Finding investors for your startup can be tough. Luckily, there are well-established routes for Irish startup firms to apply to organisations such as Enterprise Ireland or local Enterprise Boards.
Here’s a brief overview of nine popular avenues for state-supported startup funding in Ireland.
1. Enterprise Ireland: High Potential Startup (HPSU) fund
Every year, Enterprise Ireland picks out companies that it thinks could be ‘the next big thing’ to come out of the country. The agency puts its money where its mouth is by investing in these companies itself, while providing a range of supports to help them get their products to international markets.
In order to qualify as a HPSU, Enterprise Ireland must deem a company to be introducing a new or innovative product or service into the international market. The company must be less than six years old, must be headed up by an experienced management team and, crucially, must be deemed capable of creating at least ten Irish jobs and realising exports of at least a million euro within four years of its foundation.
2. Enterprise Ireland: Competitive Start Fund
The next call for applications to the HPSU’s little brother, the Competitive Start Fund, opens at the end of March. The fund is open to applications from early stage companies from the following sectors: internet, games, SaaS, cloud computing, enterprise software, telecoms, life sciences, ‘cleantech’ and industrial products.
Available to manufacturing or an internationally traded services business, companies must not have received equity funding of €100,000 or more prior to the competition closing date. The maximum support available is €50,000 for a 10 per cent ordinary equity stake in the startup company.
3. County and City Enterprise Boards (CEB)
Under the government’s ‘Action Plan for Jobs’ initiative, the local enterprise boards won’t be around for much longer. The details of how they are to be dissolved are still to be ironed out but it is likely to happen before the end of the year. According to Vincent Reynolds, chairman of the national network of enterprise boards, they are funded until the end of the year. But any application should come sooner rather than later.
35 CEBs were established in 1993 to provide support for small businesses with ten employees or less, at local level. The local enterprise board fund deals in smaller amounts than Enterprise Ireland and can suit some smaller local businesses looking to get off the ground.
More information on how to apply available here..
4. National Rural Network Leader Grant
If you are starting a business or service in a rural area, this fund might be worth a look. Any entrepreneurs or community groups can approach their local ‘Leader’ group, with normal funding levels ranging from €2,000 up to about €20,000.
There are 36 individual companies that administer funding throughout rural Ireland with an emphasis on the needs of the corresponding areas.
5. AIB Seed Capital fund
Established in 2007, the AIB Seed Capital Fund purpose was to provide venture capital to companies at the seed stage and early stage of development across a range of sectors.
Part of the ‘Enterprise Ireland and Venture Capital Programme 2007 to 2012’ plan, it has €53 million under management, comprising €30 million from AIB and €23 million from Enterprise Ireland.
6. Bank of Ireland Startup fund (Delta Partners)
In its final year, this €17m Fund is managed on behalf of Bank of Ireland and Enterprise Ireland by Delta Partners. The fund invests in startup and early stage companies and is geared towards supporting entrepreneurs for emerging sectors that have the potential to export.
The fund targets investments in the range of €100,000 and €500,000 and is also supported by the government through Enterprise Ireland’s Seed and Venture Capital Programme 2007-2012. It comprises an investment of €15 million from Bank of Ireland and €2 million from Enterprise Ireland.
7. Business Angel Partnership
An increasingly popular source of funding, Angel funding deals are facilitated by the national Business Angel Partnership and, in the past five years, have amounted to €15 million. The average angel investment amount is a sizable €180,000.
The Business Angel Partnership, a joint initiative between Enterprise Ireland, Intertrade Ireland and the Irish Business and Innovation Network, favors seed investments. Some investments are co-funded by Enterprise Ireland with an average co-funded amount coming in at around €400,000. This is split fifty-fifty, with the angel portion of the investment normally provided by more than one investor.
8. National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) Launchpad
Anyone who is looking to set up a business around a digital technology based on their own research could look at contacting NDRC’s LaunchPad. An accelerator program, it is focused on supporting digital entrepreneurs in setting up a startup company.
NDRC invests in digital innovations based on research, with its investment programs aimed at helping entrepreneurs and researchers to commercialise digital technologies. Companies the NDRC has worked with include LocalSocial, Glidebooks, JLizard, MuteButton, Point the Way and bsm@rk.
9. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)
While not quite a funding source for a startup, if your product requires research then SFI may be worth a call. SFI provides grants for both researchers from around the world who wish to relocate to Ireland, as well as those already based here.
The majority of SFI awards are in the fields of science and engineering underpinning three Government-prioritised industrial sectors: biotechnology, ICT and sustainable energy or energy-efficient technologies. Proposals are evaluated in open competitions with a combination of international peer review. Value for money, strategic impact, efficient use of the peer review system, internationalisation, critical mass, cohesion with other funding streams and availability of funding are all factors taken into account.