are that you aren’t providing us with the relevant information we need to make our decision.

Not showing the innovative nature of your idea

Innovation is the fundamental differentiator for New Frontiers participation and is specifically referenced in Section 1.1. Make sure your application is clear about how and why you consider – and your customers/the market will consider – your product/service to be innovative. Many weak applications fail to address this point at all.

Not enough progress

Many applicants do not show enough momentum achieved to date (Section 4.3) or a detailed set of SMART goals for the six months ahead (Section 5.2), all of which have and will contribute to the success of your business venture, as well as a positive outcome for your participation in the programme.

If you want a positive outcome for your application, against very strong competition, remember what you’re doing, where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. And then tell the reader.

The New Frontiers programme is designed to support entrepreneurs as much as the business idea itself and we want to say YES! It’s worth taking the time to communicate your proposition in terms that address all the elements of the whole programme, which incidentally are also the elements behind a successful startup venture. Good luck with your application!

About the author

Colm ÓMaolmhuireColm Ó Maolmhuire

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

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