Ireland’s reputation for being an international Tech-friendly haven came crashing down after the mass layoffs that occurred in its Tech Industry in Q4 of 2022. This left a significant proportion of skilled, experienced tech professionals asking themselves what their next step should be.
Sometimes being thrown into the unknown is just what you need to push you to pursue that idea you know deep down could add value to our world. Although it can be a difficult and lonely journey to pursue your idea and to prove its feasibility, there are numerous grants available for funding over a wide range of sectors from Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Office (LEO), Údarás na Gaeltachta and the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC). It is this financial support that is essential to giving Start-ups a chance to grow and establish themselves.
One Irish entrepreneur shared their experience with us on what it is really like to pursue a Start-up in Ireland and to apply for financial assistance.
Precision Sports Technology
Precision Sports Technology was founded by Emma Meehan in November 2021. It is a software application that gives real-time feedback to athletes and coaches on their form, conditioning and injury recovery. Precision Sports Technology also has great potential to revolutionise telehealth as during the lockdowns physiotherapists had to conduct their appointments online due to the COVID-19 pandemic which further emphasised the software’s prospects and capabilities.
Emma first began to develop software for Precision Sports Technology for her final year project while studying Computer Science & Information Technology at NUIG, Galway between 2014 and 2018. For her final year project Emma combined her passion for weightlifting with her talent for software engineering to write code for Precision Sports Technology. When Emma completed her final year project in 2018 her lecturers identified the potential of her code and suggested that she pursued her idea as a start-up. However, as a 21 year old Emma decided to gain more experience while she saved up to pursue her idea and worked for Cisco for 3 years as a software engineer while continuing to work on and develop Precision Sports Technology in her spare time.
It was entirely due to the help of financial assistance and coaching as part of Phase 2 of the New Frontiers program that Emma was then able to leave her job and work full time on her start-up. Emma’s previous employer also offered her an unpaid sabbatical for 6 months which provided her with the security to pursue her start-up full time and on the harder days when she knew that she had the option of returning to her job as a software engineer she always chose to keep working on her start-up.
Originally Emma approached her Local Enterprise Office in Galway however she was redirected to Údarás na Gaeltachta since Precision Sports Technology was registered in the Gaeltacht. Although the application process was unclear, Emma was able to claim back half the expenses incurred on her trip to a trade show in Cologne, Germany with the T.A.M.E Grant from Údarás na Gaeltachta.
Emma began Phase 1 of the New Frontiers program with Enterprise Ireland in June 2021 with 90 other entrepreneurs which was fundamental in providing Emma with the support and courage to pursue Precision Sports Technology full time.
Phase 1 focused on taking the entrepreneurs’ ideas from a vision to the market by providing advisory and consultancy services as well as providing classes on market research, sales and finance. The entrepreneurs were challenged on their own assumptions of their product and ideas.
Although Emma has complete faith and confidence in her software and could easily explain its value to other engineers it was challenging to convey the potential of her idea to investors without providing information such as balance sheets, cash flow statements and a 5 year projection. Without a background in finance this can be an overwhelming and uncomfortable process. New Frontiers has been essential in dismantling the language barrier between Emma, a software engineer and potential investors, who usually come from a financial or accountancy background.
Throughout Phase 1 Enterprise Ireland guided the entrepreneurs towards applying for Phase 2 of the New Frontiers program so that only small amendments needed to be made to their applications. Emma was 1 of 14 entrepreneurs chosen to progress to Phase 2 and she received a €15,000 stipend which covered her salary for 6 months. She was also 1 of 3 entrepreneurs that progressed to Phase 3 from which she received a stipend of €7,500 up until July 2022.
Emma also received support from the National Digital Research Centre’s Pre-Accelerator program in which the entrepreneurs are provided with masterclasses on how to pitch to investors as well as organising webinars and networking events with the aim of accelerating Irish and international start-ups with global ambition. It is now one of Emma’s goals to be accepted into their Accelerator Program.
