The finalists: AIB Startup Academy judges find their final ten

Ten places filled on the AIB Start-up Academy but, for those who didn’t make it, there’s one wildcard spot still open on this year’s accelerator programme

Backstage at the final pitching day for the 20 shortlisted startups in the AIB Startup Academy. It was a dramatic day of in-depth pitches and analysis which reduced the list to our final 10, with a wild card spot for one more company still to come

A tense day of pitching from the 22 shortlisted companies in this year’s AIB Start-up Academy came to a hard-fought conclusion on Thursday when the judging panel selected ten companies to go forward to the final stage.

Each of the pitchers had 15 minutes to sell their company – a five-minute elevator pitch and then a detailed question and answer session with the judges. Despite the great standard of companies that it made it through last year there was a definite sign that the standard had risen again and the judges remarked on the great sense of maturity and vision that they were introduced to through the day.

In the final scoring, pitches from companies working in the food sector, property, fashion, spirits, medical and lifestyle technologies won through. (See the full list below)

The 2016 Start-up Academy finalists
Cool Bean Company
Nasal Medical Ltd
Brendan Joseph
Rebel Chilli
Blackwater Distillery
Buska Ltd


These ten companies, plus a wildcard yet to be chosen, will now take part in an eight-week accelerator programme in The Irish Times, designed to build their strength and capabilities across marketing, eCommerce, sales, networking, pitch preparation, social media and more.

In April, one of these will then win the Academy overall, taking a prize package worth €200,000 that includes a €20,000 cash injection, substantial advertising and marketing packages, development support, office space and more. There will also be a runner's up prize. Full details can be found at

The Wildcard
One place still remains open for an 11th wildcard candidate to be chosen by public vote. This vote will open on and soon and readers can vote there for their favourites. The wildcard winner will be announced on February 18th. Always an exciting process, the judges are fully confident that whichever of the remaining companies wins this spot, they are more than worthy candidates to join the academy, such was the overall standard involved.

The judges
John Irwin (Head of Strategy and Enablement, AIB), Vivienne McKechnie (B2B Director, The Irish Times), Elaine O'Hora (Founder, Munchies), Fiona Mahon (Brand Marketing Manager, AIB), Jill Downey (Managing Partner, Livewire), Sarah Leahy (Community Manager, Dublin Commissoner for Startups), Johnny Ryan (Head of Ecosystem at Pagefair)