Women entrepreneurs scoop Ireland Funds prize

Founders of Kids Speech Labs to use €10,000 prize to help scale the business and attract new staff

The co-founders of Kids Speech Labs have become the first female winners of the annual Business Plan Competition run by The Ireland Funds and the NDRC, a State-funded investment agency.

Shona D’Arcy and Céline de Looze have secured €10,000 to develop a suite of products that enable parents to track their children’s speech development through artificial intelligence-enabled language games.

The winners said the funding would be used to attract new staff and scale the business.

“We are now in a position to develop this product further and to bring it to the next level,” Ms D’Arcy said. “This competition was hugely beneficial and the invaluable advice and guidance that we received from The Ireland Funds and the NDRC has given us both the courage and confidence to keep going.”


The runner up was RecEasy, led by Maynooth University graduate David Duignan, which won €5,000. The company helps finance teams in large companies show that every figure in their accounts is correct, reviewed and reconciled, using robotics and machine learning.

Compliance platform

In third place was Cian O’Flaherty for his cloud-based compliance platform, Safecility, which provides building owners with legally-required compliance in a digital format. He won a prize of €1,000.

Now in its seventh year, the Business Plan Competition seeks to nurture entrepreneurial skills among pre-seed entrepreneurs in Ireland.

Bill McKiernan, competition founder and a donor to The Ireland Funds, said Ireland “boasts a thriving start-up scene, with initiatives popping up across the country”.