Competitive Start Fund (CSF) Graduate Entrepreneurship

The Competitive Start Fund (CSF) aims to support early stage start-ups. A call for applications from recent graduates and final year students active in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Se Nwrvices sectors including the following subsectors: Internet, Games, Apps, Mobile, SaaS, Cloud Computing, Enterprise Software, Lifesciences, Food, Cleantech and Industrial Products will open on Tuesday 10th April, 2018 and will close on 3pm on Tuesday 24th April, 2018.

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Motivated by her younger sister, Ailbhe Keane founded Izzy Wheels. Here, she outlines how winning the Competitive Start Fund (CSF) benefitted the business, and what’s next. Click here to read more.

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Having gone through the New Frontiers Programme in Cork, the Competitive Start Fund (CSF) was the obvious next step for Firemole. Here, CEO Sean Ó Tuama outlines how the CSF helped his company and gives advice for future applicants. Click here to read more.


Winning the CSF was a huge achievement for us - Niall Harty, Director, Harty Nutrition Ltd. Click here to read more.

      • Completed application forms must be submitted through the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System by 3pm on Tuesday 24th April, 2018.
      • A Video Pitch must be submitted on the platform by 11:59pm on Tuesday 24th April, 2018 (when you commence the application form an email regarding the video pitch will be sent to you separately).

A valid application must contain both a video pitch and complete application form.

Late applications will not be accepted. The priority of the Fund is to provide graduate entrepreneurs with the critical early stage funding for the key commercial and technical milestones that will ensure delivery of their product or service, and help them get their project to a key funding milestone.

All applications to the fund must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System. The maximum support available is €50,000 for a 10% ordinary equity stake in the start-up company. This fund is open to applications from early stage companies who meet the eligibility criteria outlined below. All applications to the fund must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System.

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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 capability to succeed in global markets. The fund is designed to enable those companies reach key commercial and technical milestones, for example:

      • Evaluate overseas market opportunities and reach firm conclusions regarding the viability of the proposed business.
      • Build a prototype.
      • Secure a reference site.
      • Develop a market entry plan for exploiting international opportunities.
      • Secure partnership deal or strategic alliance.
      • Identify suitable channels to international markets.
      • Secure third party investment e.g. business angel, Venture Capital.


Am I eligible?

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

The Competitive Start Fund is open to:

      • Companies who are active in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Services sectors including the following subsectors: Internet, Games, Apps, Mobile, SaaS, Cloud Computing, Enterprise Software, Lifesciences, Food, Cleantech and Industrial Products.
      • Individuals who, prior to Enterprise Ireland's investment, will register a company which will be active in these sectors.
      • Individuals who, prior to Enterprise Ireland's investment, will have a headquarters registered and be based in Ireland. All intellectual property and assets must reside in the Irish entity.

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

      • Must be a graduate within the last 3 years (from date of application) of a third level qualification with NFQ level 7 accreditation or higher; Please note individuals who are currently sitting their NFQ Level 7 exams this year are eligible to apply for Enterprise Ireland's Graduate Competitive Start Fund. Applicants must have prior to legal’s written notification from their educational institution of final results indicating that they will be conferred with a degree of at least NFQ level 7 or equivalent.
      • Must be a manufacturing or an internationally traded services business;
      • Must not have received equity funding of more than €100K prior to the competition closing date i.e, Ordinary shares, Convertible Preference Shares, Convertible Loan Notes and Directors Loans. Sweat equity does not apply;
      • Must be pre-trading or recently commenced trading, i.e. does not have annual revenues in excess of €60k in the current financial year to date or in any previous financial year;
      • Must be less than three years old from date of registration;
      • Must be capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising sales of €1m within 3 years of starting up* or, where a company is required to have FDA or CE approval, within three years of approval to sell;
      • Must not be involved in activities that fall within gambling or "gaming" as defined in the Gaming & Lotteries Act 1956 or be involved in "adult entertainment", tobacco or military sectors;
      • Applicants must be eligible to live and work in Ireland or be legally working here or attending, or have recently attended, a start up accelerator programme in Ireland. If you are successful and your current visa status does not allow you to run a business in Ireland you must regularise your visa situation before receiving an investment.
      • Must meet SME definition as defined by EU legislation

*starting up defined as the relevant competition closing date.

