Enterprise Ireland is about more than just funding for start-ups

Celebrating its class of 2023 this week, the state agency revealed its latest funding figures in a report. But for the founders that benefit from its many programmes, investment is only the tip of the iceberg of supports.

Enterprise Ireland has always been a household name in Irish enterprise, but not many outside the realms of tech would know the state agency is responsible for helping Irish businesses scale abroad is also was named the largest venture capital investor in Europe by deal count in 2022.

Earlier this week, the organisation published a report on its investments last year, which showed €24m invested in 156 Irish start-ups at various stages of development (pre-seed and high-potential), across a wide range of locations (55pc based outside Dublin) and coming from a wide range of sectors including medtech, cybersecurity, fintech, sustainability and, of course, AI.

To coincide with the publication of its impressive investment figures despite a tough global environment for venture capital funding, Enterprise Ireland hosted its annual Start-Up Day on Tuesday (14 May), bringing together hundreds of founders to network with Ireland’s who’s who in investment, accelerators and other agencies.

What sectors are doing well?

Huddled under one roof in Dublin Castle on what was an uncharacteristically bright and sunny day for the city, the assorted audience watched eagerly as CEO Leo Clancy welcomed Government ministers and successful founders formerly invested in by the agency on to the stage for keynotes, panel discussions and awards.

“I’m really heartened to see the communities flourish in this room and how people are coming together,” said Clancy. “Today is especially about the founders, the start-up teams, the potential entrepreneurs working in third-level institutions, in early-stage start-ups and in those companies with potential to lead into the future.”

Of the 156 start-ups Enterprise Ireland invested in last year, Clancy told SiliconRepublic.com that a very high concentration was in technology and life sciences, particularly in medtech.

In fact, the winner of the Big Ideas competition held on the same day was LaNua Medical, which has developed a minimally invasive medtech solution to embolisation (and is now headed to San Francisco for the Pegasus Startup World Cup later this year).

Clancy also said that the fintech sector in Ireland displayed a strong performance, as did the food and industrial sectors – despite being particularly hard to innovate as a start-up in.

“The thing that I’m most keen to see over time, though, is that we do more on sustainability and I’m delighted that across all these categories, we have 13 companies who have sustainability at the core of their focus.

“I think that’s going to be hugely important for Ireland as we look at opportunity in the world, and as we look at solving the challenges that are out there for the world in the coming years.”

Navigating the start-up journey

Emma Meehan is CEO and founder of Precision Sports Technologies, a start-up that makes software to provide real-time feedback on user movement competency during exercise without wearables. It was one of the 23 start-ups that represented Ireland at Web Summit last November.

Speaking to SiliconRepublic.com, Meehan said that Enterprise Ireland has been crucial to the Galway-based start-up’s development.

“I was working as a software developer at a multinational company for years and it was only due to the support of Enterprise Ireland that, first of all, I could go full-time on my start-up,” she told me at the event this week. “But now that we’re going into the growth stage as a start-up, they’ve fully funded the company to help us expand internationally.”

For Frankie Bates, co-founder and chief technology officer at Prodensus, the stage agency has given the team a guideline on how to navigate the start-up journey.

“Our backgrounds are always working in very large, established multinationals, so having to leave that environment and go into something that for us felt unstructured at the start, Enterprise Ireland has really helped us through that.”

But support from Enterprise Ireland isn’t just restricted to Ireland. Barry Lunn, CEO and founder of Provizio, told SiliconRepublic.com that it’s the agency’s extensive international network that the team leans on heavily.

“The idea that you can go to a new country, that you have literally nothing,” he said, “and Enterprise Ireland will eke out and cultivate those really strong networks within that place.”

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