Funding Options for Irish Startups and Small Businesses
by Michael McLaughlin, 18th March 2015
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For truth and duty it is ever the fitting time; who waits until circumstances completely favour his undertaking, will never accomplish anything -Martin Luther-


Are you tired as The Big Lebowski  would say working for the man and would rather be the man yourself? Many people are in this situation. After years of working for someone else they know they have the skills and knowledge to do it themselves but holding them back is the start up capital.

Unless you are Prince Harry or have had a decent bit of luck in the euro millions you will need to think about borrowing in some shape or form from a third party.

Don’t be disheartened if when you cracked open the piggy bank only a few coppers bounced out, there are many options out there and some offer quite favourable terms. The main options open to a startup are State Grants, Crowdfunding, Micro Financing, Accelerators, Incubators, Private Funding & Angel Investors. 



This should be the first port of call for startups in Ireland. We are very lucky to live in a country where the government is supportive of young businesses. Knowing how to navigate the bureaucracy is key to accessing public funds and important to avoid the quagmire of government grants.

Feasibility Study / Innovation Grant:

Source: Enterprise Boards and Enterprise Ireland.

What you get: 50% of costs excluding VAT capped at €15,000.

Pros: No Payback.

Cons: Risk of going beyond the feasibility study phase and being too late to claim.


Refundable Priming Grant:

Source: Enterprise Board

What you get:  50% of costs excluding VAT average amount. Employment grants of €10,000 per employee are obtainable. Grants up to €80,000 depending on the number of jobs made.

Pros: Great for traditional businesses with a product to shift.

Cons: Difficult to obtain as there are many rules.


Innovation Voucher:

Source: Enterprise Ireland

What you get: The max you can apply for is €5000 and it has to be used with a 3rd level institution.   

Pros: Only a short application to be completed.

Cons: Some universities are not as helpful as others, so choose wisely.


New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme:

Source: Enterprise Ireland

What you get:  Total amount receivable totals €15,000 if you are lucky enough to proceed to phase 2.

Pros: Along with the cash injection you will also attend school so will learn key skills in areas such as sales and accounts.

Cons: Only 10 people are selected to proceed to phase 2, so can be competitive.


Competitive Start Fund:

Source: Enterprise Ireland

What you get: €50,000 for a 10% equity stake

Pros: Considerable sum of money with few restrictions.

Cons: May take a few pitches to get accepted but eventually you will.


Other sources of Government Funding: 

Credit Review Office: 

Provides a simple review process for Small and Medium Enterprises who have had requests  for credit refused or existing credit facilities reduced or withdrawn.  


Credit Guarantee Scheme:

This Government scheme enables the State to act as a guarantor to the bank for your loan  application. The purpose of the scheme is to guarantee SMEs that have been declined credit due to inadequate collateral and/or lack of understanding of the business model.  

With over 100k on offer through various government grants you should think long and hard before looking for alternative sources of finance and bringing 3rd party investors onboard. As a startup your priority should be building traction with customers but down the line as the business expands you may need to think about more long term funding options, some of which I discuss later. 




Crowdfunding is the financing of a new project by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people.

Advantages: Access to capital without equity stakes or rigid bureaucracy.

Disadvantages: A lot of projects never get off the ground which can be frustrating given the amount of time you can spend setting up the campaign.

The following are the main crowdfunding platforms in Ireland:


An Irish crowdfunding company from the same people that developed iDonate, iFundraise and iRegister.

Rate: 4% commission



An Irish owned not for profit organisation working to support resilience and transformation in the cultural sector through research, innovation and partnership.

Rate: 5% commission


Linked Finance:

Another Irish owned crowdfunding site with favourable commission rates.

Rate: 2.5%  commission 


You might also want to check out some of the international crowdfunding platforms open to Irish startup projects: 


Having funded over 77,000 creative projects since 2009 Kickstarter are a big global player in crowdfunding.

Rate: 5% commission



Indiegogo are another big player in international crowdfunding.

Rate: 9% but they refund you 5% if your project goes ahead.  




A business incubator is an organisation that helps new and startup companies to develop by providing services such as management training or office space. There are plenty of options in the Irish market.

Advantages: Access to considerable sums of money coupled with mentoring expertise.

Disadvantages: Intensive mentoring can be a burden in some cases also many incubators will demand a considerable equity stake.


Ranked as the no1 IT incubator in the market, they are a serious player offering mentoring and support in the initial stages.

What you get: Up to €100,000 for technology intensive startups from the VentureLab programme.

Pros: Intensive 12 week mentoring programme where consultancy is provided for all aspects of the business.

Cons: Constant mentorships can distract your focus during the early stages.


Propeller Venture Accelerator Programme:

What you get: A maximum of €30,000 for a three month accelerator.

Pros: Access to office space and a bouquet of different mentors with a range of expertise.

Cons: 7.5% of equity is required in return.


Wayra Ireland:

One of Ireland’s leading digital start-up accelerators.

What you get: Up to €50,000 with support from a collection of experts in different fields.

Pros: Access to a network of international customers.

Cons: A lot of micro management will come with the seed capital.


