Competitive Start Fund (CSF) International Entrepreneurs - 50,000 euro investment to grow your business in Ireland

A competition for early stage start-ups that are currently based anywhere in the world and willing to relocate to Ireland, will open on Tuesday 21st August 2018 and will close at 3pm (GMT +0) on Tuesday 4th September 2018.

This fund is open to entrepreneurs, currently located outside of the Republic of Ireland, with a start-up focusing on manufacturing & internationally traded services, including the following subsectors: Internet, Games, Apps, Mobile, SaaS, Cloud Computing, Enterprise Software, Lifesciences, Fintech, Food, Cleantech and Industrial Products.

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Swoop Funding is a technology platform that matches SMEs with funding. Here, founder and CEO Andrea Reynolds describes the challenge of leaving a steady job, and the tactical decision she made to apply for the Competitive Start Fund (CSF). Click here to read more.

If you wish to apply, please click the button below and follow our online application process.

Completed application forms must be submitted through the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System by Tuesday 4th September, 2018 at 3pm (GMT +0).

A Video Pitch must be submitted on the platform by 11:59pm (GMT +0) on Tuesday 4th September 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.

Applicants are asked to apply for this call for applications or the call for applications for Experienced Business Professionals but not both. All applications are evaluated against the same evaluation criteria.

Following the evaluation of online applications, the short-listed projects will be invited to travel to Ireland to experience the start-up ecosystem and to pitch to the evaluation panel. The pitch will take place on Tuesday 6th November, 2018. Enterprise Ireland will cover the travel and accommodation costs.

Successful applicants will be required to move to Ireland. Successful applicants from outside the EU will be eligible and supported by us to apply for a Startup Entrepreneur Visa which permits the holder and his/her family members to reside and work in Ireland.

Overview of the Competitive Start Programme

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.

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

  • Be able to clearly demonstrate that product or service has reached 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 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.


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.

Each Start-up invited to pitch will be entitled to:

  • One return economy airfare to Ireland
  • Up to 5 nights in the designated hotels in Ireland 

In addition to the investment of €50k, successful applicants will be eligible for a range of supports, including mentoring, and a development programme. See details of our HPSU Start supports.


Am I eligible?

The Competitive Start Fund is open to:

  • Companies who are active in the required sector for the call they are applying for.
  • Individuals who, prior to Enterprise Ireland's investment completing, will register a company which will be active in these sectors.
  • Individuals who, prior to Enterprise Ireland's investment completing, will have a headquarters registered and be based in Ireland. All intellectual property and assets must reside in the Irish entity. The majority management must be based in Ireland for a minimum of one year.

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

  • Must be a resident outside of Ireland at the time of application or have resided in Ireland for less than 3 months prior to the call close date;
  • 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 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 on the 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 startup 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 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.
  • 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


Application Process

You will be asked to fill an online application form and complete an online video. A valid application must contain both a video pitch and complete application form.

  • Completed application forms must submitted via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System by 3pm (GMT +0) on Tuesday 4th September 2018.
  • A Video Pitch must be submitted on the platform by 11:59pm on Tuesday 4th September 2018 (when you commence the application form an email regarding the video pitch will be sent to you separately).

Late applications will not be accepted. You can commence your application and save it to revisit at a later stage.


  • Link to sample application form. Please note, this sample is still in draft and is subject to change.
  • If you do not have a PPS number please enter Not Available.
  • If you have not been in touch with us before, please choose Peter Lennox as your Development Advisor.
  • You will receive an email after commencing your Competitive Start Fund online application inviting you to complete your online video interview.
  • This 6-8 minute video pitch, which is mandatory, requires you 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

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.

All applicants will be notified by email of the result of this assessment on 3rd October 2018.

The shortlisted finalists will present a short investment pitch to the evaluation panel comprising external experts and Enterprise Ireland on 6th November, 2018 in Ireland.


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


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.

If applicants are successful, they will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the panel (Assessment Part 2) in Ireland.


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 on 6th November, 2018 in Waterford 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.

From the final applicants, those scoring highest will be selected 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 is 3pm on Tuesday 4th September, 2018.


Key contact/more information

Download and read the Reference Doc (to follow)

For more information, please contact:

+353 1 727 2202 (9am-5pm)

If you 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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