At the WTC Dublin, we support and promote Irish SME growth nationally and internationally. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of support options that are currently available for Irish SMEs who are either in start-up or expansion phase. View this guide to find support that best fits your current business stage from new company funding to existing company funding and everything in between.
STARTING: EARLY-STAGE SUPPORT FOR COMPANIES
The Local Enterprise Office is for people interested in starting a new business or people already trading, including entrepreneurs, early-stage promoters, start-ups and small business looking to expand. With 31 dedicated teams across the Local Authority network in Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices offer a wide range of experience, skills and services.
When growing a new business, talk to your bank about funding options. Bank finance has many features that will appeal to SMEs and early-stage growth businesses. You can calculate your repayments and apply for a loan by visiting the website of your preferred bank
This is for people who start a company and need cash to fund its growth. You may claim back the income tax if you are an employee, an unemployed person or a person recently made redundant and are starting a business.
The Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (STEA) gives support to people who have lost their job and want to start their own business. It’s paid instead of Jobseeker’s Benefit for a maximum of nine months. It ends when the entitlement to Jobseeker’s Benefit ends (that is at either nine or six months).
Under this scheme, you can [technically] earn €120,000 tax-free for the first three years. The scheme gives relief from corporation tax on your trading income, and certain other gains new companies may acquire, for the first three years.
If you have been out of work and in receipt of social welfare for more than twelve months, under the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance you can keep your social welfare payment for two years if you set up a business (year 1: 100% – year 2; 75%).
This scheme replaced the business expansion scheme and allows individual investors get tax relief on investments they make in other companies.
The Start Your Own Business scheme provides relief from income tax for long-term unemployed people who start a new business.
The fund gives small business owners the e-tools and know-how to ‘optimise’ their existing website and grow their business online.
If you own or manage an SME, and it’s a limited company, you can apply for an innovation voucher worth €5,000.
You can get 50% of the costs of your study, not including VAT, up to €15,000. Importantly, you don’t have to pay back the money.
The HBAN umbrella group supports the early stage entrepreneurial community across the island of Ireland and actively works to increase the number of angel investors investing in early stage companies.
PUBLIC SUPPORTS FOR START-UPS
There are limited places available each year and the successful candidates each receive cash and training in areas like business planning, sales and marketing. It’s a very competitive programme, hence it’s essential that you have a sustainable new business idea that will “trade internationally, create employment and generate revenue”.
PRIVATE SUPPORT FOR START-UPS – INCUBATORS
One of the best tech incubators in the world, the NDRC is the place to apply if you are a very early stage digital company.
NDRC invests up to €135,000 per company, providing an award-winning acceleration model and tailored investor management subsequent to companies completing the NDRC process. Added to this, there is office space in Dublin, Galway and Waterford. Investing through an integrated model of a modest amount of capital investment as well as hands-on expert guidance and support, NDRC’s goal is to help accelerate ventures to the next meaningful milestone in their journey. This may be to secure seed investment, bootstrapping early growth or to have gained sufficient feedback to invalidate the initial proposition.
The Rubicon Centre is jointly financed by CIT and Enterprise Ireland and is a leading business innovation hub, helping entrepreneurs to take their projects to the next level. The centre offers a multitude of programmes for firms at all stages.
This is a list of incubation centres funded by Enterprise Ireland and located on the campuses of Irish Universities and Institutes of Technology.
A new on-campus centre for commercialisation and innovation at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), Origin8 aims to allow industry partners to access the very best and latest in design research. At the same time, it allows on-campus designers and researchers to get access to successful companies that need good designers.
Based in Ireland’s largest University, NovaUCD is a centre of excellence for start-ups from a variety of disciplines. Nova provides mentoring, free legal, tax and marketing advice and helps start-ups securing funding from angels and venture capitalists.
The Trinity Technology and Enterprise Campus have space available to let for small and medium-sized enterprises. It also has bio-incubation space available, funded by Enterprise Ireland, for biotechnology firms.
Ignite is the incubator programme at University College Cork (UCC). The college does not take an equity stake in the start-ups. On completion of the programme, businesses get a further six months office space free-of-charge at the National Software Centre in Mahon in Cork. Entries are welcomed from graduates of any third level institution and each year ten teams are chosen for the programme.
A core part of the centre’s work is to “identify opportunities for partnership between DCU and industry through state-funded innovation partnerships”.
This centre explores and facilitates commercial opportunities for the research community at NUI Galway.
