The AIB Start-up Academy is a joint venture between The Irish Times and AIB to help people start or strengthen their businesses by providing information, networking opportunities and the chance to win a place on an intensive training course run by Irish Times Training.
AIB teamed up with The Irish Times to launch the inaugural Start-up Academy last year.
The 2015/16 Academy will kick off with AIB Start-up Nights, a series of events across the country where industry leaders share their insights and experiences with entrepreneurs and people interested in starting their own business.
The nights, which run from May to November 2015, connect entrepreneurs with like-minded people and the wider start-up community.
While Dublin has a thriving tech start-up scene, these events extend beyond the tech sector and beyond Dublin. Last year’s participants ranged from food to environment to publishing businesses.
The Academy also wants to find the top start-up talent in the country. Entrepreneurs can apply for a spot on the intensive eight-week training course that begins in early 2016.
Applicants will go through a rigorous selection process. Last year almost 300 start-ups applied for the programme.
Twenty companies were chosen to pitch in front of a panel of judges, who selected 10 finalists to participate in the academy. An eleventh start-up was chosen by popular vote.
The course, run by Irish Times Training, a subsidiary of The Irish Times, is designed to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses faster and more sustainably. The training programme covers a range of topics, from business modelling to social media strategy.
Over eight weeks, the academy finalists are guided through a curriculum focused on developing the skills essential to start-ups, including finance, accounting, marketing, sales, product development and more.
After the programme, the finalists will take part in another pitching event where a panel of judges will choose the overall winner of the academy.
Last year’s winner took home a grand prize worth €250,000, which included €140,000 in advertising spending, professional mentoring and office space in The Irish Times building.
The 2016 grand prize is valued atover €250,000, which includes a €20,000 cash investment for the overall winner and an advertising and mentorship package for each runner-up.