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Coaching begins for finalists on the AIB Start-Up Academy

Eleven of Ireland's brightest new businesses gathered in The Irish Times for the first day of the eight-week AIB Start-up Academy. Caitríona Mc Bride joined them

Focused vision: Dr Johnny Ryan leads a brainstorming session with some of the finalists in this year's AIB Start-Up Academy

Focused vision: Dr Johnny Ryan leads a brainstorming session with some of the finalists in this year's AIB Start-Up Academy


There was an air of 'first day at school' as the eleven start-up companies took their first step on the eight-week accelerator programme in The Irish Times and AIB Start up Academy which kicked off today. This is the second year of the Academy, which is a joint venture between AIB and The Irish Times to help start-up companies grow through an eight-week programme where the finalists get to network and learn from entrepreneurs and industry experts in a mentoring and training programme.

The 11 finalists were welcomed by Una O'Hare, head of Irish Times Training with Kevin O'Sullivan, Editor of The Irish Times; John Irwin, Head of Strategy and Enablement at AIB; Fiona Mahon, Business Marketing Manager at AIB and Gary Quinn, Content Studio Editor at The Irish Times. Coach and facilitator, Lisa Hughes was at the helm for their first session, which was 'Networking Skills' and got a great reaction from the participants on the art of connecting and networking effectively for their business. It was also an icebreaker, allowing participants get to know each other and the companies they're driving. They will be spending a lot of time together over the next eight weeks and getting that process started early was essential, Lisa Hughes explained.

The afternoon session saw Johnny Ryan challenging the finalists with his Business Canvas Model, facilitating the group to dive deeply into their company idea and help each other articulate their business plans and future growth potential. It was an invigorating session with participants reporting great learnings from the session.

This year's finalists were whittled down from an initial 426 applications for this year’s competition. Before they got to this final stage of the competition, 22 companies were shortlisted and had to pitch their business to a judging panel. The judges agreed that the standard this year was extremely high and that there was a healthy mix of industries and business types represented in the final eleven.

The eleven finalists are:
The Cool Bean Company who produce a cannellini bean meal in a pot;
Blackwater Distillery, a micro-distillery based on the banks of the Blackwater River in Co Waterford;
DropChef, is a subscription based food delivery service
Brendan Joseph who makes handmade scarves, shawls and bow ties
Queezybags which are convenient sickness bags with an easy-hold rim and twist and seal feature
Nasal Medical (NM) which is an Irish medical device company that has developed a nasal filter/mask to prevent particles like allergens and pollution entering through the nasal cavity
Popertee which offers an online marketplace connecting property owners who have spare space with businesses who are looking to rent retail spaces on a short-term or “pop-up” basis
Leaves which is led by husband and wife team, Nico Olivieri and Sabine Hobbel, who produce a pasta made from just buckwheat and chickpeas
Buska Boxes who rent heavy duty, stackable, closable, recycled plastic Buska moving boxes to people and businesses on the move
Topper which is a mobile app that has the ability to bring the currently immobile SME market to an efficient e-commerce platform
Rebel Chilli who produce fresh chilli sauce in Cork and are supplying shops and restaurants all over the country.

The process began in May last year, when the event road show travelled all over Ireland in search of the best start-up talent and sharing the experince of some of the best business minds in the country.

The coveted AIB Start-up Academy prize is what all the 11 finalists are hoping to win at the end of the eight weeks. The first prize consists of a €20,000 cash investment from AIB, €30,000 advertising spends with The Irish Times, Irish Times office space for one year, Maximum Media – advertising spend to the value of €65,000, Maximum Media Mentorship to the value of €5,000, Coaching from AIB, a one-day PR Masterclass with Wilson Hartnell valued at €10,000; Creative strategy and production of print / digital assets from Rothco to the value of €50,000 and Starcom & Radical – search and social consultancy valued at €10,000.

Johnny Ryan will be back with the finalists for next week's session called 'Design Thinking' and there's a rumour that they'll be taking to the streets of Dublin. Keep an eye out.