Q: I’m in the very early stages of setting up my own business – I have what I believe to be a solid, well-researched idea with export potential. To help me get started, I’ve reached out to Enterprise Ireland, and I’ve just heard back that they want to meet with me. This is really exciting, but I don’t know what to expect.
Are they looking for a full formal business proposal? Will they deal with a company in such an early stage of its life? And how open are they to a solid idea that might not fit their fixed notions about an exciting business? My product isn’t in the technology space, but it is something that I believe has wide application beyond Ireland.
A: If you have a well-researched idea for a product, and an ambition to export, then you can be sure that Enterprise Ireland want to talk to you – whatever some businesspeople say, the agency isn’t just fixated with software and cutting-edge technology when it talks about supporting innovation. If your start-up business has the potential to develop an innovative product or service for sale on international markets – and the potential to create 10 jobs and €1m in export sales within 3 to 4 years of starting up – then you may qualify for assistance as a High Potential Start-up (HPSU).
Your first meeting with Enterprise Ireland will probably be a relatively informal one: they won’t be looking for a complete application form or some other business proposition. Rather, they’ll be hoping to establish whether your company has the potential that you see in it.
That’s not to say that you can’t do any groundwork first. For starters, every bit of research that you conduct on both the domestic and international applications of your product is invaluable. Incorporate all your research into your business plan – just as if you were looking for investors – and put some thought into what markets you want to tackle first.
Enterprise Ireland’s support for High Potential Start Up (HPSU) companies takes many forms: these include grants for feasibility studies, mentoring, ‘innovation vouchers’ aimed at developing a solid team through training, and much more. Indeed, the agency can help a business through the stages of getting investor-ready, tapping investors and scaling up. It would help if you think about what you need to advance your idea at this early stage.
It may be that Enterpise Ireland won’t find HPSU potential in your idea, or they may say that you need to develop it further. Don’t be disheartened if this happens: aside from your own elbow-grease, you can also tap into the County and City Enterprise Boards for aid and advice.
We advise many businesses – both start-ups and mature companies – as they go through the process of seeking state support, and many clients find an independent eye on their ideas to be extremely helpful. If you would like an initial, no-obligation meeting to discuss your plans, simply contact us.