Competitive Start Fund - All Sectors

The Competitive Start Fund (CSF) aims to support early stage start-ups. This fund is open to early stage companies in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Services sectors, including the following subsectors AgriTech, AR/VR, Cleantech, Compliance Tech, Construction Tech, Consumer Products, Cyber Security, EdTech, Fintech, Food & Drink, Gaming and Digital Entertainment, HR Talent Tech, Industrial Products, IOT / Smart Cities, Life Sciences, Manufacturing Tech, MarineTech, MedTech, PropTech, Retail Tech, Enterprise Technology, TravelTech, Green Technologies / *Climate Change Solutions, Other.

*solutions to address challenges and opportunities regarding Climate Action with an emphasis on decarbonisation (i.e. supporting transition to low carbon) including but not exclusive to Renewables, Carbon capture technology, Innovations in buildings and transport applications and Sustainable materials.

To Apply

This call for applications opens on Tuesday 7th September 2021 and will close on Tuesday 28th September 2021 at 15:00 hrs.

Completed application forms must be submitted through the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System by the deadline.

Applicants are asked to apply for either this All Sectors call OR the Women Entrepreneurs Call.

Apply here

Also, as part of the application process, a Video Pitch must be submitted on the Sonru.com platform (when you commence the application form, an email regarding the video pitch will be sent to you separately).

A valid application must have both a video pitch and completed application form.

 

Overview of the Competitive Start Fund

The purpose of the Competitive Start Fund is to accelerate the growth of start-up companies that have the capacity and ambition to succeed in global markets. The fund is designed to enable those companies to reach key technical and commercial milestones. Applications are considered on a competitive basis. Funding is provided to companies who rank highest in a two-phase evaluation process. The maximum level of support per successful application is €50,000, for 10% in ordinary shares in the start-up company, to be released in 2 equal tranches of €25k (5% in ordinary shares for each tranche).

Applicants to the fund should ideally be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Be able to clearly demonstrate that product or service has reached Minimal Viable Product (MVP) stage, and that the product is, at a minimum, live in beta.
  • That the product or service has demonstrable customer validation with (trial and/or paying) customers.
  • A fully articulated proposition addressing a clear gap in the market with market research conducted with customers/potential customers.
  • Evidence of innovation, export potential and employment capacity. Clear export market opportunity for the proposed product or service. Clear knowledge of the competitive landscape.
  • Clear execution plan outlined, identifying suitable channels to international markets.

Assessments are undertaken on the applications submitted, it is important to note that the greater the progress the applicant has undertaken towards generating sustainable revenues the stronger the application. Applications from projects that are at idea, concept or design stage may be considered to require further development before applying for the competitive start fund.

If successful in progressing to pitch, the applicant may be required to supply contacts of (trial and/or paying) customers prior to any Enterprise Ireland investment completing as part of our due diligence process.

 

Previous CSF Winners:

SQUID

Established by engineering graduates and best friends Katie Farrell and Matthew Coffey, and supported by Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund, SQUID is an innovative loyalty app that is free for customers to download and can hold “virtual” loyalty cards for a range of businesses. Read more about SQUID..

Ciaran Brennan LiveCosts

With the help of Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF), Ciaran and Niall Brennan developed their cost-tracking software into a real solution for small and medium-sized businesses in the sector. Read more about LiveCosts

Padraig Neylon AddJust

AddJust is a contract and financial management platform for the construction industry. The company received support from Enterprise Ireland's Competitive Start Fund. Click here to see CEO Pádraig Neylon discuss how the CSF supported their growth.

Wendy

The TeachKloud Early Learning Management System is a SaaS solution which enables educators to streamline their business, comply with regulations and communicate with parents. CEO Wendy Oke outlines how the CSF allowed TeachKloud to upgrade our product, hire key personnel and raise further funding. Read more.

 

Am I eligible?

The Competitive Start Fund is open to:

  • Companies that are active in the relevant industrial sector(s)
    OR
  • You are eligible to apply as an ‘Individual’ if an establishment/company is not yet registered for the proposed eligible company activity. If application is successful in the CSF call the investee company must be registered in Ireland and the individual/founder must be based in Ireland.

