Pharmapod CEO & founder Leonora O’Brien gives her advice on applying for the competitive start fund

21st March 2016


Leonora O’Brien, Pharmapod CEO & founder

Leonora O’Brien is the founder and CEO of Pharmapod, a cloud-based platform which allows pharmacists to record, analyse and reduce medication error, and improve standards and efficiencies within their pharmacies. Used both here in Ireland and abroad, the platform’s aim is to improve the industry’s knowledge-sharing. Founded in 2012, Pharmapod is now part of Enterprise Ireland’s accelerator programme with a focus on growth and development.

One of Ireland’s leading female founders, read on for Leonora’s advice on why start-ups should apply to the Enterprise Ireland Female Founders and Competitive Start Fund:

Access Available Support:

I was lucky enough to avail of the Competitive Start Fund in 2012 to start our journey and that has been invaluable to us. I think people should take the opportunity to avail of it. It’s the best model and the mentors in the NDRC will add huge value to you and your company. We’re still in touch with the mentors there three years later. They are really behind you all the way. Their success is based on your success as a company and they have a huge amount of experience to draw from, in scaling enterprises on an international scale.

Their mentors have seen hundreds of companies at this stage, so they can really help you avoid mistakes other companies have made. They guide and challenge you, and help validate your thinking. You have to be coachable and open to that, but it’s just fantastic to be able to avail of their experience. It’s really a privilege - these are people who have been involved in hundreds of start-ups over the years.

They’ve seen failures and also successes, so they know the formula for success and can advise you on how to apply that to your business, which is absolutely invaluable and really fast-tracks you to achieving your milestones.

Sell Your Business with Confidence:

In a written application, it’s very important to be very factual and not to use language like “I hope to”.  You have to be very affirmative and use language to reflect this, like “I will achieve X by 2017”. That’s an important thing to consider because otherwise it’s perceived as a lack of confidence. You have to be comfortable with selling yourself and your vision for the company. If you have a good idea, why not shout about it? You have to be confident in order to incite enthusiasm in everyone else. You need to be about it and get people as excited about it as you. You need to be selling your company and vision to everyone.

Avail of Independent Input:

A business plan is an organic document and will improve over the years and it’s the same as applications. I would look back at applications I wrote before and although I may word certain sections differently now, the vision was the same and the salient elements are still the same. It just keeps evolving as you make progress along the way and to reflect any changes in the market.

Every application must be of a really high quality and needs to represent you and your vision appropriately. The more input you can solicit to strengthen your application, the better. Ask experienced people to cast a fresh pair of eyes over your business plan. The more advice you absorb to help you structure and communicate your plan clearly, the better.


Be Optimistic about the Future:

I’m very excited about Irish business at the moment. There are so many networking opportunities, you could be out every night at a start-up event in Dublin, Cork or Galway. You get so much support from other founders and learn so much, there is a real culture of helping each other. I think it’s great and Dublin is so easy to get around and to network in.

You have to be out there, talking to people and being visible but choose the networking events that are most useful to you and to spend your time wisely. If you’re attending an event, have objectives set for what you want to achieve – do you want to meet a particular founder for advice or introduce yourself to an investor for example? Write it down and make it happen.

With Enterprise Ireland, we’re a HPSU now (High Potential Start-Up) and we have our development advisor, who mentors you through the growth phase. We’re currently focusing on the resources available to grow your business such as the Accelerate programme. What I love about Enterprise Ireland is you can access support wherever you need to be in the world. When I was in Dubai last year, I visited the Enterprise Ireland offices over there and they couldn’t have been more helpful and gave me a lot of valuable information about the local market. They are in it for the long haul. Creating a product that adds value to customers and creating jobs is a very rewarding journey. You feel you are   playing your part in contributing to the economy and that’s great.

Interested in applying for the Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs? Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here