Accelerator programme kicks off with first week of AIB Start-up Academy
The 14 finalists in this year's AIB Start-up Academy begin their route to the final with an intensive course in networking with Irish Times Training
The first week of the AIB Start-up Academy training course kicked off in the Irish Times building Monday with 14 start-up companies from around the country taking part in an eight-week accelerator programme in the hopes of winning a prize worth €200,000 for their business.
The 14 finalists were greeted with a welcoming address from Kevin O’Sullivan, Editor of the Irish Times, Brian Keating, AIB Group Brand Director and Una O’Hare, Director of Irish Times Training.
Facilitator Lisa Hughes took the finalists through the morning session which focused on networking with others and with their fellow finalists, a vital part of the success of any business.
“It is about really getting them to know one another because one of the things that we have found is that they learn so much from one another,” she said. “They’re all on the same journey, accessing all the same resources that support them as an entrepreneur so getting that group to form is going to make a huge difference in terms of the eight-week module. They will carry each other and be really helpful to one other. We provide them with a safe space and some content and skills in those things to facilitate it. What brings it alive though, the glue that holds it together is when they share their experiences and how that shows up for them and that’s what makes it real,” said Hughes.
The Academy, now in its third year, is a joint venture between AIB and The Irish Times to help start-up companies develop as the finalists follow an eight-week programme where they have an opportunity to network and learn from entrepreneurs, industry experts and each other in a mentoring and training programme.
I’d like the finalists to understand the bits that they don’t understand about their business right now (from this exercise) and have a laser-like focus on their customers
Hughes said her advice to the companies was to really make the most of their eight weeks and be present when they are there.
“What I have seen really work well is when people are all in. Some people will turn up with the laptop on and try to do other things while you’re with them in the room and while I understand that because they are under such pressure, it’s more beneficial if they can actually be here and really throw themselves into it and prep for each module and know what they want to get out of it,” said Hughes.
The 14 finalists are:
Service/product: men’s grooming products
Tipperary Boutique Distillery Limited
Service/product: Irish whiskey from their own barley on their Tipperary farm
Bakers & Cakers
Service/Product: an online marketplace connecting cake makers with customers
Service/Product: a range of customised spoke guards for wheelchairs
Service/product: handmade high-fibre protein bars
Service/product: a molecular diagnostic solution to help patients make decisions
Service/product: a product that manages peristomal skin complications for people with ileostomies
The Little Pharma Ltd
Service/Product: Hydroponically grown barley and wheat grasses
Service/Product: high-quality organic cotton blankets
Oathello Network Limited
Service/Product: an online app that allows you to find, book and pay to have legal documents sworn and notarised
Service/Product: a range of healthy meal pots designed for athletes
Service/Product: smart-stabling solutions to the equine and agricultural industries
Service/Product: a health care application to tackle sleep apnoea
Service/Product: a “Rustic Smoked Fish Pâté" called Fresh from the Pier
The afternoon session was facilitated by Dermot Casey with a focus on the Business Model Canvas.
“I’d like the finalists to understand the bits that they don’t understand about their business right now (from this exercise) and have a laser like focus on their customers from this exercise so they are really honing in who those customers are, where the value is going to be and that they learn to iterate rapidly. Essentially (the Business Model Canvas) is a way of testing a business idea in a way that is low cost so rather than rushing out spending a couple of hundred thousand building a product, figuring out how they can test that in a scientific way so they can learn and get some feedback to make sure that they are creating value for the customers quickly,” said Casey.
Keelin O’Keefe, founder of KiKi Moon, said she had a fantastic first day on the Academy. “It is so lovely to meet the other entrepreneurs, I have to say I was a little bit apprehensive because it is a competition and I wondered if it was going to be really dog-eat-dog but it’s completely the opposite. Everyone is so supportive already - sharing best practices, giving each other tips on different applications and websites that can help them so it’s fantastic. It’s only been day one and I feel like I’ve already learned so much and I’m really excited for the next seven weeks,” she said.
“I’m really looking forward to the next seven weeks on the Academy,” said Michael Swift of Frankman Grooming, “Each Monday when you come in you are putting all the theory straight into practice on a weekly basis because we are all starting a business. So these sessions are great because you can actually step back and you have this one day a week dedicated to learning, it can actually help.”
Next week, the focus is on social media with Felicity McCarthy and Roisin Glynn advising the finalists on how it can improve their business.
To find out more visit www.aibstartupacademy.com