Entrepreneurs encouraged tap the funds to grow in 2018

Enterprise Ireland's funding net is widening to include deep-tech firms, writes Trish Dromey

In its bid to encourage more entrepreneurs to take the plunge in 2017, Enterprise Ireland offered funding of €5.75m to early stage companies, and for the first time ever put out a call to senior business professionals with more than 25 years experience.

Assistance, in the form of €50,000 in competitive start funding (CSF), in return for a 10% stake in the company, was made available to 115 entrepreneurs across a wide range of sectors.

The last of eight calls to be issued during the year went out in October to senior business executives with 25 years experience. The aim, according to High Performance Start-Up (HPSU) divisional manager Joe Healy was to give extra encouragement to executives who have been thinking or talking about setting up their own companies.

"There is a wealth of experience ready to be tapped. There are senior business executives with energy, experience, skills as well as good business ideas and the capital to back them up."

He said that by putting out this specifically targeted funding offer, Enterprise Ireland hopes to persuade these business executives "that now is the right time to become an entrepreneur".

Mr Healy said specifically targeting certain areas is a tactic that has worked well for Enterprise Ireland, which this year offered a €500,000 CSF funding round to international entrepreneurs and another to recent graduates. Enterprise Ireland has been offering specific funding for female entrepreneurs since 2011 and had its best success to date last year.

In 2016, 44 of 128 CSF approved start-ups were female-led while the figure for High Potential Start-Ups, companies at a more advanced stage, was 19 out of 101. Enterprise Ireland announced in March this year that the €5.5m it had provided in start-up funding to female-led entrepreneurs during 2016 was at its highest level ever and was set to be even higher this year.

Mr Healy said that while general calls for technology start-ups attract mainly males, female only calls have been very successful in attracting applications from across a range of sectors including technology. 

"They bring in female founders into the start-up ecosystem who might not have chosen to take the risk of starting up."

Although the figures for the CSF allocations for this year are not yet available Mr Healy said that some of the trends are similar to last year. Typically 50% of the participating companies locate in Dublin and approximately 70% of companies were in the software/technology space.

Mr Healy said that €5.75 million was available in CSF funding this year, which is €650,000 less than the €6.4 million allocated during 2016.

During 2016 three calls were offered to female entrepreneurs, including one of which ran over to this year. "The funding made available in 2017 was €1.5m over two calls to keep a focus on female entrepreneurship, and in recognition of the large interest in terms of applications," said Mr Healy He said that Enterprise Ireland is now on track to achieve its target of providing High Potential Start-Up funding to 90 companies.

"This was to focus more on the quality of the start-up companies with the potential to create ten jobs and generate €1m in sales within three or four years of starting," he said.

Plans for 2018 include putting out a call to early stage companies in all sectors, with a specific emphasis on ICT at the end of January. 

During the year CSF funding will be offered to graduates, female entrepreneurs, and international entrepreneurs and again to experienced business professionals.

For the first time next year, Enterprise Ireland will include a specific call to Deep Tech companies.

"We are looking to encourage deep-tech projects which would include block chain, virtual reality and augmented reality," said Mr Healy.

He added that there will also be a focus on encouraging UK entrepreneurs in the Fintech sector to consider Ireland as a location because of Brexit.

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