Precision Sports Technology now employs two student interns part time who are both studying software engineering at the University of Galway. Emma’s focus for 2023 is to trial the product with teams, to fundraise €1 million and to employ a business partner with the aim to further Precision Sports Technology.
How can I fund my idea in Ireland?
There are 4 organisations in Ireland that can provide you with financial assistance for your Start-up:
- Enterprise Ireland
- Local Enterprise Offices (LEO)
- Údarás na Gaeltachta
- National Digital Research Centre (NDRC)
Enterprise Ireland is the national body that financially supports the development of manufacturing and internationally traded services companies for entrepreneurs, Start-Ups, SMEs and college based researchers with the Start-Up Team Grant (High Potential Start-Up) and the New Frontiers Grant.
There are 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) located all over Ireland who support entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses and ideas across a wide range of areas by providing training, market research, business planning & mentors, feasibility grants and co-investment for smaller enterprises that do not qualify for the larger grants from Enterprise Ireland such as their Feasibility Study, Priming Grants and Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters.
Údarás na Gaeltachta also provides support for a wide range of businesses across different sectors throughout the Gaeltacht Regions in Ireland. Whether your business requires financial support to grow and enter new markets or to do research and promote your business, Údarás na Gaeltachta can help you achieve your goals with their Feasibility Study Grant, Capital Grant, Employment Grant, Equity Investment, Consultancy Services, Development of Market Research Skills, Trade Fair Participation Scheme and Innovation Voucher.
The National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) is the national start-up accelerator programme for globally ambitious tech entrepreneurs in Ireland. They help start-ups succeed at every point of their journey through coaching and mentoring, with a founder-first approach delivered by international experts.
Market Research and Feasibility
The first question all Start-up founders ask themselves is if their idea is feasible. In order to measure the feasibility of an idea you must do market research to find out who your customer is, would they buy your product and how is your idea different from what is already on the market.
LEO and Údarás na Gaeltachta both offer a grant for a Feasibility Study. The maximum amount payable for the Feasibility Study Grant with LEO for the S&E Region is 50% of the investment or €15,000, whichever is the lesser. The maximum payable for the Border, Midlands and West (BMW) Region is 60% of the investment or €15,000 whichever is the lesser. Expenditure includes:
- Market Research
- Consultancy Costs
- Technical Development/Prototype/Innovation
- Salary/Own Labour Research
- Miscellaneous Costs
With the Feasibility Study Grant, in order to assess the viability of a business idea, Údarás na Gaeltachta will cover the cost of salaries and wages of the company’s personnel, cost of consultants, related travel and subsistence and any other additional overheads incurred directly as a result of the Feasibility Study.
LEO also offers the Development of Market Research Skills grant which aims to improve the market development skills of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) by providing support towards internal costs which they may incur when researching new markets for products and services and must not exceed €200,000 in any three fiscal year period.
Trade Shows can be a great way to exhibit and promote your small business. LEO and Údarás na Gaeltachta both offer grants to cover the costs of attending Trade Fairs with their Trade Fair Participation Scheme and Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters (T.A.M.E) grants.
The Trade Fair Participation Scheme aims to assist SMEs to disseminate information about and to obtain market data on their products by providing support towards the cost of the first time participation in a particular trade fair or exhibition. Eligible costs include those of stand rental, setting up and running the stand, economy airfares and subsistence.
The Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters grant offers to cover 50% of eligible costs (net of vat) to a max of €2,500 in any calendar year incurred investigating and researching export markets. Applications must be made prior to any expenditure being incurred. Expenditure includes:
- Exhibiting at Trade Fairs,
- Preparing marketing material and
- Developing websites specifically targeting overseas markets.
The NDRC offers the Pre-Accelerator program to entrepreneurs in which they lay a strong foundation, complete market research, learn how to pitch their idea, develop their product, calculate finances and identify funding options all with-in 6 weeks.
