Competitive Start Fund - Women Entrepreneurship

** This call is now Closed **

For this Women Entrepreneurship call, applications are invited from individual women entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial teams and existing early stage women led start-ups. A qualification requirement for this call is that, the applicant / applicant company must have at least 1 woman promoter that has a place on the lead management team and who owns or will own at least 25% of the voting share capital of the company at the point prior to Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund Tranche 1 investment of €25k for 5% of the company if successful in this competition. Details of how this condition will be met must be provided in the application form.

If the proposed application does not meet this specific requirement above, please visit the information page for Call 65 - All sectors.

The proposed application must be active in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Services sectors, including the following subsectors Agtech, Cleantech, Consumer Products, e-Health, Enterprise Software, Fintech, Food, Games, Industrial Products, Lifesciences, Manufacturing, Medical Technologies & Devices, Mobile, Renewables, SAAS / Digital Technologies, Engineering / Electronics, Green Technologies / Climate Change Solutions *, Deeptech, Internet of Things (IOT), Artificial Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR), Data Intelligence, Quantum Computing

*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


Dublin BIC Innovate Accelerator Programme

Under this Women Entrepreneurship call for applications, as well as securing up to €50k in funding, the successful applicants will also be offered the opportunity to participate in Dublin BIC’s INNOVATE Accelerator Programme. Delivered over a 12-week period (commencing in Q4 of 2020), the interactive INNOVATE programme is designed to support and mentor participants in the development of their business and develop a peer network of entrepreneurs to support progression to Seed Investor Readiness.


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 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, internationalisation potential and employment capacity. Clear 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 contact details of (trial and/or paying) customers prior to any Enterprise Ireland investment completing as part of our due diligence process.


Previous CSF Winners

Suzanne Moloney

Hidramed’s innovative wound management system was inspired by its founder’s search for a solution to her medical condition. Suzanne Moloney explains how the right mentoring supports helped her start-up to progress quickly. Read more here.

Leonora OBrien Pharmapod

Pharmapod aims to be a worldwide solution to a global problem, helping to reduce medication errors and improve patient safety. Founder and CEO Leonora O’Brien explains how local support has been invaluable for launching internationally. Read more here.

Sonia Wellola 140px

Wellola’s patient portal software solutions help to make healthcare more accessible and cost-effective for everyone. Co-founder Sonia Neary describes how CSF support helped to realise her vision and to drive early traction and growth. Read more here.

Caroline Gleeson BidRecruit 140px

BidRecruit is an innovative, unique platform that cuts time-consuming tasks and makes recruitment efficient and effective. Here, company founder, Caroline Gleeson outlines how CSF enabled BidRecruit to develop from idea to business realityClick here to read more.

HidraMed Solutions


Sonia Neary, Wellola

Women Entrepreneur Competitive Start Fund's support network

To Apply

This call for applications opened on Tuesday 7th July 2020 and opened for a 6-week period. This call closed on Tuesday 18th August 2020 at 3pm.

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

Also, as part of the application process, a Video Pitch must be submitted on the platform by 3pm on Tuesday 18th August, 2020 (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.


Am I eligible?

The Competitive Start Fund is open to:
- Companies that are active in the relevant industrial sector(s)
- 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 for Women Entrepreneurship call must fulfil all of the following criteria:

If successful, the applicant / applicant company must have at least 1 woman promoter that has a place on the lead management team of the applicant company and who owns or will own at least 25% of the voting share capital of the company at the point prior to EI CSF Tranche 1 investment of €25k for 5% of the company. Details of how this condition will be met must be provided in the application form.

  • Must be a manufacturing or an eligible 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
  • 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:

  • 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 majority of the management team must be based in Ireland.
  • Any company who previously received CSF investment is not eligible to apply for this competition.

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 - Online Support Days

Application Support Days have been held online by Business Innovation Centres nationwide:


Application Support

Your Local Business Innovation Centre (BIC) in addition to application support days 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 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 after the relevant call close date;
  • The overall equity investment will be towards the costs associated with implementing the business plan and making progress on key technical and commercial milestones;

*Capitalisation of existing loans will not qualify – we require this to be new cash into the business.

  • 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. See details of our HPSU Start supports (Word format).
  • Part of the offer for this Women Entrepreneurship call for applications, the successful applicants will have the opportunity to participate in Dublin BIC’s INNOVATE Accelerator programme. Delivered over a 12-week period (commencing in Q4 2020) in the Enterprise Centre, the interactive INNOVATE programme will increase the capabilities of the participants and move them to investor-ready within a short period.

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

  • Salaries
  • Travel
  • Consultancy Fees
  • Other Expenditure


How do I apply?

Please note this call is now closed.

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.

Download sample application form from a previous call. Please note, character counts on each field are not outlined in this sample and is subject to change.

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. 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 interview after you commence your Competitive Start Fund online application.

Read Video Pitch Briefing Document

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

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 (PDF).
  • (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 (PDF).


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 Criteria


Company and Promoter Profile


Product/Service & Market Opportunity


Business Proposition - delivered by Video Pitch


Product/Service Innovation


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


Likelihood of developing into a HPSU [company with at least 10 employees and €1 million revenue within 3 to 4 years]


For information, download  CSF Assessment 1 Scoring Guidelines.


All applicants will be notified by email of the result of this assessment on 23rd September, 2020. If they are successful they will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the panel (Assessment Part 2) in October, 2020.


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 closed on Tuesday 18th August 2020 at 3pm.


Key contact/more information 

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

We are operating remotely, ideally send an email to or alternatively leave a 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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