Fintech CSF Winner: James O'Toole, CEO, ID-Pal
James O’Toole is CEO of ID-Pal, a RegTech start-up that addresses the paper-based, time consuming and frustrating process of identity verification, which takes place prior to a business opening a customer account. ID-Pal's mobile app and web portal enables customer onboarding to be completed, either face-to-face or remotely, in under 5 minutes.
As a previous winner of Enterprise Ireland’s Fintech Competitive Start Fund (CSF), James says this endorsement has played a crucial role in helping the company get in front of key stakeholders needed to progress the business.
Challenges can be a blessing in disguise
Due to financial constraints, we spent much of our first year engaging with the market to ensure we clearly understood customer requirements. In many ways, this challenge was a blessing in disguise, as the temptation to build first and ask questions later is almost irresistible to a start-up, not to mention being very costly.
So, lack of resourcing enabled (or rather forced) us to focus on our core value proposition and strip down the solution design to critical features - which customers were actually willing to pay for - as part of our initial offering. This in turn reduced the level of funding required to translate our business concept into a working prototype, which could then be validated with partner clients.
Whilst we grew impatient with the rate of tangible progress we felt we were making at the time, in hindsight it made us a much stronger candidate for the CSF as it helped us form a crystallised view of who our customers were and what problem we were solving, as well as our solution design, by the time we submitted our application.
Applying for the CSF
Primarily we applied for the capital to fund development of our beta solution. Whilst this was a critical factor for enabling ID-Pal to move onto the next phase of customer validation, it was only one aspect of the value and benefits associated with participation on the CSF programme.
The CSF gave us validation, credibility and support
As a team, we benefited personally from the external validation of having the CSF judging panel choose us. Most entrepreneurs tend to be needy creatures requiring constant reassurance and reaffirmation that you're on the right track, and us folks at ID-Pal are no different! The boost that came from this timely intervention really helped us collectively, both in terms of confidence and focus, for the following phase of development.
Given we were (and still are) an early stage start-up, winning the CSF and the ongoing association with Enterprise Ireland has helped us hugely in terms of gaining credibility and exposure with more established target companies. This endorsement has played a crucial role in helping us get in front of key stakeholders needed to progress the business, whether they be partner clients, strategic advisors or industry champions.
The support Enterprise Ireland has provided ID-Pal since participating on the CSF programme, and ever-since then, continues to be a driver of growth for the business, whether it be support with getting office space, or support with getting strategic advice from industry experts, or support with raising capital during subsequent rounds of funding. Whilst the CSF provided a catalyst to validate our business proposition, more importantly it helped us establish a longer term relationship with Enterprise Ireland which has been sustained long after the CSF has ended.
Advice on applying for the CSF
- Focus on fundamentals (i.e. the customer, the problem, the solution, the market etc.)
- Be clear about your value proposition and why it is compelling
- Be clear about your strategic goals and shorter term objectives
- Above all else, ensure you have a strong team with complementary skill-sets in place
Interested in applying for the Competitive Start Fund for Fintech? Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here.