Sunday 11 December 2016

Enterprise Ireland sets out plan for 2016 to help build scale at start-ups

Agency boss Julie Sinnamon says it needs to improve its record on building size, writes Gavin McLoughlin

Published 14/02/2016 | 02:30

Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon
Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon

Enterprise Ireland will emphasise bringing companies to scale this year, agency boss Julie Sinnamon has said.

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"I think we're quite good at starting companies, but what we haven't been as good at is to help get the companies to a critical size," she told the Sunday Independent.

"One of the biggest things for us in 2016 is about trying to get the existing companies, all the start-ups that we've worked with in 2015, to scale.

"We have done a lot of work in trying to set milestones for companies to get to various levels of growth and to work more proactively with the start-ups after they've been approved money.

"We want to sit down with them and help them, asking, 'Are you on track? Are you not on track? What are your problems? What can we do to help?'"

Sinnamon was speaking after Enterprise Ireland's start-up investor day earlier in the week. As part of the event, the agency, which is one of the world's biggest seed investors by number of investments, released figures for 2015 showing a 40pc increase in the number of companies that got money from it and a similar increase in the number of female entrepreneurs it funded.

Sinnamon said the agency had been trying to highlight female success stories and had launched female-only funds in order to encourage more gender balance.

"It's not just a specific focus of mine because I'm a woman, it's just about using the talent in the country," she said.

Sinnamon did not express a view on who she'd like to see hold the Jobs portfolio after the General Election.

"The one thing I've found throughout the time I've been in IDA, Forbairt and Enterprise Ireland is the ministers, when they get into Enterprise and Jobs, they understand what actually, really has to happen," she said.

"And I'd be confident that that will continue in terms of seeing that enterprise is what's driving the economy. It pays for all the social services and all the rest of it.

"I would certainly believe that whoever ends up with that job - and it's a plum job - will focus on the key things to make sure we continue to build on the success and grow further."

The agency is expecting 1,500 jobs to be created over the next three years by its 2015 crop of high-potential start-ups. Last year was a record year for the agency in terms of the number of funding approvals.

"The outlook is positive, but some challenges remain," said Enterprise Ireland head of global business development Kevin Sherry. "The main barrier to growth is access to talent followed by competitive pressures and regulation/compliance requirements."

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