European Pioneers:

Berlin-based accelerator programme that connects your team, your vision and your expertise with the power of the EU's Future Internet Public Private Partnership Programme (FI-PPP).If you manage to put an e-learning, gaming, smart cities, or smart tv in your startup they can help you out.

Check out our interview with EP partner Cristina Luminea.  

What you get: Up to €250k is available to start ups that meet the criteria.

Pros: Considerable sum of money on offer and no equity requirements. They will also do all the paperwork for you.

Cons: There is a necessity to travel to Berlin for various meetings.  


Other incubators worth looking at:

• Mastercard’s e-commerce-focused accelerator (

• NovaUCD (

• Dogpatch Labs (

• Startupbootcamp Ireland (

• Ignite Incubator Programme (

There is an extensive list available in the below article by the Digital Times for more options: 



Micro Finance loans are a great way for small businesses to access capital that would have no opportunities going through a large financial institution or might struggle going through crowdfunding.

Advantages: Access to capital without stringent criteria.

Disadvantages: Rates of return can be quite high as a result of the borrower having a higher risk profile.  

Microfinance Ireland:

A not-for-profit lender established to deliver the Government’s Microenterprise Loan Fund. MFI provides loans from €2k to €25k to newly established start ups or growing micro-enterprises that do not meet conventional risk criteria applied by commercial banks.


Microfinance LEO Loans:

What you get: Loans from €2,000 up to €25,000 from 3 to 5 years




An angel investor or angel (also known as a business angel or informal investor or angel funder) is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.  

Dublin Business Innovation Centre:

DBIC offer a great bouquet of funding opportunities:

 - AIB Seed Capital Fund:

The Dublin BIC managed AIB Seed Capital Fund is actively seeking entrepreneurs in tech   companies at the seed or early stage. The Fund will invest €100k to €1.5 million in selected viable start-up enterprises.


- Halo Business Angel Partnership:

This is the national business angel network in Ireland bringing together the private equity activities of Enterprise Ireland, InterTradeIreland and the Irish Business and Innovation Centres. It is managed by Dublin Business Innovation Centre.They match private investors with pre-screened  investment opportunities in high calibre start-ups, early stage and developing businesses. Angels tend to invest in the range of €25k to €250k. HBAN merged in 2015 and HBAP is now operating under the HBAN brand.

Lucey Fund:  

Brainchild of Ian Lucey plans to invest up to €4m in 30-40 tech startups in 2015. The fund has invested in companies such as MedxNote, a mobile messaging app for doctors and Mart365 allowing real time prices on livestock and crops for farmers. The fund was also an early investor in fashion-tech startup Von Bismark, which went to raise €600K in subsequent rounds. Check out our video interview with Ian Lucey in which he shares valuable tips with startups on raising finances in Ireland.


There are many angel investors operating in Ireland. They offer great consultancy along with the startup funds but they can be a heavy weight to bear as the business grows. Some options available are as follows:

Business Angel Partnership (

Irish Investment Network (

Halo Business Angel Network (

HBAN (managed by Dublin BIC) is an all-island umbrella group for business angel networks, dedicated to the promotion of angel investment and supporting the early stage entrepreneurial community on the island of Ireland. HBAN actively works to increase the number of angel investors involved in investing in early stage companies and supports the formation of new and existing angel networks, both regionally and internationally, and within industry sectors. HBAN is a network on a registration basis and many of their registered Angels focus on technology-led companies operating in the Information & Communications Technology, Financial Services, MedTech and other sectors at the seed or early stages.

Also check out GRID Finance - Ireland's Online Borrowing and Lending P2P Platform



Credit cards are a high risk source of funding where personal and company lines get blurred.  Failing to repay could be damaging to your personal circumstances if the business fails, but nothing ventured nothing gained. If you are planning to go down this route AIB’s The Classic Visa Business Card offers competitive interest rates.

Pros: It is relatively easy to obtain a business credit card. 

Cons: The rates are very high and represent only a short term funding option.


Other useful sources on startup funding in Ireland you should also check out:

Funding Resource by Philanthropy Ireland

9 State Funding Sources for Startups - compiled by Sunday Business Post

How To Get 100K From The Government - A Must See Guide compiled by Pete Connor at Bullet HQ

FINAL THOUGHTS ON STARTUP FUNDING IN IRELAND: It’s clear there is a multitude of options in the market. You need to be clear about what exactly you need and for how long. Deciding how much of your business you want to sell to someone else via equity will also be a defining decision to make. Getting your funding right is make or break for a lot of start ups. If you don’t have enough cash flow for your working capital you will be joining the legions of failed start ups, this really can’t be emphasised enough.

STAY TUNED: Next week we will be talking about how to get the best people for your start up.


Michael is a recovering accountant. Having subjected himself to a litany of exams he decided that life is too short to count beans so instead he wants to chance his arm writing. When he is not with ink and quill you can find him levitating in a local yoga centre or baking caramel squares. Freelance content and copywriter, covering short and long content pieces across various different media forms. Don't forget to connect with Michael on LinkedIn and say Hi!: 

Author: Michael McLaughlin

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