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Dogpatch wins €17m state NDRC contract with regional and gender quotas

The contract winner will take a cut in salary and ensure that 30pc of funded startups have at least one female founder.

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The long-running saga over who will run the state-subsidised, startup-focused National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) has come to a conclusion with the award of a €17m, five-year contract to a consortium headed by Patrick Walsh’s Dogpatch Labs.

The long-running saga over who will run the state-subsidised, startup-focused National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) has come to a conclusion with the award of a €17m, five-year contract to a consortium headed by Patrick Walsh’s Dogpatch Labs.

The long-running saga over who will run the state-subsidised, startup-focused National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) has come to a conclusion with the award of a €17m, five-year contract to a consortium headed by Patrick Walsh’s Dogpatch Labs.

The long-running saga over who will run the state-subsidised, startup-focused National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) has come to a conclusion with the award of a €17m, five-year contract to a consortium headed by Patrick Walsh’s Dogpatch Labs.

The NDRC will give a minimum of 13 startups per year €100,000, workspace and access to further funding sources and established “mentor” entrepreneurs.

As the figurehead of the NDRC consortium, Mr Walsh will receive a salary that’s “under six figures”, he said.

Last year, the outgoing CEO of the NDRC, Ben Hurley, was paid €254,000, including a one-off payment. In the three years prior to that, he was paid €160,000 per annum.

Although centred in Dogpatch Labs’s Dublin CHQ quayside building, the accelerator will also be spread over three regional locations among local startup at Galway’s Porteshed, Cork City’s Republic Of Work and Killorglin’s RDI Hub Kerry.

The aim, say Communications Minister Eamon Ryan and Mr Walsh, is to spread activity as widely as possible instead of doubling down on Dublin.

To this end, 70pc of pre-accelerator participants must be from outside the greater Dublin area, according to contractual stipulation. On top of this, 75pc of training participants must be from outside the Dublin region. However, the regional quotas fade away for full accelerator participation.

The new setup will also have gender diversity quotas for full accelerator participation, meaning that at least 30pc of funded startups must have at least one female founder. There are no provisions or diversity quotas for racial, ethnic, cultural or sexual orientation grounds.

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“The next phase of the NDRC connects ecosystems across the country, with each regional hub representing a local centre of entrepreneurial excellence to support people in getting their ideas off the ground,” said Minister Eamon Ryan. “Being well connected throughout our regions as well as internationally means that we can share knowledge and grow together as a country.”

Mr Walsh said that the deal with the government is for a minimum of 65 funded startups over a five year period.

“But we actually think that it’s going to be a bigger number than that,” he said. “And in terms of the number of startups that we engage at the pre-accelerator level, that’s going to be in the hundreds over the course of five years.”

Any gains from startups that go on to get further funding or profitable exits will be reinvested back into the programme, Mr Walsh said.

“This isn’t a venture capital model in the sense of us making money from exits,” he said. “Every single euro that’s realised through this thing under the new contract will go back into entrepreneurs. For us, it’s simply a privilege to run the national accelerator.”

The regional hubs will implement the NDRC programmes using “a hub and spoke model”, Mr Walsh said, which hopes to see interaction with other emerging hubs, universities and incubators in its region.

Regional hubs will have a wide remit.

“We’ll be targeting [startups] all the way from Donegal down to Galway,” said Mary Rodgers, CEO of Portershed Galway, which is currently expanding into a new Galway city location.

“We’re a fully vested partner in this, so we’ll be guiding startups through pre-accelerator steps though the full national accelerator program and then on to the stages after that, including the venture stage.”

Google for Startups -- a partner of Dogpatch Labs that also supported the bid -- will open its own global network partner programmes to the NDRC participants to encourage international growth, the NDRC officials said.

Five of Ireland’s most active venture capital firms -- Frontline, Delta Partners, Polaris Partners, ACT and Atlantic Bridge -- supported the bid and say that they will “provide expert support and best practices” to startups going through the accelerator.

Mr Walsh said that Dogpatch Labs brings an “entrepreneur-led approach”, with an international mentorship network to offer startups the experienced international advice to compete globally.

The new NDRC programmes will take place in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Kerry, with applications opening in Q1 2021.

The contract win coincides with the launch of the Irish Tech Hub Network, made up of Dogpatch Labs, Portershed, Republic of Work and RDI Hub, with other innovation hubs such as Ludgate Hub in West Cork and Ormeau Baths in Belfast.


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