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Big ideas at Enterprise Ireland’s first Start-Up Day

Ireland’s best and brightest start-ups attend event at Dublin Castle

More than 600 delegates attended Enterprise Ireland’s first Start-Up Day at Dublin Castle last week. The event brought together Ireland’s best and brightest start-ups along with the wider support system, including investors, state agencies and business accelerators.

The day featured a Big Ideas pitch event where 10 pre-seed enterprises on their way to spinning out of the third-level research system had the opportunity to present their innovations to a judging panel made up of Enterprise Ireland executive director Kevin Sherry and investor community representatives Amy Neale of Delta and Niall McEvoy of Elkstone.

The winning pitch was made by UCD-based LaNua Medical which is developing enhanced technological solutions for endovascular procedures. LaNua will go on to represent Ireland at the Pegasus Start-Up World Cup in San Francisco in October.

Also attending the Start-Up World Cup will be runner-up PLIO Surgical, a Trinity College spin-out which has developed a minimally invasive medical device that provides a safer and more effective alternative to traditional closing techniques for gastric surgery.


“This is the largest start-up event on the calendar,” says Emma Callinan, Enterprise Ireland commercialisation director. “We piloted it last year at the Enterprise Ireland Summit. In previous years we had run two separate events – the Big Ideas pitch event for pre-seed start-ups which had been supported by the Commercialisation Fund, and a High Potential Start-up (HPSU) Showcase. These two highly successful events were targeting similar audiences and we decided to amalgamate them to make them even more impactful.”

More than 70 companies from the HPSU class of 2023 attended the event. A HPSU is defined as a business with the potential to create 10 jobs and €1 million in sales within three to four years of starting up. They were joined by a large number of pre-seed spin-outs and other start-ups which have been supported by the Pre-Seed Start Fund and the New Frontiers programme. “We also had about 100 delegates from the investment and start-up support ecosystem in attendance,” Callinan says.

The keynote address was delivered by Mark Barrett, CEO of leading drug process development company APC. “He has seen it all,” Callinan says. “The company went through the Commercialisation Fund, then became a HPSU, and it now employs 600 people worldwide. He was able to share his experiences with the other entrepreneurs who are just starting out on the journey.”

Along with the Big Ideas session, the event featured two panel discussions, extensive networking opportunities and an exhibition element with 35 investors and other funders taking stands.

“There was a strong focus on networking,” Callinan says. “The start-ups and early-stage ventures were able to meet with one another to discuss shared challenges and potential solutions. They were also able to make connections with potential investors and funders who could offer guidance and advice. The two panel discussions explored some of the common challenges faced by Irish start-ups and how to overcome them, as well as how to leverage the supports available in the ecosystem.”

The first session looked at the importance of networking and featured Sinéad Crowther of Soothing Solutions, Barry Lunn of Provizio, Aoibheann O’Brien from FoodCloud, Ciaran Crean from MicksGarage and Sarah-Jane Larkin of the Irish Venture Capital Association.

Scaling your business was the topic under discussion for the second panel which included Rory O’Connor of Scurri, Orlaith Ryan from Shorla Oncology, Bobby Healy of Manna, and Helen McBreen from Atlantic Bridge.

“Our aim was to showcase the best start-up teams in Ireland to investors and other funders and we succeeded in that,” says Callinan.

“We also hope the event has helped early stage companies and founders to gain some valuable insights and learn the art of the possible. We know that many of them were able to build new connections which they will be able to leverage in future as they face challenges and work to grow their businesses. For funders in the ecosystem, it provided an opportunity to meet with early stage enterprises and build a relationship with them.

“Bringing the two events together has helped the entrepreneurs and companies involved to reach an even wider audience,” she says.

“That in itself is a statement of Enterprise Ireland’s ambitions for client companies. We are dreaming big for our companies. That’s why we want to organise bigger events with more attendees to deliver a bigger impact for all concerned as they set out on their growth journeys.”