As we emerge from the pandemic and many Dublin-based businesses reopen their offices, the city continues to support a thriving, supportive start-up ecosystem for ambitious entrepreneurs to move 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 Times’ Tech Cities of the Future rankings described Dublin as a “thriving hotpot in the start-up space”, and Enterprise Ireland’s support structures for early-stage entrepreneurs play a huge part in the city scoring highly.

The Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-up Unit (HPSU) supports internationally focused Irish businesses that offer creative solutions and products to a global audience. The team works with entrepreneurs, accelerating their business plans with combined funding, market networks and expertise.

Enterprise Ireland (EI) supported 125 new start-up companies in 2020. Key sectors included fintech, cybersecurity, digital health, and agri-tech. €48 million of funding was approved, the highest level of funding the agency has awarded to early-stage companies in a single year.

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

The demand for support from EI 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 offers to enable companies to navigate market and liquidity challenges. The Enterprise Ireland support suite has been designed to help businesses stabilise and adapt to the evolving situation in preparation for getting back on the road to recovery.

Driving sales has been heavily restricted, 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 programmes such as ‘Sprint’ and ‘Founders Forum’.

It’s often been said that successful businesses look for opportunities in every situation, and undoubtedly the challenges thrown up in 2020 have genuinely tested this theory.

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

Dublin hosts a wealth of third level research bodies developing innovative technologies and hosts many world-leading Irish companies that have emerged from this research community.

Irish university spinouts such as Kastus (from Technological University Dublin) and the Nova UCD 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.

Patient portal developer Wellola responded to a call from HSE to launch a new secure communication portal for clinicians and primary care providers in response to the pandemic.

Buymie

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

Enterprise Ireland supported start-up Boundless allows employers to compliantly hire people no matter where they are in the world. Given how extensively home-working has been adopted in the wake of Covid-19, the demand for Boundless’s technology could not have been timelier, and the company has just recently raised €2.5m in seed funding.

Covid has also underlined the importance of the health-tech sector. Irish health tech companies raised over €388 million in the first half of this year, up from €248 million in the same period last year. The vibrant health tech ecosystem boasts some remarkable success stories, such as LetsGetChecked. The company has raised $150m in a Series D round and is now valued at more than $1bn.

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 Irish fintech sector secured a record $900m in investment in the first half of 2021 and is delivering incredible success stories from companies such as Wayflyer, Payslip and Global Shares.

According to the VenturePulse survey from the Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA), VC funding in Irish tech companies was €392m in Q2 2021, up 7.6pc from last year’s €363.8m, a strong endorsement of the quality of Irish tech.

In March 2021, EI launched a new portal, Start in Ireland, connecting all parts of the support ecosystem. This service provides a home for all start-up related information and guides founders to the best supports for them, based on sector, location, growth stage and business need.

To find out more about Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-up Unit can support your start-up business, visit: https://globalambition.ie/hpsu/

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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