Enterprise Ireland: New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme

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June 30, 2012 by David Miller

Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers Phase 2 Participation

Absolutely delighted to be able to say that I was awarded – with my tech start-up company http://www.COMPLYfile.com – a place on the much covetted Enterprise Ireland (‘EI’) New Frontiers programme.

What’s the Big Deal about getting on an EI New Frontiers programme anyhow?

This is what the EI New Frontiers programme is looking for:

The New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme is targeted at entrepreneurs and early stage start-up companies located across Ireland. The programme is open to applications from a diversity of sectors including; food & consumer products, information & communication technology, engineering & electronics, medical devices, biotechnology, pharma, digital media, cleantech/renewable energy and eligible internationally traded services.

And they were looking for people and ideas that:

  • intend establishing a manufacturing or internationally traded services business OR a new domestically traded service business with the potential to trade internationally;
  • ambitious and have the capability and commitment needed to develop a sustainable business;
  • growth orientated – planning to achieve turnover greater than €500,000 and create more than five jobs in three to five years time;
  • develop a business that is built upon on a strong foundation of innovation and/or technology.show evidence of a commercial market for your proposed product or service

Yes, but still I don’t get what you’re so excited about

Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers Programme is the successor to the EI Hothouse programme – both being basically company accelerators/incubators – i.e. structured new company programmes lead by experienced entrepreneurs intent on the development of high potential start-up businesses.

So, to get on the programme initially you have to show that you have a strong business proposition along with the potential for growth and job creation. Phase 2 allows for regular reviews, ongoing mentoring, and access to EI’s extensive ‘Rolodex’ of contacts, targeted at creating a business plan that at the end of the 6 month programme has a clear:

  1. business proposition
  2. customer pipeline
  3. route-to-market/sales channel and
  4. funding plan.

Wow. Sounds cool. So you just apply and get a place?

Well, almost, but not quite.

Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme is split into 3 phases and across something like 13 Institutes of Technology across the great island of Ireland.

Phase 1: evening workshops over an 8-10 week period, basically taking you through the A-Z of getting a start-up company off the ground with all the relevant building blocks. Coming from the background of being a litigation solicitor I knew a lot of the legals, funding side of things: what was of particular use to me was the modules and work around market research (not being something I’d have had that much experience of). I was particularly struck by realising that whatever I felt about my own particular skills-sets, there was a seriously impressive collection of skills from the 20-25 people who participated on Phase 1 (including someone who’d worked for one of the world’s leading market research companies in an earlier life). Judging from what I’ve read and heard on the grapevine there’s something like 70-100 applications to the Phase 1 part of the programme, with slight regional variations depending on the location/demand for a particular Institute of Technology. Of that 70-100, about 20-25 are accepted on to Phase 1.

Phase 2: This is the 6 month stretch of the programme, and for which places are awarded on a competitive basis i.e. completion of a detailed application form (covering what you’d expect in terms of a new business proposition programme) and a half hour interview with a panel of EI staff.

Something like 10-15 of Phase 1 participants get an interview, of whom something in the region of 10 get a place on the Phase 2 programme.

Phase 2 is also funded to the tune of €15K, which in the current economic environment could be the difference between getting a good business proposition off the ground – and not.

Bear in mind that – wherever your closest Institute of Technology is based – there are about a dozen such programmes being run across the country. Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme is therefore Ireland’s most extensive, best-funded entrepreneur development programme (€4.25M being allocated nationwide).

So, something like 700-1,000 people apply for the 250 places nationwide on Phase 1, and something like 100-150 people/companies earn Phase 2 participation status.

Importantly, to be accepted on Phase 2, you have to have demonstrated – at a number of different stages – that your idea – and you as a person – have the basic DNA of what it takes to bring what is currently just a concept to objective commercial execution. The reason why you’re on the programme? Because you’ve recognised weakenesses in your skills-set or business value proposition and need help bolstering those skills-sets, building a team about you, and turning potential weaknesses into business strengths.

Phase 3: essentially ongoing support / direction in terms of accessing the most appropriate grant sources, and potentially making preferential company incubation facilities available.

Cool. So what’s your idea then?

COMPLYfile.com is developing a web-based risk management system for clubs and voluntary organisations to allow them to achieve compliance with current and impending child protection legislation around the recruitment and ongoing mentoring of volunteers where those volunteers are interacting with children or vulnerable adults. We’re investing heavily into market research (we don’t want to build something people don’t want; or want but won’t pay for) and I’m currently building a team of UX (user experience), coding and other experiences/skills. I’m participating in the Institute of Technology at Blanchardstown’s LINC programme (Learning and Innovation Centre).

Not coming from a programming background myself I’m not fooling myself into thinking I’ll ever be describing myself as a ‘techie’ programmer/coder. But I’m learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript in an effort to ensure that I fully grasp the technical build of the COMPLYfile.com platform. I’m fortunate to have been introduced to a developer experienced in agile software development (more in another post but basically=iterative and incremental software development rather than trying to build the finished product without customer validation along the way), and with him we’re building the concept map at the moment.

Eric Ries: The Lean Start-Up | Ash Maurya: Running Lean

Speaking of ‘more in another post’, if anyone who’s thinking of – or is currently engaged in – a tech start-up and hasn’t bought, read, and highlighted, annotated and generally digested what Eric Ries talks about in The Lean Start-Up: go and buy it now. Then have a look at Ash Maurya’s Running Lean, which builds on the Lean Start-Up philosophy. It’s helped me enormously so far, and saved me a shed load of money on stuff that I might have otherwise precipitously outlaid capital upon.

Man, I’d love to apply for one of those programmes. Do you think I should?

“Go for it”. That was the best advice I was given. Start backing yourself, your idea, and your ability to execute. If not you, who? Nobody else is going to do it on your behalf. If you’re entrepreneurial you know you’re just going to have do it yourself, so do it now, and help create jobs, growth, profitability and innovation in the start-up economy.

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