As we emerge from the pandemic, Dublin continues to support a thriving, supportive startup ecosystem for ambitious entrepreneurs to want to take their business ideas to the next level.

Ireland’s capital remains one of the leading European tech cities – just behind London and Paris. So it’s encouraging that the latest Financial TimesTech Cities of the Future rankings described Dublin as a “thriving hotspot in the startup space”.

And Enterprise Ireland’s support structures for early-stage entrepreneurs play a huge part in the city scoring highly.

Enterprise Ireland’s HPSU

The Enterprise Ireland High Potential Startup Unit – or HPSU, for short – supports internationally-focused Irish businesses that offer creative solutions and products to a global audience.

The HPSU team works with entrepreneurs to accelerate their business plans. They provide funding, market networks and expertise to help them do this.

Enterprise Ireland supported 125 new startup companies in 2020. In total, it approved €48 million of funding. This is the highest level of funding the agency has ever awarded to early-stage companies in a single year.

Then again, in 2021, a further 125 were supported and funding of €28 million was approved. Key sectors included fintech, cybersecurity, digital health and agritech.

Over the past two years, Irish exporters faced the dual challenge of dealing with the pandemic and Brexit. We have seen first-hand how companies responded to a radically changing business environment. They’ve been agile, competitive and innovative in finding new ways to continue to do business and keep their teams together.

Newly launched support programmes

Demand for support from Enterprise Ireland over the last two years has been strong. And we continue to provide a range of financial and non-financial supports to companies at all stages of development.

We have had to refine and introduce new tailored offerings to enable companies to navigate market and liquidity challenges. The Enterprise Ireland support suite was designed to help businesses stabilise and adapt to the evolving situation. It will also help prepare them for getting back on the road to recovery.

Driving sales was heavily restricted in the past couple of years, so we responded with virtual selling and digital lead generation programmes, sectoral workshops, inward buyer events, investor pitch training and peer-to-peer engagement opportunities via HPSU programmes, such as Sprint and the Founders Forum.

Recent success stories from the startup scene

It’s often said that successful businesses look for opportunities in every situation. Undoubtedly, the challenges thrown up in the past two years have genuinely tested this theory.

The likes of Dublin-based company VRAI, which provides data-driven virtual reality training for risky and remote industries, decided to face the challenges head-on. The company discovered that both the pandemic and Brexit allowed it to advance its business plans and grow.

Indigenous tech startups

Dublin hosts a wealth of third-level research bodies. They are constantly striving to develop innovative technologies and often host world-leading Irish companies that have emerged from this research community.

Irish university spinouts such as Kastus (from Technological University Dublin) and the NovaUCD-based Akkure Genomics innovated and used their technologies to play a role in tackling the pandemic’s challenges. As a result, they attracted new business opportunities and raised substantial funding.

During the pandemic, patient portal developer Wellola also responded to a call from the HSE to launch a new secure communication portal for clinicians and primary care providers.

Buymie

With the boom in online shopping, grocery delivery firm Buymie has seen massive growth in its business. It has now been used by 1 in 10 households in Dublin. It raised €8 million during the pandemic and launched its service in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Bristol – in the UK – too.

Enterprise Ireland also supported startup Boundless which allows employers to compliantly hire people no matter where they are in the world.

Given how extensively home-working is happening in the wake of Covid-19, the demand for Boundless’s technology could not be timelier. As a result, the company has recently raised €2.5 million in seed funding.

Health tech

Covid has also underlined the importance of Dublin’s medtech sector. Irish health tech companies raised over €623 million in 2021, which was up 50% on the previous year.

The vibrant health tech ecosystem boasts some remarkable success stories, such as LetsGetChecked. The company raised $150 million in a Series D round and is now valued at more than $1 billion.

Fintech funding

Digitalisation in business has accelerated massively with Covid-19, and this trend has offered a huge opportunity for Irish fintech businesses. As a result, the sector secured a record $900 million in investment in the first half of 2021.

Incredible success stories are coming from companies such as Wayflyer, Payslip and Global Shares.

Continuing support for startups

According to the VenturePulse survey from the Irish Venture Capital Association, VC funding in Irish tech companies was €392 million in Q2 of 2021, up 7.6% from the previous year. This is a strong endorsement of the quality of Irish tech.

In 2021, Enterprise Ireland launched a new portal called Start in Ireland, which aims to connect all parts of the startup support ecosystem.

This service provides a home for all startup related information and can conveniently guide founders to the best supports for them, based on their sector, location, growth stage and business needs.

To find out more about how Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Startup Unit can support your startup, visit the HPSU website.

Teri Smith

Teri Smith is Manager of the HPSU Operations team in the Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start Up Division leading the development of early stage innovative companies with scalable international growth potential.

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