Wayra Ireland: ‘It’s bringing together high-value people. They are raising the bar for start-ups’
Telefónica supports entrepreneurship through start-up accelerators in 13 countries and the first Irish group has just graduated
Ireland is the stellar performer in the Wayra network, he says. By population, Ireland should make about 1 per cent of applications, but it actually puts in 8 per cent, Aherne says. “This network, and our start-ups, would be viewed as the best in the Wayra system.”
For Shay Garvey of FrontLine Ventures, one of the investors listening to the pitches, Wayra has already provided two prospective investments.
He believes one of the strengths of the Wayra programme is its long duration. This enables companies to get a very good grounding in a wide range of needed business skills, and gain customers, he says. The community format is also beneficial.
“It’s about bringing together high-value people. The real value-add is the peer-to-peer mentoring that’s going on.”
He notes that Dublin now has several incubators and support systems – LaunchPad, Propellor, and DogPatch alongside Wayra – providing good support to start-up companies.
In addition, he says that an increasing number of medium-sized technology companies, rather than just multinationals, basing themselves in Ireland, are providing a broader technology ecosystem for start-ups.
“They’re really important for us, because there are raising the bar for start-ups.” All of this means Dublin now has a critical mass of technology companies and start-ups, in specific clusters – something missing in past years here, and still missing in places like London, he argues.
Cork-based serial entrepreneur Pat Phelan, who pitched for introductions to client companies rather than funding, says he has really enjoyed having his fraud avoidance company, Trustev, in the accelerator.
The regular “two-week scrum”, in which he must present to colleagues, forces the company to be held accountable to the group, he says. And the wide range of support in mentorship has been invaluable, even for someone with extensive start-up experience.
“I would never have been able to work with a pitching coach, or a demo coach before. That’s really improved our stage presence and our investor pitch. It’s certainly brought our professionalism up to a new standard.”
He credits the mentoring in these areas with helping Trustev to do well in international start-up competitions and to make better funding pitches. Two weeks ago, Trustev fended off thousands of other applicants to take the EU Commission’s Top Start-up award in London.
“All the people in here aren’t going to be a success with their company, but all are going to be entrepreneurs,” he says.
Trustev’s co-founder and CTO Chris Kennedy adds, “They also treat you like a real business here. At other places you can feel more like a college student.”
Cristina Luminea, founder and CEO of mobile educational company ThoughtBox, pitched for €250,000. The company has already been through the start-up incubator LaunchPad – good for her company in its earliest stages, she says. Wayra has provided a needed level of targeted, focused support.
“We were just out of LaunchPad and we wanted to apply to Wayra. We were lucky to be picked,” she says.
“The nine months here were a complete game-changer for us. We’ve launched three products and tested them with customers. We’ve been provided with a lot of support and help all the way.”
Speaking afterwards, he said the level of mentoring, and quality of the facility, was excellent. “There are some great start-ups, great entrepreneurs. It’s really encouraging.”