Take it for granted: how to get your hands on Government start-up funding
Ireland has plenty of money for start-ups which can get past the bureaucracy, say the authors of a new guide
Peter Connor and John Farrelly, founders of Bullet
Setting up a business comes at a price, with everything from a feasibility study to product development, to marketing and staff costing money. On top of that are commercial rates, insurance bills, water charges, electricity, premises rental, telephone charges and running costs.
Grants can make these costs less of a burden, according to Peter Connor, founder of accountancy software firm Bullet.
He, along with his co-founder John Farrelly, successfully applied for and received three government grants when they set up their software firm. “Start-ups are adventures you undertake without a map. As a founder, it’s your job to navigate your company through a treacherous and shifting landscape,” Connor says.
“We found the whole grant application process a painful experience and we weren’t alone. Often if you get one grant, you can’t get the previous grant. We also kept hearing from other people that they didn’t know what grants existed.”
The two have since compiled a guide to start-up grants in Ireland named How to get €100,000 Free off the Government.
While the capital required to start a business has dropped, according to Connor– and in the case of digital business has plummeted – getting your hands on that initial capital can still be a major hurdle.
He says young start-ups end up lost in the grant funding landscape, instead of the market landscape where they belong. “There are too many companies surviving from grant-to-grant, focusing their energy on unlocking the next drip of public funding.”
While he admits it’s possible for a lone programmer to create a useful app in days and get it into the hands of millions of people before a venture capitalist has time to return an email, more often than not, entrepreneurs will need cash for their start-up.
“Even in leanest bootstrapped companies need money to keep the lights on and the credit-card companies at bay, and ideally that money has to come from a source that won’t distract you too much,” he says.
“We’re lucky in Ireland to have so much start-up funding available, relative to our population. However, much of it is ultimately public money, and accessing it involves dealing with some inevitable bureaucracy, essential for public accountability if nothing else.”
He says the New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development grant is the best grant for start-ups to apply for: “They put €2,500 in your bank account each month and you receive €15,000 in total. Unlike other grants you don’t have to pay VAT on it, which is crazy being taxed on a government grant.”
He says entrepreneurs applying for grants should remember free money is not easy money. “If you think filling in some forms to get money from the Government is painful, wait till you have to deal with VCs who are gambling their careers on you.”