Ekaterina Tikhoniouk reports on Ireland’s vibrant start-up scene and the Ireland Funds 2015 Business Plan Competition, which gives student entrepreneurs the chance to win €10,000.
Along with being described as ‘Europe’s Silicon Valley’, Dublin also hosts a thriving young start-up scene which has grown over the past decade, with a number of businesses and ventures being started by students and recent graduates. 
 
Irish start-ups by college students and young graduates include ventures such as Coder Dojo, a not-for-profit network of community-based programming clubs for young people, set up by James Whelton at the age of 19. 
 
Meanwhile, LayerLabz have developed their own desk-top 3D printer and have achieved printer sales of €10k to date, while FunkedUp Fixies have become the providers of cool, custom bikes.
 
According to Sarah O’Connor, founder of The Coffee Bean Company, “Ireland is teeming with young people who are starting their own companies, or who have aspirations to do so.”
 
One of the exciting opportunities available to these young entrepreneurial minds is the 2015 Business Plan Competition. 
 
Run by the Ireland Funds, the competition invites students and graduates from across Ireland and Northern Ireland to submit their business ideas for a chance to win up to €10,000, as well as mentoring and other supports.
 
Applications are invited from under-graduates, post-graduates and recent graduates (within two years of graduation). Existing start-ups are eligible to enter, as long as the applicants themselves meet the above criteria. All applicants have until May 1st to apply online.
 
Up to 10 individuals or teams will then be selected and given the chance to bring their business ideas from concept to pitch, while also receiving mentoring and detailed feedback on their business ideas throughout the training process. 
 
At the final, a judging panel comprising of leading entrepreneurs, executives and venture capitalists from Ireland and the United States will review the finalists’ business plans and select the winners, with the winner receiving €10,000 and two runners up receiving €5,000 and €1,000 respectively, along with other supports.
 
“We are looking for smart new business ideas amongst Ireland’s early stage entrepreneurs. Convince us that your business idea is the next big thing and you will receive training and support to help you develop your business idea from concept to pitch,” said Jordan Campbell, Programmes Manager at the Ireland Funds.
 
She went on to describe the reasons behind the initiative: “As part of our Promising Ireland Campaign, the Ireland Funds are committed to supporting Ireland’s economic recovery and the Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition, which is now in its third year, aims to nurture creativity and hone entrepreneurial skills amongst recent graduates and under- and post-graduate students, as these are the early-stage entrepreneurs who will play a crucial role in getting us back on our feet.” 
 
Last year, the Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition received over 100 applications from young people from a variety of fields. Last year’s winner was Alexandra Milne,the creator of Little Deli, an app that saves time and hassle for workday lunches in Belfast, while 2013’s winning idea were baby grows that promote crawling.
 
Jordan Campbell continued: “We were so impressed with both the range of business ideas and the quality of applications last year and we look forward to receiving a wide variety of applications this year.” 
 
If you think you have the next best business idea (or have an existing startup) and want a chance of winning €10,000 for your venture, apply online at www.theirelandfunds.org/bpc by May 1st, 2015. 
 
For further information about the Ireland Funds, just click here