You are eligible to apply if you are an existing or potential client of Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up Department.

In addition, applicants must fulfil all of the following criteria:

  • Must be a manufacturing or an eligible internationally traded services business (the eligible services as listed in the Service Industries Order 2010);
  • Prior to the competition closing date must not have received equity funding of more than €150K. Equity includes Ordinary shares, Convertible Preference Shares, Convertible Loan Notes and Directors Loans. Sweat equity does not apply;
  • Prior to the competition closing date must be pre-trading or recently commenced trading and does not have revenues in excess of €100k in the current financial year to date or in any previous financial year;
  • If the enterprise is an existing company, the company must be less than 3 years old (from date of incorporation in Ireland) at call close date;
  • Must be capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising sales of €1m within 3 years;
  • Must not be engaged in activities that are excluded under Enterprise Ireland policy including gambling, adult entertainment, tobacco or military sectors.

The following criteria will be applied as part of the additional due diligence process for those applicants / companies progressing to the pitch stage of the competition:

  • Have sufficient de minimis funding available in line with EU rules governing ‘single undertakings’ and company group structures;
  • The applicant/applicant company must not have previously performed the proposed business activity or a similar business activity in a separate business which was majority owned by the applicant/applicant company/the applicant company’s majority shareholder(s); Unless the applicant/applicant company can clearly demonstrate that the business activity previously performed was limited to innovative research and/or was merely preparatory/pre revenue in nature;
  • The undertakings must be a small enterprise as defined at https://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/about-us/our-clients/sme-definition.html
  • Applicants must be eligible to live and work in Ireland. If their current visa status does not allow them to run a business in Ireland they must regularise their visa situation before receiving an investment.  (Enterprise Ireland has a help-desk to advise non EU applicants on the relevant rules).

Please note:

  • The Competitive Start Fund investment must be completed within 8 weeks from date of offer
  • If an application is successful and is currently in receipt of an Enterprise Ireland Feasibility Grant, the full amount of the Feasibility grant must be drawn down before the Competitive Start Fund investment or, alternatively, the company/individual must forego the balance of the Feasibility Grant prior to receipt of the CSF investment.
  • If the applicant is successful and currently in receipt of a New Frontiers scholarship, or a Priming Grant from the Local Enterprise Office, the application/applicant entity will not receive Competitive Start investment until they have completed drawdown of the New Frontiers scholarship/priming grant or declined further payments.
  • The Company must be registered and based in Ireland with the majority of the management team based in Ireland.
  • Any company who previously received CSF investment previously is not eligible for additional funding.

Note: Any intellectual property and assets that are required to execute the business plan that are currently owned by the promoters must be assigned to the investee Irish company prior to the CSF investment completing.

 

Application Support

Application Support Workshops will be held online by Business Innovation Centres (BIC) nationwide. Workshops are free to attend. Spaces are limited, workshops are interactive and participation is welcomed from entrepreneurs and early stage companies. Workshops are also open to internationally based entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Ireland.

Prior registration is required.

BICDateTimeRegistration
Dublin BIC14th September 20212pm-4pmRegister Here
Dublin BIC21st September 202111:30am-1:30pmRegister Here
West BIC9th September 202111amRegister Here
South East BIC10th September 20219.30am-11.30amRegister Here
Cork BIC - more information10th September 202110am - 12 noonRegister here

Your Local Business Innovation Centre (BIC) in addition to application support workshops can offer assistance with preparing your CSF application.

Contact your Local BIC for more information:

 

What is the maximum funding and on what terms?

  • Applications are considered on a competitive basis;
  • The maximum support available is €50,000 for the purchase of 10% ordinary share capital in the start-up company;
  • The investment shall be released in two equal tranches;
  • The first tranche will be released to successful applicants subject to the company providing confirmation that an additional new* cash investment of €5,000 has been made for the purchase of fully paid up ordinary shares only. This new investment must be in the form of new cash for issued ordinary shares in the capital of the Company. The new investment must be made post the relevant call close date. Any investment made before the call close date will not be considered “new cash”. The investment can be from any source, except any other publicly-funded entity/programme. Loans will not be sufficient. Also, capitalisation of existing director/shareholder/related party loans will also not qualify;
  • In addition to €50,000 equity investment, successful applicants can avail of a range of Start–up support from Enterprise Ireland including 10 mentoring sessions with a mentor from the Enterprise Ireland panel of mentors. 

