Programme aims ‘to turn ideas into investable and viable businesses’

Gavin Duffy and Sean O'Sullivan from Dragon's Den (left) at the Bank of Ireland Accelerator programme for SMEs at Penrose Wharf Business Centre, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan

From Italian fashion to food and photo-sharing, a select group of start-up companies based in the heart of Cork City are embarking on a 12-week course designed to hone their skills across an eclectic range of issues.

Six Irish companies, one from the UK and one from Italy were selected from more than 150 applicants based in 18 countries to take part in Bank of Ireland’s Accelerator programme in Penrose Wharf in the centre of the city.

Each company will receive a funding contribution in addition to use of the accelerator’s office and all its resources, as well as benefiting from the expertise of mentors such as CoderDojo co-founder Bill Liao, and Gavin Duffy and Seán O’Sullivan of Dragons’ Den fame.

The objective of the programme, according to Mr Liao, is to quickly refine the companies’ business models and build a sustainable future.

“This programme ultimately aims to turn their ideas into investable and viable businesses going forward as they develop the skills to scale their business, truly test their proposition and develop a market strategy as to the best route to market to build sustainable revenues,” he said.

Mr Liao, who is also the lead mentor on the programme, added that a clear and important distinction existed between the “flood” of start-up incubation centres — some of which he questioned the value of — and accelerator programmes which last for much shorter periods and are focused on the key aspect of providing co-working centres like those in London’s Tech City which Mr O’Sullivan also highlighted as crucial to the start-up environment.

“The people who win in the world are the people that learn the fastest and what we see in co-working centres — [and] we know this is working in the rest of the world, we’re just not doing it in Ireland to the extent we should — is that you learn the fastest in communities and in hotspots of activity where you have peer-mentoring and active sharing of experience and that’s what we have in a co-working centre,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

The accelerator programme, which the former Dragon said is the closest Cork has to a co-working centre, sees participants invest 3% of their equity in return for shares in a “founders co-op” fund which aims to foster a collaborative community and allow all eight companies benefit should one “make it” down the line.

Speaking yesterday after his address to the companies, Mr Duffy told the Irish Examiner that the Government should help revive the retail sector through Vat reductions, and called on Finance Minster Michael Noonan to end the pension levy.

“The pension levy is not daylight robbery, it’s night time burglary. It’s working because people don’t know it’s actually happening; you’re stealing it before they’ve had it...

“The one simple fact of life is we’re going to be older, we’re all going to be living longer and we need pensions so, Mr Noonan, tell us how soon you’re going to stop night-time burglary of our pensions.”

Bank of Ireland Accelerator Programme companies:

Rezoomo: Cork-based Rezoomo’s proposition is a fully integrated CV builder and recruitment platform, speeding up the recruitment process by including up and coming industry trends such as social media, online video interviews, video CVs and multiple ways of presenting CVs. Mobile recruitment is becoming a big trend in the industry and Rezoomo have plans to integrate their whole system with a useful app for both job seekers and recruitment agents and companies.

CareZapp: Tag: Carezapp is a tech focused social enterprise based in Dublin set up to promote and support the homecare sector. CareZapp has a vision for a networked model of care that can support millions of people who require or provide care at home.

FoodInc: This Cork based start-up seeks to deliver healthy meals to busy professionals nationwide through a fully integrated website which showcases a tailored selection of meals each week that they can choose from. These selections include premium choices such as Paleo or Gluten-Free, diet focused meals with specific calorific content and chosen nutrient based options.

CLOSR: Tag: CLOSR, based in Cork, aims to allow crowds share experiences like for example at concerts by sharing and having access to really cool photos taken by users all over the event venue from unique vantage points to a serious event happening in Syria where the image can be shared instantaneously with media outlets as it happens.

Sbaam: Originating from Italy, Sbaam aims to be the leading worldwide fashion web community platform where emerging brands can promote and monetise their fashion collections. Sbaam is the connection point between emerging brands and fashion lovers. Furthermore Sbaam will enable independent fashion editors to generate revenue when they publish posts on the platform about certain fashion items, trends or designers.

Cortechs: Dublin-based Cortechs combines neuroscience, sensors and technology to create accessible health tools other than medication to improve behaviour. They provide B2B & B2C clients with accurate brainwave software that allows customers to measure, monitor and improve their brain activity in a way that is that is portable, mobile-centric and reliable.

The Gluten Free Kitchen: The GF Kitchen which operates from Tralee in Co Kerry seeks to solve a considerable problem for Irish coeliacs who are unable to eat out safely in eateries throughout Ireland. EU legislation from January 2012 states that an eatery offering gluten free options must have a separate production kitchen to cater for coeliac safely. The concept caters for this need safely in a dedicated kitchen catering to the health & food sector.

Over-C: Over-C, a UK company, provides an easy-to-use management tool especially designed to turn a phone or tablet device into a powerful productivity, compliance and audit tool. It gives management a valuable tool for real-time visibility of field activities whilst simultaneously monitoring the safety of employees working alone or in hazardous conditions.


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