Tuesday March 31, 2020

Something out of nothing: Ireland's best start-up ideas

We profile some of the 24 finalists for the Best Young Entrepreneur Awards

16th February, 2017
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Colourful thinking Pic: Getty

The €2 million Irish Best Young Entrepreneur Awards has whittled its 1842 entrants this year down to 24 finalists.

The youth enterprise competition, supported by Local Enterprise Offices, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and Enterprise Ireland, saw a 32 per cent increase in entries this year.

More than 400 entrants took part in regional business bootcamps around the country and 180 young entrepreneurs won investment funding of between €3,000 and €15,000 each.

The final will be held on March 5 at Google in Dublin's Barrow Street and will select winners across three categories: Best Business Idea, Best Start-Up Business and Best Established Business.

Here are some of the most interesting ideas emerging from the competition:

Baon Diagnostics is shortlisted in the Best Business Idea category. The company, which has spun out of the DIT Grangegorman campus, is developing rapid tests that help GPs differentiate between viral and bacterial infections.

Founder Brian Henderson (above) is aiming to reduce the use of antibiotics through more accurate diagnoses, an ever more important goal as antibiotic resistance escalates worldwide.

StrongRoots.ie wants to revolutionise the lagging frozen food sector. It aims to fillet ideas from top chefs and bring fresh ideas to the frozen aisle with its new range of vegetable products.

The shortlisted food business has flagship products including oven-baked sweet potato chips, kale and quinoa burgers, garlic roasted sweet potatoes and avocado halves. Strong Roots has just achieved a listing in 185 Waitrose stores in Britain.

Founder Samuel Dennigan (pictured) is one of the long-established Dennigan farm family, who run a vegetable growing and distribution business based in Oldtown in north county Dublin. Strong Roots is a separate venture however with a focus of frozen rather than fresh vegetables.

The Strong Roots raw materials are not native to Ireland and are sourced and processed overseas before being shipped to market. Some 90 per cent per cent of the world's sweet potato crop comes from the US state of North Carolina, with its warm and humid climate and sandy soil.

City Swifter is an crowd-sourcing platform for journeys which aims to match up commuters and then book private buses to transport them along varying routes.

Founder and DCU business graduate Brian O'Rourke (pictured) has an interest in the future of transport, especially in electric and autonomous vehicles.

He believes the potential for a shared, intelligent, consumer-facing transport network for commuters could replicate the success of ride-hailing apps Uber and Hailo.

All-Ireland debating champion Brian has a vision for City Swifter to become the world's largest shared transport provider, all without owning any vehicles.

He wants to use technology to enable vehicle owners and transport operators increase their efficiency, revenue and profits, with the creation of personalised shuttle buses.

The fixed line bus service is obsolete, Brian believes, and shared transport can now be managed in a more dynamic and smarter fashion.

Founder Kyle McLoughlin (pictured) has been shortlisted for stand-in teacher platform subteacher.ie.

McLoughlin, the owner of software company Posude, has built a database which connects secondary school principals with qualified teachers available to quickly fill stand-in classroom positions.

Signing up is free to all post-primary teachers who then complete a professional profile.

The teachers then update their availability on a weekly basis.

Available teachers become visible in school searches and are contacted with suitable offers eliminating staffing headaches for school principals.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny met the 24 finalists at government buildings today, before the young entrepreneurs travelled to a pitch training session at Google. He said: “I am overwhelmed and inspired by the entrepreneurial talent that I have encountered here today. In this fast-moving world, there can be no standing still and we must always stay ahead of the curve in terms of business. It is vital that we nurture our young businesspeople, encourage them, and give them supports as they strive to make an impact and to succeed.”

“We must also be mindful that today’s young entrepreneurs are tomorrow’s employers. IBYE, which is run by the Local Enterprise Offices, is one of the best innovations arising from the Action Plan for Jobs. While there are now nearly 190,000 people more in employment than when the Action Plan for Jobs was first launched in 2012, we must not be complacent. A lot of work still needs to be done to ensure a bright future for everyone in this country.

"All the young people I met today are Ireland’s future.”

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