I wanted to write a blog on the New Frontiers programme for the hundreds of startups across the country wondering how they're going to break into the Enterprise Ireland (EI) ecosystem. As a disclaimer I'm writing this as the founder of Receipt Relay - an EI backed startup that was just approved funding for the Competitive Start Fund (CSF), I don't claim to know everything about EI so I can only write from my own experience.
This 'experience' with EI started at the New Frontiers level as it has for many Irish companies.
New Frontiers is a phase-structured programme. Phase 1 is a zero equity, zero funding element of the programme that isn't actually mandatory but I would highly recommend partaking as it will hugely benefit you're Phase 2 application. Phase 1 is composed of some simple yet fundamental mentoring session - about 2/3 hours a week. Phase 1 ran through the summer of last year for us, all online due to Covid.
Phase 2 is where the fun begins. On a successful application into Phase 2 your startup receives €15,000 in tax-free funding in return for 0% equity (pretty sweet deal, right?). What's the catch? Actually getting into Phase 2 is easier said than done - hence the earlier recommendation to partake in Phase 1 to give your startup the best odds. The application process requires what is essentially a Business Plan, exploring fundamental areas of the problem and solution you're dealing with along with financial projection (tip: don't worry about financials too much - most companies will be pre-revenue, we were... and still are). After you've submitted the application it will be reviewed and it ticks all the right boxes, you'll be shortlisted and called for a pitch. The pitch is fairly straight forward (another tip: there's no such thing as over-rehearsing a pitch, keep going over it until you're mumbling the Total Available Market in your sleep).
After breezing through the pitch you'll be accepted into the programme where you'll avail of that beautiful tax-free cash, word to the wise though the funding is given in instalments over 6 months and works in arrears so be prepared to be broke for the first two months of the programme (I definitely was... and still am).
The programme itself is an amazing stepping stone on towards CSF and HPSU (High Potential Start-Up). It's also a great opportunity to pivot your value proposition under the guidance of experienced mentors. The workshops themselves will help you out big time, take as many face-to-face meetings as you can and make sure you ask for advice at every opportunity to get the most out of your mentors.
GMIT Innovation Hub
We have had a very positive experience with New Frontiers GMIT but I think a lot of it came down to the fact that we were treating it like a side quest. We were already focused on objectives we'd set out earlier and New Frontiers was complementary in our pursuit of them (final tip: don't expect New Frontiers to solve all your problems or magically bring you from pre-revenue to making millions- it won't but it will bring you one step closer and that's the name of the game).
Best of luck to all you future unicorn founders setting out from the bottom and aiming large. We're making the same voyage. I'll see you at the top.
(P.S. I'm always happy to share info so if you're looking for something about New Frontiers that I haven't covered, click here to DM me on LinkedIn)