Ireland is one of the top 5 easiest countries to set up a business in. Dublin ranks 8 out of 60 major hubs in the latest European Digital City Index (European Digital Forum think-tank). With so many new business projects there has been a massive increase in the demand for startup grants and startup funding.
If you have a feasible business idea but need some help in getting started, find out more about the funding programmes available.
Government/Public Startup Grants & Support
There are over 170 different Government supports for Irish startups and small businesses. This guide aims to help Irish startups and small businesses navigate the range of Government supports to identify the ones most relevant to you.
Local Enterprise Office
Your local Enterprise Office in Ireland can give you advice, information and support on your startup or growing business. Support from your local Enterprise Office includes:
- Start-your-own-business training courses.
- Market research information.
- Business planning advice and templates.
- Access to experienced business mentors.
- Feasibility grants and co-investment for your plans.
Enterprise Ireland has a range of supports and grants that are available to startups and small businesses in Ireland. Their funding programmes are open to anyone such as, entrepreneurs with a business idea that have the potential for a startup to large companies that want to expand their business activities, improve efficiency and grow sales.
High Potential Start-up (HPSU)
Enterprise Ireland’s HPSU support and investment is aimed at startup businesses that are headquartered and controlled in Ireland. Your business should have the potential to become an innovative product or service for the international market and have the potential to create 10 jobs and €1m in export sales within 3 to 4 years of starting up.
Your nearest Enterprise Ireland office has a specialist startup team that can advise you on your application and give you support for moving your business forward.
Competitive Start Fund (CSF)
The Competitive Start Fund helps accelerate startup companies that have the capability to become High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) companies by offering €1.5m funding. The application process involves the submission of a written proposal and a video pitch. In addition, there is a Competitive Start Fund specifically for Female Entrepreneurs on an annual basis. Enterprise Ireland states that this fund is open for applications several times throughout the year with calls made for specific sectors, female-led startups and entrepreneurs based outside of Ireland.
Regional Enterprise Development Fund 2017-2020
The Regional Enterprise Development Fund supports up to 30 successful applicants and they will receive business development support and an investment of up to €50,000 each. The open call for this funding is currently closed but it’s good to know that this is on offer. We will keep you updated when it reopens.
New Frontiers is concerned with progressing more early-stage ideas (0-6 Months) from a business concept to an investable business. It is by far the best way to get money if you are a startup in the early stages. Funded and managed by Enterprise Ireland, New Frontiers is a national programme. Currently, it’s based in 14 incubation centers across the country.
However, if you’re worried because you have already received Enterprise Ireland funding in the past two years don’t be. You can still participate in the programme but will not be eligible for the €15,000 startup grants.
For applicants to be successful, New Frontiers states that participants are selected based on:
- Track record
- Business experience or acumen
- Capability – having the necessary management and technical skills. A suitable background that will enable the development of a business with sustainable competitive advantage
- Commitment, drive & determination
- Quality of the business idea
Overall, startup grants aim to boost the growth of startups in Ireland. Thus, enabling your business to reach full potential.
There are excellent funding and support programmes out there. You just need to find the one that suits you.
Private Sector Support for Startup Funding
NDRC is an early stage investor in tech companies with the main focus on their NDRC Catalyser investment programme. Additionally, its aim is to identify startups and founder teams who meet a significant global unmet market need or problem. For instance, this startup grant could be for you if your startup has;
- Deep know-how in technology
- A globally scalable product or services-led propositions
- Potential to be investor ready or revenue generating within 6 -9 months
- A strong commercial and technical team.
InterTrade Ireland, are a cross-border body, covering the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, who offers a guide to become ‘investor ready’. Additionally, they specialise in early-stage startups and provide a range of services and advice.
The Seedcorn Competition is another opportunity for startups. Primarily, startups who require new equity funding as funding received can be up to €280,000. The Seedcorn is basically a two-step application which includes:
- Registration and initial application form
- Visual representation of the business idea i.e either a short video clip or a slide show presentation – or both.
Supports For Women Entrepreneurs
There a number of supports to support women entrepreneurs and increase women’s entrepreneurial activity in Ireland.
Women-Founded High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU)
The Enterprise Ireland Female Entrepreneurship Unit have established the importance of supporting women entrepreneurs to launch and grow their startups. The requirements for the women-founded HPSU are the exact same as all the other HPSU.
Going For Growth
Going For Growth is specifically for women entrepreneurs and to support women who are serious about growing their businesses, which has been trading for at least two years. Interactive roundtable sessions are facilitated by successful entrepreneurs and practical knowledge comes from lead entrepreneurs sharing their experiences of owning and managing successful businesses.
DCU’s Ryan Academy
DCU’s Ryan Academy supports women entrepreneurs by offering funding and support programmes that address the challenges women face in business. In 2017, they ran ‘Building Better Futures: Migrant Women’s Entrepreneurship Training‘ to provide migrant women with an overview of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in Ireland.
Female High Fliers is an accelerator programme that is currently open for Ireland’s best early stage startups and is specifically designed to address the challenges facing women entrepreneurs (applications close on 23rd January). This programme is open to startups that are less than 5 years old and helps them to accelerate to the next level.
Ribicon in Cork Institute of Technology offers a range of programmes to support women entrepreneurship. In 2017, they ran the Excel Female Entrepreneurship STEM Programme, which was designed to support entrepreneurs with a business idea that had high growth and export potential within the Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) industry.
