Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs

The Competitive Start Fund (CSF) aims to support early stage start-ups.  A competition, specifically for Female Entrepreneurs or female-led start-ups, will open on Tuesday 1st March 2016 and will close on Tuesday 22nd March 2016 at 3pm.

This fund is open to start-ups with technology at the heart of the innovation engaged in manufacturing or internationally traded services.

In addition to an investment of €50k for a 10% equity stake, and €5,000 from NDRC for 1% equity, successful applicants will participate on the NDRC Female Founders accelerator programme for technology start-ups, which is targeted at women who have deep knowledge of their relevant industry or who have potentially disruptive ideas for new technology focussed businesses.

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All applications to the fund must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System. Late applications will not be accepted.

Read Pharmapod CEO & founder Leonora O’Brien’s advice on applying for the competitive start fund.


Overview of the Competitive Start Fund

The Competitive Start Fund aims to accelerate the growth of start-up companies that have the capability to succeed in global markets and to enable them to reach key commercial and technical milestones, for example:

  • Evaluate overseas market opportunities
  • 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.


Overview of NDRC Female Founders accelerator programme

The NDRC Female Founders is a 6-month residential programme providing:

  • 3 months of an accelerator programme focused on validating their idea, crafting a scalable business model and connecting with a network of entrepreneurs, subject matter experts and investors.
  • 3 months of intensive one-to-one mentoring culminating in an Investor Day in December 2016.
  • 6 months of office space for the team

The programme will commence on Tuesday, 7th June 2016 and will run until December 2016.

The emphasis is on intensive action learning and mentoring. Programme takeaways include:

  • Business Model Validation Workshops: Learn from serial entrepreneurs about key practical topics including customer development, competitive landscape, understanding the market opportunity, design and user experience, growth and scaling strategies, funding and company building. 
  • Coaching: Hands on help daily from our experienced venture leaders along with weekly networking with experienced entrepreneurs, facilitated by our proprietary mentoring technology platform.
  • Mentoring: One to one mentoring.
  • Network Expansion: The opportunity to build relationships with fellow participants, NDRC portfolio companies, Enterprise Ireland alumni companies, and seasoned industry experts.
  • Leadership Development: Founders leave the accelerator with entrepreneurial leadership skills to drive future success including strategic thinking, resilient leadership, self-management and work/life balance tools.
  • Investor Readiness: Being an NDRC start-up company will validate the business and assist with introductions to follow on investment opportunities. Founders graduate with a 5-minute pitch that has been refines based on expert feedback along with a Pitch Deck to use with potential investors, customers or partners. Invitation to present at the NDRC Investor Day in December 2016.
  • Roadmap: Founders develop a roadmap of the high priority next steps that they should take in the 6 months following the accelerator.


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.

This call for applications to the Competitive Start Fund is open to:

  • A female-led start-up

Or a female entrepreneur who, prior to Enterprise Ireland's investment, will have registered a company in Ireland.

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

  • Must be a manufacturing or an eligible traded services business (the eligible services as listed in the Service Industries Order 2010)
  • Must not have received equity funding of more than €100K prior to the competition closing date.  Equity includes 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 revenues in excess of €60k in the current financial year to date or in any previous financial year
  • If a company, it must be less than five years old [from date of registration]
  • Must be capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising sales of €1m within 3 years.  [If a company is required to have FDA or CE approval, these targets must be achievable within three years of approval to sell];
  • Must not be engaged in gambling, "adult entertainment", tobacco or military sectors [services to the gambling sector are eligible provided income streams are not linked to amounts gambled]
  • 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).

*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 stipend, the applicant will not receive Competitive Start investment until they have completed drawdown of the New Frontiers stipend or declined further stipend 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.
  • 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.
  • This call for applications is open to International Entrepreneurs. If the applicant is currently based outside Ireland;
    • The applicant, whether an individual or company, must undertake to register a company in Ireland prior to Enterprise Ireland's investment.  Enterprise Ireland will invest only in the Irish registered company. Where the applicant is an existing company, the new Irish registered company should not be a subsidiary of the existing company – but it could, for example, have the same shareholders as the existing company.
    • All intellectual property and assets must reside in the Irish entity.
    • The majority of the management team/founders must undertake to be based in Ireland for at least one year post investment (e.g. if there are two persons in the current management, at least one person must move to Ireland).


What is the maximum funding and on what terms?

Applications are considered on a competitive basis.

  • Enterprise Ireland will invest €50k for a 10% ordinary equity stake in the start-up company, which will be released in two equal tranches.
  • NDRC will invest an additional €5k for a 1% equity stake in the company.
  • Investment by the promoter is not a requirement for this CSF competition.
  • The overall equity investment will be towards the costs associated with implementing the business plan and making progress on key technical and commercial milestones.
  • Participation on the NDRC Female Founders accelerator programme for technology start-ups is an integral part of this completion and participation is mandatory.


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 during the relevant call open and call close dates. We strongly recommend that you log in and 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.

A sample application form  is available here. Please note character counts apply that are not outlined in the attached sample form.  Please note – a video submission is not a requirement for this call for applications. 

Please note that an application for approval of an equity investment from Enterprise Ireland 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

d)   The company agreeing to enter into a Share Subscription and Shareholders Agreement with NDRC

For more information on the Enterprise Ireland Equity Process, read our CSF Equity FAQs. 


How is my application evaluated?


Assessment Part 1

An evaluation panel comprising NDRC Venture Leaders and Enterprise Ireland will evaluate each application and score them using the following criteria:

  • Fit (technology at the heart of the innovation)
  • Size of opportunity (internationally scalable business)
  • Team (more than one co-founder)

All applicants will be notified by email on Thursday, 31st March 2016 as to whether they were unsuccessful in this call, or will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the panel in April 2016.


Assessment Part 2

Selected applicants will be invited to present a short investment pitch (10 minutes) followed by Q&A (10 minutes) to the evaluation panel, made up of NDRC Venture Leaders, NDRC Board Members and Enterprise Ireland.

Presentations will take place at the NDRC, 2nd Floor Digital Exchange Building, Crane Street, Dublin 8, the week beginning Monday, 4th April 2016.

The evaluation panel will score the applicant’s performance based on the following equally weighted criteria:

  • Scale of idea
  • Problem being solved
  • Solution offered
  • Market opportunity
  • Competitive advantage
  • Business model
  • Team
  • Ability to deliver against milestones. 


Application Timeline

Tuesday 1st March 2016          Application opens

Tuesday 22nd March 2016      Closing date for receipt of applications

Thursday 31st March 2016       Applicant notification – Unsuccessful or proceed to next stage.

Week of 4th April 2016              Investment Pitches

Week of 9th May 2016              Offers made to successful applicants

Tuesday 7th June 2016             Female Founder Accelerator Programme begins

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


Closing Date for Applications

The call close date for applications for Female Entrepreneurs or a female-led new start-up company, with technology at the heart of the innovation is Tuesday 22nd March 2016 at 3pm.


Key contact/more information


NDRC Contact Details:

Further to our open evening on Thursday, 10th March 2016 please find presentations here.


Book office hours on Monday, 14th and Tuesday 15th March from 9am – 1pm 

NDRC, 2nd Floor Digital Exchange Building, Crane Street, Dublin 8.

To RSVP or for additional programme enquiries, please email


Enterprise Ireland contact details/more information:
 + 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.