Opened in July 2015, this centre is “focused on ensuring a professional and efficient approach to the commercialisation of research”.
Nexus has a number of flexible programmes tailor-made for start-ups.
Do you have an idea for a food business or product? Food business start-ups can apply to the Food Academy Start programme, a collaborative initiative between the Local Enterprise Offices, Bord Bia and SuperValu.
Above is a full list of the Institute of Technology Incubation Centres (including NCI).
PRIVATE SUPPORT FOR START-UPS – ACCELERATORS
DCU’s Ryan Academy runs the Propeller Venture Accelerator programme for early-stage technology start-ups. This three-month accelerator offers €30,000 seed funding plus €15,000 in services costs to entrepreneurs with winning ideas.
LaunchBox is a three-month accelerator open to teams of Trinity students (undergrad and postgrad) with an early-stage business. Participants receive funding, office space and mentorship as well as other networking supports.
Startupbootcamp is a global network of industry-focused start-up accelerators. “We take start-up’s global by giving them direct access to an international network of the most relevant partners, investors and mentors in their sector.”
Seedcamp is a leading European pre-seed and seed stage acceleration fund. “We back ambitious founders from around the world and help them build billion-dollar global companies.”
Dogpatch Labs is a curated start up hub located in the chq building, in Dublin’s digital docklands. With a mission to accelerate the development of Ireland’s start up ecosystem, it provides a valuable community from where to grow, share knowledge and form connections. A key programme it runs is First Fridays for Startups, where start-ups can speak with mentors including founders, VCs, and a variety of experts.
MasterCard has an eCommerce and Fintech focused accelerator for innovative early-stage European start-up’s. Successful companies receive access to ‘experts’ from the MasterCard network.
Enterprise Ireland falls somewhere in the middle between pre-seed and seed stage investment. It has a number of solutions aimed at start-ups, including:
- The Competitive Feasibility Fund for Female Entrepreneurs
- The Competitive Start Fund
- The High Potential Start-up Unit
- Graduate Start Fund
There is also now a Competitive Start Fund for Irish graduates worth €50,000.
Google has set up an arm of Google Ventures (GV) in Europe and allocated an initial fund of $100 million for local start-ups. GV is looking for “ambitious companies in every field, but we have a unique focus on machine learning and life science investing”.
CROWDFUNDING & PEER-TO-PEER LENDING
Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular option for businesses looking to raise seed capital. In Ireland, there are sites such as:
Here is a list of the top crowdfunding sites worldwide.
CREDIT FOR ESTABLISHED BUSINESSES IN IRELAND
If it’s time for your business to borrow, you can talk to a bank about a small business loan. Banks have secured and unsecured interest rates and more than that, they have many financial products and services for SMEs of all sizes and stages.
Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland
The SBCI was set up to offer loans to SMEs that are up to two percent cheaper than market rates. For example, an SBCI five-year loan of €400,000 will cost an SME between €15,000 and €20,000 less than a typical market loan.
The Microfinance fund is aimed at all micro-enterprises in Ireland – start-ups and growth firms. Loans of between €5,000 and €25,000 are available for commercially viable products. Borrowers must pay a commercial interest rate. Borrowers must be based in the Republic of Ireland and have fewer than 10 employees and a turnover of less than €2 million per annum. Microfinance loans are now also available through Local Enterprise Offices with a reduced rate for LEO clients.
If you need working capital but can’t get it from a bank, the Credit Guarantee Scheme may be for you. The idea is that the Irish Government provides the lender with a 75% guarantee for which the borrower pays for a 2% premium. Up until now, the scheme was only available to businesses applying for new loans. It’s now also available to companies that want to move loans from a bank that is leaving the Irish market. The maximum length of the guarantee has been extended from three to seven years.
If you are a small business owner or a sole trader and have had difficulty accessing loans from a bank or commercial lending firm, you can apply for an independent review from the Credit Review Office. You can also apply for a review if your existing credit terms have been changed.
GROWING YOUR BUSINESS
This is to encourage investment by companies into research and development. The main challenge for SMEs is understanding the difference between everyday commercial activity and R&D. You may need assistance from a qualified accountant to establish what can be claimed against R&D.
This is to encourage companies, paying corporation tax, to buy energy efficient equipment and machinery. You can write-off 100% of the purchase value of qualifying energy efficient equipment against your profit, in the year of purchase.
Source: Think Business