AIB provides €2m to fund Irish tech entrepreneurs

Fund will be managed by specialist venture capital operator that invests in early-stage software

Digital kitchen scale innovator Ben Harris (left), chief executive of Drop, with members of the AIB and Frontline Ventures teams, celebrates AIB’s €2 million seeding

Digital kitchen scale innovator Ben Harris (left), chief executive of Drop, with members of the AIB and Frontline Ventures teams, celebrates AIB’s €2 million seeding

 

AIB has provided €2 million for a new investment fund to support 20 high-potential start-up technology ventures in Ireland. The AIB Discovery Programme will invest €100,000 in each project at the concept stage, when funding, resources, and mentorship are often hard to source.

The fund will be managed by Frontline Ventures, a specialist venture capital operator that invests in early-stage software entrepreneurs. The AIB programme forms part of the Frontline Ventures I Fund Partnership of €40 million. Other backers include Enterprise Ireland, the An Post pension fund, and Irelandia. The latter is an investment vehicle operated by businessman Declan Ryan.

The AIB fund has already provided €100,000 to one venture: Drop, a company based in the IFSC that has developed “connected kitchen devices”. Drop has since secured an additional $2 million from funds based in the US and China. It is also working with PCH International, an Irish company founded by entrepreneur Liam Casey with an operating base in China, to develop its product.

Drop’s chief executive Ben Harris said the funding gave it the “runway to get our product into development and accelerate conversations with key retail partners”.

Will Prendergast, a partner with Frontline, said the AIB fund would back firms that are at a “customer discovery stage” and have “very big ideas”. “The bigger the idea, the higher the risk, but we think some of these will be hugely successful,” he said. “If we get five global companies out of the 20 [investments], that would be fantastic.”

AIB’s head of business banking, Ken Burke, said the fund aims to invest directly in the “brightest entrepreneurs to deliver the global technology companies of the future”. “We will fund the very earliest stages of a company’s development, which is often the hardest stage to find the initial finance. We recognise the importance of supporting this vital sector and its future growth potential.”

Set up two years ago, Frontline is managed by partners Shay Garvey, Will Prendergast and William McQuillan from office in Dublin and London. Its investments have included Logentries, CurrencyFair and Boxever.