Dublin BIC offers support in four key areas: investor-ready preparation, access to finance, incubation space and community and collaboration.
Halo Business Angel Network offer investment to companies that are usually headquartered in Ireland and in the Technology, MedTech, AgriTech or Food industry.
Crowdfunding is a great way for small businesses to get support from a large number of people. Ireland has a number of crowdfunding options such as Kickstarter Ireland.
Support For Startups Moving To Ireland
Enterprise Ireland offers Investment Support and Pre-Investment Support for startups moving to Ireland. Investment support includes helping projects that are coming from overseas, that are fully investor ready and meet all their criteria. This support is offered under Enterprise Ireland’s €10m fund to attract international startups to come to Ireland.
Pre-Investment Support is aimed at projects that meet their other criteria and have made some progress but are not fully investor ready and can apply to attend an accelerator programme. Enterprise Ireland can offer some participants on accelerator programmes a grant to cover living costs.
Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP)
The Immigrant Investor Programme is open to non-EEA nationals who commit to an approved investment in Ireland. The programme requires a minimum investment of €1m, from the applicants own resources and not financed through a loan or other such facility and must be committed for a minimum of three years.
Start-up Entrepreneur Programme
The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme allows a non-EEA national with an innovative business idea and minimum funding of €50,000 to come and set up a business in Ireland.
Not Ready To Apply For Startup Programmes?
We understand that it can be a lengthy process to get your startup funding-ready. Pre-accelerator programmes are a great way to get support and practical coaching and experience before you start applying for startup/accelerator programmes.
NDRC’s Pre-Acceleration Programmes
The NDRC offer pre-acceleration and pre-commercialisation programmes. The pre-acceleration programme provides support for potential entrepreneurs who have an idea in technology/digital transformation. The pre-commercialistion programme is aimed to help researchers actively prepare for Enterprise Ireland commercialisation funding, feasibility funding and pre-seed investment. In 2016, NDRC ran 3 industry focused pre-accelerator programmes: HealthTech Pre-Accelerator, Fintech Pre-Accelerator, and InsurTech. Keep an eye out for their future programmes.
Startup Boost is a global tech startup pre-accelerator with locations in Dublin, London, Toronto, Detroit, Austin and L.A. It is a 6-week part-time programme for early-stage entrepreneurs to prepare them for accelerator programs, seed investment and revenue. You will get access to mentoring, networking and coaching as well as connections with top accelerators, seed investors, and industry partners. There is no fee charged and no equity taken.
Propel pre-accelerator is a programme that provides mentoring support and helps with refining business ideas and identifying growth opportunities. This programme supports up to 20 entrepreneurs to build a business, teaches you how to scale your business, reach significant export growth and secure external investment. Keep in mind that this is a UK-based, so your business must be in the UK or you should be willing to relocate there.
EIC Climate – KIC Pre-Incubator
EIC Climate – KIC is a programme for starting entrepreneurs who have a climate business idea and the motivation to make it happen. You will get access to tailored workshops, a community of climate entrepreneurs and support to help develop your idea and create or improve your business plan.
Startup Competitions in Ireland
There are many competitions, grants and award programmes for a variety of startup sector. You don’t have to be in the tech area to enter these.
Are you 30 or under with a business idea or an existing business? If so, then Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) Competition is an option for you.
Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur Competition is open to all sectors. Initially, the competition takes place at County level with a prize fund of €50,000 available to the winners of three separate categories. In addition, unlike many of the schemes mentioned above, applicants from overseas are eligible to apply. The competition categories are:
Advice For The Application Process
If you plan on applying for any funding or support, it is common that they will ask you to submit in-depth details about your business. Whether that is in a video, written, poster or face-to-face interviews, here’s how we recommend you prepare:
- Use Facts and be specific. Back statements with relevant evidence of business activities, i.e statistic or examples.
- Know your business model thoroughly. It will make explaining it an easier task.
- Make relevant content such as product specifications, business plans and so on available to the judges. Consider including links to your website.
- As soon as the application opens, you should begin producing your video pitch – it may take longer than you think.
- Study the marking scheme. This can give you insight into how to divide your time.
What Support Networks Are Available To Startups?
Often Banks offer free support systems. Some providing free mentoring, others offer a space for you to work. You can read more about banking support on our blog.
Bank of Ireland’s drop-in workbench space for startups, has been internationally recognized for its services. The concept of Workbench is to connect entrepreneurs, community, and branch by offering a free dedicated area for co-working. Most of all, it provides a space for free clinics, events, and seminars. We also hold special events for startups, such as guidance seminars and webinars with question and answer sessions and lots of advice.
One of the most useful practices any startup owner or entrepreneur can adopt is to attend as many relevant networking events as possible. Generally, most networking is free, websites like Eventbrite are great for sourcing local meetups. Whereas, bigger events like Inspirefest can be costly, but valuable.
Do Limited Companies Have Increased Chances Of Receiving A Startup Grant?
The simple answer is yes. More startup grants and support are available to limited companies setting up in Ireland.
The sole trader or limited company pros and cons are a great starting point for anyone thinking about setting up as a limited company. Becoming a limited company not only increases the chance of receiving a startup grant but also boosts the credibility of the business.
Getting the right investors for your new business is critical. Before agreeing to an investment you should do everything you can to get to know those investors. Reach out to CEO’s/founders of companies they’ve invested in to understand what role they played post-investment.
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