Tuesday 17 September 2019

Capital a hotbed for start-ups as its firms secure most EI funding

Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland, left, and Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton, with Julia O’Rourke of Rempad, Yvonne Brady, EVB Sports Shorts and Martina Skelly of Yellow Schedule. Photo: Shane O'Neill Fennells
Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland, left, and Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton, with Julia O’Rourke of Rempad, Yvonne Brady, EVB Sports Shorts and Martina Skelly of Yellow Schedule. Photo: Shane O'Neill Fennells
Michael Fitzgerald, founder and CEO of OnePageCRM
Barry Redmond, Chief Executive of Brim Brothers

Sarah McCabe

DUBLIN start-ups secured more spots on a coveted government funding programme than the rest of the country combined, new figures show.

Around 100 new businesses made it on to Enterprise Ireland's prestigious High Potential Start-Up programme last year, new data shows, and 55 of them came from Dublin. Just four came from the midlands while only five came from the border counties and seven from the west.

Enterprise Ireland has invested heavily in these companies. Each has been granted thousands of euro worth of taxpayer-funded grants, up to a maximum of €250,000, in exchange for an equity stake.

Membership of the programme identifies them as some of the country's most promising new businesses. They should create nearly 2,000 jobs within the next three years, according to official estimates.

Among their ranks is PR Slides, the online picture agency founded by model Emma-Jane Power and backed by food blogger and technology investor Niall Harbison. Others include Trustev, the online identity verification business that helps traders avoid fraudulent credit card transactions.

The 'Class of 2013' met for the first time at a networking event in Dublin Castle yesterday, attended by Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, Enterprise Ireland (EI) chief executive Julie Sinnamon and multiple venture capitalists and other investors.

Members of a similar EI grants programme known as the Competitive Start Fund which targets businesses at an even earlier stage of development, were also in attendance. These businesses have received grants of up to €50,000. This programme was also heavily weighted towards the capital last year; 53 of its 85 recipients were Dublin-based.

"You can see from the numbers that Dublin is a hotbed, though there are other hotbeds. I think we do need to see that spread," said Minister Bruton. "We need to learn from what Dublin has done successfully and apply it elsewhere". The bias towards the capital, he said, was one of the motivations behind the new network of Local Enterprise Offices being rolled out across the country - "to see that entrepreneurship is supported at every location, regardless of where an enterprise might be starting".

The country's Institutes of Technology, he said, are also ensuring entrepreneurs in periphery locations have access to supports, through courses they are running on building up businesses.

The majority of EI's Class of 2013 are involved in software or services activities. However, there was also a strong showing by engineering companies, food and consumer product producers and medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Minister Bruton said he was heartened to see manufacturing start-ups, an area he said had been overlooked in the past.

The number of women joining both programmes jumped last year, the figures show. A total of 41 female-led companies made it onto the High Potential Start-Up scheme last year, a major rise from 16 in 2012.



Sales management web app aims to hit €2m revenues in two years


This Galway-based business has developed a web application that helps customers to manage sales.

Founder and chief executive Michael Fitzgerald, right, says it's as easy to use as an email system and cuts out the administration required by its competitors. The technology works like a Twitter feed, reminding users of key actions that will help maximise sales.

"It's so effective that sales people buy our product even when their management uses competitors' technology, because they know we will help them make money," says Mr Fitzgerald.

The Galway company has 12 employees and is also backed by US investment group 500 Startups. It's aiming for revenues in the region of €2m within two years.


Engineers with a bright idea invent multiple bicycle performance tracker

Brim Brothers

The founders of this company are engineers and cycling enthusiasts, with decades of experience cycling competitively at local club level.

While out on Sunday morning winter training runs, they started discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the various cycling performance trackers (known as "power meters") on the market – and decided that they could design a better one.

Unlike their competitors, Brim Brothers' device attaches to a cyclist's shoes rather than a bicycle.

This means it works even as the user moves from bike to bike.

"Most professional or serious cyclists have multiple bikes," explains chief executive Barry Redmond (pictured).

The product will hit the market in August and is already available for pre-order. Six people currently work at the Rathfarnham-based company, including four engineers.

It has been funded by four private investors alongside Enterprise Ireland.

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