Get application advice from successful Agri CSF applicant, AgManor CEO, Pat McNeill
“Don’t get lost in a sea of start-ups”
Pat McNeill, co-founder and CEO of AgManor on applying for the Competitive Start Fund
Buying a cow from the comfort of your couch or bidding on an Irish stallion while sunbathing in Dubai is now a possibility for time-pressured farmers worldwide. Pat McNeill is the co-founder and CEO of AgManor, a cloud-based platform that allows auction centres to sell their products live online and in real time to approved buyers.
From its concept stage, AgManor has utilised a number of Enterprise Ireland start-up supports including vouchers, the New Frontiers programme and the Competitive Start Fund (CSF). Having your market research done is among McNeill’s top tips when applying for the CSF.
I’ve always been self-employed and I’ve been involved in building & farming for most of my life. It was through trying to find time to be in two places at once, that I realised that there was a niche in the market for a platform where you could view, bid and buy online from equine/livestock sales via your phone from wherever you were. The AgManor app allows you to view the live sale with audio and video streaming and you can bid in real time from anywhere in the world.
I don’t have a tech background, so the first challenge was to build a team to develop the vision we had for AgManor. We worked closely with several marts through our product development. This was a valuable process as we realised that the equine industry was a better starting point – it was already developing online strategies and the high value bloodstock trade is cross-border in nature. We had to make the tough decision to redesign our market entry strategy towards the Equine Industry.
The Competitive Start Fund Application
I would advise anyone who's thinking of applying for the CSF to go for it, but it is highly competitive so you need to be very prepared! If you’re at the point of filling out the application forms, you should keep in mind that the word count is very tight so make each and every word count. Ultimately you need to convey that you have a business that is innovative, can scale internationally and create Irish jobs.
- Have your market research done — know your industry and competitors.
- Clearly communicate your product’s USP and how it addresses a need.
- Know every aspect of your business inside out and deliver your pitch with confidence.
- A well planned and clearly worded pitch is critical as it is only four minutes, so practise, practise and practise.
- Take all the help and feedback you are offered from people who have been through the process and get an honest critique from people you trust.
Access to Support
From the very start of our journey Enterprise Ireland has been a massive support to us. It’s not just the funding, it’s the support network it offers us, no matter where our business takes us — planned or unplanned. It’s the access to mentors that know the industry, the programmes to support you on your way and of course the networking with other participants who are on the same journey.
Having a great idea and founding a start-up company can be daunting. Our solutions are innovative so this is an untrodden path which can be very rocky terrain at times, but also one of great opportunity. Enterprise Ireland has been a guide for us through the wilderness that is funding, product development, market strategy and all the rest. If you are really determined to head out on that journey, our advice is to use Enterprise Ireland as a guide so you don't get lost in a sea of start-ups.
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