Please note:

      • 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 starting the CSF.
      • 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 will not receive Competitive Start investment until they have completed drawdown of the New Frontiers scholarship/priming grant or declined further payments.
      • Where an applicant is a subsidiary of a parent company, then the eligibility criteria will be applied to the parent company.
      • If the applicant was a sole trader or a partnership prior to applying to CSF as an individual or a Limited company and the undertaking is exactly the same, then the eligibility criteria will be applied to the former entity.
      • The majority management must be based in Ireland.
      • Please Note: Any intellectual property that is required to execute the business plan that is currently owned by the promoters must be assigned to the company prior to the CSF investment completing.


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 69/2001


What is the maximum funding available and what costs are eligible?

      • Applications are considered on a competitive basis.
      • The maximum support available is €50,000 for a 10% ordinary equity stake in the start-up company.
      • The investment shall be released in two equal tranches.
      • The first tranche will be released to successful applicants only when it provides confirmation of additional new cash investment for equity of €5,000. This new investment in equity of €5,000 by the successful applicant is to occur post the relevant call close date. The €5,000 should come from the promoter sourced funds and must not be matched from State funds. These monies, must not be provided by the Capitalisation of existing director/related party loans which, will not qualify. The company must also meet the general terms and conditions of the scheme.
      • Successful applicants will additionally be appointed a mentor who will work with the company for up to 10 sessions. 


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. The following activities are expected to form the basis of expenditure;

      • Salaries
      • Travel
      • Consultancy Fees
      • Other Expenditure


How do I apply?

If you are a first-time applicant you will be required to register on the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System.

Applications must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System.

We strongly recommend that you commence your application well in advance of the call close date and time. You can commence your application and save it to revisit at a later stage.

To support your written online application, you will be offered the opportunity to pitch directly to the Assessment Part 1 Evaluation Panel 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. You will be asked to address the following questions:

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

You will receive an email after commencing your Competitive Start Fund online application inviting you to complete your online video interview/pitch. To read a detailed explanation what is expected from your pitch, download Video Pitch Briefing Document.

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 and 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.

For more information on this Equity Process read our CSF Equity FAQs.

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How is my application evaluated?

Assessment Part 1

An evaluation panel comprising external consultants in conjunction with representatives from Enterprise Ireland will evaluate each application and will score them under the following criteria: 

Evaluation CriteriaWeighting
Company and Promoter Profile20%
Product/Service & Market Opportunity20%
Business Proposition - delivered by Video Pitch20%
Product/Service Innovation10%
Ability to deliver key Commercial and Technical Milestones over the coming 12 months10%
Likelihood of developing into a HPSU (company with at least 10 employees and €1 million revenue within 3 to 4 years)20%

For information, download  CSF Assessment 1 Scoring Guidelines.

All applicants will be notified by email if they were unsuccessful in this call or will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the panel on Tuesday 5th June, 2018 (Assessment Part 2). 


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Assessment Part 2

The top applications will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the evaluation panel comprising external industry experts and representatives of Enterprise Ireland at the offices of Enterprise Ireland, East Point Business Park, Dublin 3. The date of this pitch is Tuesday 5th June, 2018. 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.

From the final applicants, those scoring highest will be selected with a reserve list 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

The closing date for all applications for those active in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Services sectors including Internet, Games, Apps, Mobile, SaaS, Cloud Computing, Enterprise Software, Lifesciences, Food, Cleantech and Industrial Products will close at 3pm on 24th April 2018.


Key contact/more information

For more information, please contact:
+353 1 727 2202 (9am-5pm)

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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