Eleven start-ups to battle it out at AIB Start-up Academy final

Winner will receive professional mentorship and €140,000 in advertising spending

Elizabeth Fingleton  of Obeo pictured during Week 4 of the AIB Start-up Academy. The  Start-up Academy will come to a close this week when the entrepreneurs give their final pitch to a team of judges on Thursday night.

Elizabeth Fingleton of Obeo pictured during Week 4 of the AIB Start-up Academy. The Start-up Academy will come to a close this week when the entrepreneurs give their final pitch to a team of judges on Thursday night.

 

The AIB Start-up Academy will come to a close this week when the entrepreneurs give their final pitch to a team of judges on Thursday night. One of the eleven finalists will win the grand prize which includes professional mentorship and €140,000 in advertising spending.

The eight-week AIB Start-up Academy programme wrapped up last week, and the entrepreneurs will be able to put what they learned to use at the final.

Conor Murphy of GymChef, the healthy ready meals company, thought the social media module was particularly helpful.

“I liked the Conor Pope lecture. It was very practical. He used lots of examples and simple guidelines we could all follow and use straightaway.”

Elizabeth Fingleton of Obeo food waste recycling boxes agreed. “I think it made me realise that you need to integrate social media into everything you do, and then it becomes your priority.”

“It was an amazing experience, the lectures were good, there was great advice and great interaction within the group,” said Seamus Tighe of Everest Granola.

Tighe said the day the start-ups went out onto the street to design an umbrella that customers really wanted was one of the highlights of the programme. That experiment was led by coach Johnny Ryan of the UCD Innovation Academy.

“I ended up talking to women selling flowers on Grafton Street, and they were saying their umbrellas were always breaking because they were out in the elements the whole time. We were trying to come up with something for them.”

Fabien Peyaud of cattle management platform Herdwatch said the most memorable thing he learned was: “Sell the sizzle, not the sausage.”

He said the Herdwatch team can get caught up in the “nuts and bolts” of the business. The AIB Start-up Academy mentors and coaches taught him that customers really want to know what they can get out of Herdwatch and what problem it solves.

The advice that Bernie Kinsella of shipping service WorldBOX.ie received at the Academy inspired her to redesign her company’s boxes.

“One of the biggest things I learned was a simple thing: make the boxes look well. When the receiver gets it, they should think, ‘Somebody cares about me,’” she said.

Gail Condon of Writing for Tiny, a personalised children’s books company, liked the business modelling lecture. “I think every start-up should have some sort of tutoring on lean business modelling.”

For James Winans, the module on the psychology of sales and networking was something he could immediately apply in his craft beer distributing business, Vanguard Beer Collective.

The e-commerce lecture delivered by Vinny O’Brien was a hit with Dave McGeady of Wyldsson Elite Nutrition.

“I thought it was brilliant because MicksGarage is a huge e-commerce success story that happens to be Irish. To get to sit down with Vinny and be mentored by him was worthwhile…We’re an e-commerce business as well. We sell food, they sell car parts.”

Despite the valuable prize, the start-ups were not all that competitive, as it turns out. Most of them cited the camaraderie as the best part of the Academy.

“Being a start-up is kind of isolating, but when you meet other start-ups you realise you’re in the same boat, and it’s reassuring. It makes it more fun,” said Shane Lynn of KillBiller, an app that helps people choose the best mobile phone plan.

“Up until the very end, it wasn’t a competition. It was very collaborative,” he said.

Karl McCarthy Usher, an event-booking app, said: “It was a relief know we are all going through the same challenges…”

“The best thing for me was meeting the other participants,” said Philip Martin of corn tortilla company Blanco Nino.

As for the lecture portion, Martin said he is “potentially looking at the e-commerce route of sales in the future” after learning new ways to generate revenue through different channels.