Entrepreneurs of IGNITE catching eyes of global investors

Eamon Curtin, IGNITE Programme Director, UCC (left) with IGNITE programme participants, Luke O'Mahony (TRAXSIT); Fiona Edwards Murphy (ApisProtect); Danny O'Donovan (QuickMiinutes.com) and Conor Walsh (TRAXSIT). (Picture: Brian Lougheed)

The IGNITE programme at UCC, which nurtures start-ups from ideas to commercial reality, has been hailed by some of Ireland’s best up-and-coming entrepreneurs as “transformative and life-changing” ahead of its next tranche of graduates to begin the programme.

After supporting 120-plus new companies since its inception, IGNITE is calling for graduates from third-level institutes all over Ireland to apply for the 13th round of the programme, which begins in April, with applications open until February 14.

One of the global tech’s most talked-about startups and graduate of IGNITE, Internet of Things (IoT) beehive monitoring firm ApisProtect, has received significant international investment as well as opening an office in California to cater for growing demand.

Co-founder Fiona Edwards Murphy said the skills learned on the IGNITE programme had been transformative as ApisProtect went from concept to market, securing €1.5m in venture capital investment and Enterprise Ireland funding in 2018.

The firm now monitors more than 20 million beehives in Europe, North America and South Africa.

Ms Edwards Murphy said IGNITE had boosted both her business and personal skills: “I started IGNITE as a very shy person and by the end of the year, I was presenting to 400 people in a room with no problems.

“The skills I learned on IGNITE also fed directly into our seed funding round, where we won €1.5m in 2018. Being able to put together a pitch, understanding what an investor wanted to see and the direction of the business — IGNITE really helped.”

Commercial potential

Founded in 2011 and supported by Bank of Ireland, IGNITE is a joint initiative by Cork City Council, Cork County Council, the Local Enterprise Offices in and UCC to encourage entrepreneurship and enterprise creation.

Based at UCC, the 12-month IGNITE programme is open to all recent graduates from all third level institutions in Ireland to work full-time on a scalable start-up idea with potential for commercial or social impact.

Programme director, Eamon Curtin, said trying to grow a startup from scratch is an arduous process, especially when it comes to funding.

“If we can build up a network of businesses in our ecosystem willing to provide those early-stage funds to IGNITE participants, then we will see the commercial potential of businesses on the programme improve immeasurably,” he added.