Once you prove your idea’s feasibility the next issue is initial Start-up funding. Fortunately Enterprise Ireland, LEO, Údarás na Gaeltachta and NDRC offer a number of grants to help Start-ups with initial Start-up costs.
With the New Frontiers grant, Enterprise Ireland aims to connect entrepreneurs and businesses with strong employment and growth potential across all sectors with research institutes and Institutes of Technology across Ireland. New Frontiers offers a support package valued at €30,000 including a €15,000 tax-free stipend in Phase 2, subject to satisfactory performance – no equity is taken in your business as well as €10,000+ available in Phase 3.
With Údarás na Gaeltachta the Capital Grant is available to enterprises seeking aid for an initial investment for capital expenditure costs such as the setting up of a new establishment, the extension of an existing establishment, diversification of the output of an establishment into new, additional products, and / or a fundamental change in the overall production process of an existing establishment. Capital grants can be paid for initial investment in material and immaterial assets.
With the Equity Investment, An t-Údarás can take an equity stake in small and medium enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases where this is of strategic importance to the development of the enterprise. A comprehensive business plan and complete application form must be submitted as part of the application.
If you are located in the Gaeltacht, own or manage a small limited company and want to explore a business opportunity or obstacle you can apply to Údarás na Gaeltachta for an Innovation Voucher worth €5,000. The voucher can be exchanged for advice and expertise from participating knowledge providers (universities, institutes of technology or publicly funded research bodies).
Once a Start-up has gained it’s footing Údarás na Gaeltachta offer to provide assistance to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) for the provision of expert advice in the required areas to assist in the long term development of the enterprise with their Consultancy Services.
After the NDRC’s Pre-Accelerator program entrepreneurs can then move on to the Accelerator program in which they provide founder-friendly investment with mentorship from proven entrepreneurs and a whole range of value-adds. This program includes a €100k investment using a SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity), pioneered by Y Combinator.
Entrepreneurs can receive highly personalised mentoring from 40+ successful entrepreneurs as well as access to dedicated Entrepreneurs in Residence as well as tailored support, investor lunches, international trips, 12 months space, €500k perks, post-accelerator support, and much more.
There comes a point in every Start-up’s journey in which the founder and employees become stretched too thin to push and reach the Start-up’s full potential. In that case there are a number of grants available to help pay salaries.
LEO offers the Priming Grant to micro enterprises that are within the first 18 months of start-up. The maximum amount payable is 50% of the investment or €150,000 whichever is the lesser. Expenditure includes:
- Capital items
- Salary costs
- Consultancy/Innovation/Marketing costs
- General overhead costs
With the Employment Grant Údarás na Gaeltachta will help assist towards job creation costs. Aid is calculated by reference to the expected wage costs over the first two years of jobs created as a result of an initial investment project. Half of the grant aid is paid when the job commences and the balance is normally paid when the job has been in existence for six months.
Ireland is known worldwide for its low corporate tax rate of 12.5% which has attracted many Big Tech companies to cities all across Ireland. Revenue also provides Start-Up Relief for Entrepreneurs(SURE) that provides a refund of Income Tax that you paid in previous years.
You can claim the relief if you are starting your own business and you are an employee, an unemployed person, a person who has recently been made redundant. The general conditions for SURE are that you must establish a new company carrying on a new qualifying trading activity, have mainly Pay As You Earn (PAYE) income in the previous four years, take up full-time employment in the new company as a director or an employee, invest cash in the new company by purchasing new shares, keep the purchased shares for at least four years.
Can you see your idea in the criteria?
It is clear that there is an abundance of financial support available for entrepreneurs, Start-Ups, SMEs and college based researchers all across Ireland for any idea or industry. Ireland is one of the most Start-Up friendly countries in Europe and is passionate about encouraging innovation, entrepreneurship and development as well as establishing global connections.
As the Prototype People, Mint Tek can assist you on your journey to take your idea from mind to model with our experience and connections. If you require a design consultation or a hardware prototype please send us your request using the following link; https://mint-tek.com/prototype-design-hub/