10 finalists for the AIB Start-up Academy announced

The finalists were chosen from 22 shortlisted companies who pitched their business idea to a panel of judges to win a place on this year’s Academy

Each company delivered a three minute elevator style pitch to the judges in The Irish Times Building yesterday, followed by a two minute Q&A. This year’s judging panel are Fiona Mahon from AIB, Bridget O’Donoghue from AIB, Eimear Moran from The Irish Times, Elaine O’Hora from Munchies, Jamie Macken from Livewire and David Murphy from The Irish Times.

“The standard was brilliant, we are three years into the Academy and year on year it’s inspiring to see the level of great start-ups out there. I feel totally inspired by the businesses we saw. One of our criteria (in judging) is to see the passion and the drive and I scored each of them with top marks for that. We really had to look for “can you scale? Can you make money out of it?” said Fiona Mahon from AIB who was on the judging panel.

She said her advice to the finalists was to enjoy the Academy and to make the most of the learning and networking opportunities. “Enjoy the glory and this part of the journey if you have made it on to the Academy. What companies can learn from each other on the Academy is invaluable, we have seen that from previous years. Share your experience and your challenges, you will get so much out of it,” said Mahon.

Jamie Macken said he was extremely impressed with the calibre of companies who presented their pitch. “Pitching day was excellent. It’s brilliant to see the fact that there’s a huge diversity and each company’s different idea. There were a few that really shone out and in terms of how they presented and their whole idea. There were those that we definitely could see would benefit from the Academy,” says Macken.


Over 450 applications were initially received from companies across Ireland and a longlist of 76 was whittled down to a shortlist of 22 and now these 10 finalists. This is one step closer for these start-up companies to winning the Academy’s coveted top prize, which is worth €200,000.

The 10 finalists are:

Frankman Grooming who produce men’s grooming products

Tipperary Boutique Distillery Limited, who distil Irish whiskey from their own barley on their Tipperary farm

Bakers & Cakers, which is an online marketplace connecting cake makers to those who want to buy them

Izzy Wheels, who create a range of customised spoke guards for wheelchairs

Origin Bars, who produce handmade high fibre protein bars

Atturos, a molecular diagnostic solution to help patients make their decisions

Ostoform, who produce a product that manages peristomal skin complications for people with ileostomies

The Little Pharma Ltd, who produce hydroponically grown barley and wheat grasses

Kiki Moon, who create high quality organic cotton blankets

Oathello Network Limited, which is an online app that allows you to find, book and pay to have legal documents sworn and notarised

Michael Swift from Frankman Grooming said he was delighted to have made it onto this year's Academy. "This really gives our company that little bit more validation and I'm excited to start the Academy now. It shows that all the time we spent working on our business is impressive enough for the judges to think it's a good idea which is great. I'm really looking forward to starting the Academy and sharing experiences and learnings with the other companies every week. It's huge opportunity for us and will hopefully propel the company," he said.

Ailbhe Keane, who won a place with her company Izzy Wheels said "we are absolutely delighted! Our hard work is really starting to pay off. We are so grateful for this wonderful opportunity and can't wait to get started. It's great that Izzy Wheels is getting the exposure that it deserves. Until now fashion and disability have never been talked about enough. People often overlooked the idea of wheelchairs being a piece of fashion and only saw them as a medical device. We are here to empower wheelchair users and give them the opportunity to express themselves in a new way," said Keane.

The pitches were assessed on the following criteria: the market offering for your business, your passion for the business and the quality of the pitch. Each company was asked to make their presentation to cover topics that included what their product or service was, who their target market was and what their short, medium and long-term financial goals were.

All is not lost for those who did not make the 10 today. The remaining 12 shortlisted companies have another chance to get a place on the Academy and will be invited to pitch at one of the four AIB Start-up Academy Summits taking place over the next two months around Ireland, where a judging panel will select a further four finalists to participate in the Start-up Academy programme.

The eight-week Academy will begin next month and the finalists will make a final pitch to win the highly coveted prize at the final in April which last year’s winner, Martin O’Connell from Nasal Medical said was “life-changing” for him and his business.

To find out more visit www.aibstartupacademy.com