Please note that an application for approval of an equity investment for companies selected under this scheme shall be subject to:

(a) Approval from Enterprise Ireland’s Investment Committee.
(b) The company agreeing to the Terms & Conditions set out in the Enterprise Ireland Term Sheet
(c) The company agreeing to enter into a Share Subscription and Shareholders Agreement with Enterprise Ireland.

Legal Basis: The legal basis is Section 31 of the Industrial Development Act 1986. 
State Aid Basis: The State Aid basis is De Minimis Aid EC No 1407/2013

 

Eligible costs

The overall equity investment will be towards the costs associated with developing the business plan and making progress on key technical and commercial milestones. Applicants must show at least a minimum of €50K in expenditure in the "Cost of Plan" section in the application form.

The following activities are expected to form the basis of expenditure:

  • Salaries
  • Travel
  • Consultancy Fees
  • Other Expenditure

 

How do I apply?

Applications must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System during the call open dates.  We strongly recommend that you log in and commence your application well in advance of the call closing date.  You can commence your application and save it to revisit at a later stage.

To support your written online application, you are asked to address a number of questions using video interviewing technology.  You will be asked to complete a 6-8 minute online video interview / pitch which will be viewed by the evaluation panel as part of the evaluation process. This video pitch is mandatory, 20% of the overall marks are allocated to this submission. For your application to be considered you must submit your written online application and video pitch. An email will be sent (to the email address used when registering for Enterprise Ireland online) inviting you to complete your online video pitch after you commence your Competitive Start Fund online application.

You will be asked to address the following questions:

  • What are you going to sell? (1 minute maximum)
  • Who are you going to sell it to? (1 minute maximum)
  • Why are they going to buy it from you? (1 minute maximum)
  • How are you going to sell it to them? (1 minute maximum)
  • How are you going to make money? (1 minute maximum)
  • You will also be given 2 minutes max to add any additional comments

 

How is my application evaluated?

Assessment Part 1

An evaluation panel comprising external consultants and Enterprise Ireland will score applications under the following criteria: 

Evaluation Criteria

Weighting

Company and Promoter Profile

20%

Product/Service & Market Opportunity

20%

Business Proposition - delivered by Video Pitch

20%

Product/Service Innovation

10%

Ability to deliver key Commercial and Technical Milestones over the coming 12 months

10%

Likelihood of developing into a HPSU (company with at least 10 employees and €1 million revenue within 3 years)

20%

All applicants will be notified by email of the result of the first round of the competition in October 2021. Those shortlisted to progress to the second round will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the panel (Assessment Part 2) in November 2021.

 

Assessment Part 2

The highest scoring applications will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the evaluation panel comprising external industry experts and representatives of Enterprise Ireland.

The evaluation panel will be asked to score the applicant's performance based on the following equally weighted criteria:

  • Business Model - explain how this company will generate revenue and scale internationally.
  • Management Team - describe how the proposed management team have the necessary skills to scale this business and clearly identify gaps and proposed actions to address them.
  • Roadmap - clearly outline the steps necessary and the resources required over the next 12 months.

The evaluation panel will select the start-ups to go forward to Enterprise Ireland’s Investment Committee for approval.

Please note: Enterprise Ireland reserves the right to seek additional clarification from the applicant in regard to your application. 

 

Closing date for applications

This call for applications will close on Tuesday 28th September 2021 at 15:00 hrs.

 

Key contact/more information

For further information, please read:

For enquiries, please contact:

csf@enterprise-ireland.com

+ 353 1 727 2202 (9am - 5pm)

We are operating remotely, send an email to csf@enterprise-ireland.com or alternatively leave a voice message and we will return your call.

If you are not a client of Enterprise Ireland and want to learn more about qualifying and applying for Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up supports, go to our Start a Business Section.

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