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Looking for investment? InterTradeIreland’s annual competition is now open for entries



Are you a startup founder or the owner of a new or early stage company?

While Covid-19 has undoubtedly affected countless companies across Ireland, it has also given many businessmen and women the chance to evaluate their position and plan for the future.

If you’re planning to take on external investment this year then you should use this time to apply for InterTradeIreland’s Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition.

InterTradeIreland has been helping small businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland explore new cross-border markets, develop new products, processes and services and become investor ready since 1999. As one of the cross-border bodies established by the Good Friday Agreement, InterTradeIreland is funded by the  Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland (DBEI) and the  Department for the Economy (DFE) in Northern Ireland.

Each year they run their highly coveted Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition for early stage/high growth companies in any sector on any part of the island.

This year, the competition has a total cash prize fund of €280,000. Applications are now open so we caught up with InterTradeIreland’s funding for growth manager Shane O’Hanlon to find out more.

What is the focus of the competition?

Unlike other business contests, the Seedcorn Investor Readiness competition is all about helping companies to achieve their commercial potential.

“In an ever changing investment landscape the competition tracks and mimics the activities of the investors and consequently evolves each year to mimic the process,” explains Shane. “It’s not a business competition, but an investor readiness competition.”

“By running the programme we try and help companies to realise the commerciality of their product and how they can appeal to investors. We also help them to figure out what they could use the funds for. We try to educate the entrepreneurs about what they need to do to get their business investor ready.”

Who can enter?

The competition is open to a wide range of businesses. However, there are some criteria that you need to meet before you can apply.

“The competition is for new startups and early stage companies,” explains Shane. “They must be incorporated on the island of Ireland, they must be actively seeking an equity investment, they must be under five years old and they must not have raised over €1 million already.”

If you can tick all those boxes then the next thing you will need to consider is what category you will fall into.

What categories are there?

Businesses can enter in one of the two categories; new start or early stage. There are also four regions; Northern Ireland, Dublin (city and county), Munster, and Connacht and Leinster (including Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan). 

“Companies submit their application online along with a visual representation of the business idea,” Shane explains. “Shortlisted companies are invited to submit a full business plan and, if successful, are invited to deliver an investment pitch in front of the judging panel comprising of venture capitalists, business angels and some of the island’s leading industry experts and entrepreneurs.

“Throughout each stage of the competition, companies will be judged on various criteria including financial performance, company milestones and achievements, future strategy for the business, the management team in place and the quality of the pitch to the judging panel.”

What if my business is just starting out?

Shane encourages all startup companies to apply, even if your business is still in the idea phase.

“There is a common misconception amongst early stage entrepreneurs that you need to have your product ready or idea off the ground before entering,” he states. “Don’t put off entering until next year. Enter the competition, take the feedback you’re given and re-enter again next year. It’s not a one-hit business opportunity. Companies can come back year after year as long as they meet the criteria.

“Last year’s winner was on their third attempt. The company entered the first year, didn’t get anywhere. Entered the second year, didn’t get anywhere but took on board lots of feedback. They then came back and blew everyone away last year.”

What are the perks of entering?

This year, the Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition has a total cash prize fund of €280,000. But even If you don’t make it to the final, there are lots of advantages to taking part.

“Feedback is one of the most important parts of the competition,” states Shane. “Companies will receive feedback on all stages of the competition, constructive advice on how to improve their business plan to attract an investor’s interest.

“Investment pitch master classes form a vital part of the later stages of the competition and companies will receive both written and video feedback at these to assist in their investor ready journey.”

The application deadline for the InterTradeIreland Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition is 1pm on Friday, May 29. Apply now on their website