Competitive Start Fund – International Entrepreneurs

The Competitive Start Fund (CSF) aims to support early stage start-ups.  A competition, specifically for start-ups that are currently based overseas but are willing to relocate to Ireland, will open on Wednesday 16th March 2016 and will close at 3pm on Wednesday 6th April 2016.  Late applications will not be accepted.

This fund is open to early stage companies in manufacturing & internationally traded services, including the following subsectors: Internet, Games, Apps, Mobile, SaaS, Cloud Computing, Enterprise Software, Lifesciences, Fintech, Food, Cleantech and Industrial Products.

  • Shortlisted projects will be invited to travel to Ireland to experience the start-up ecosystem and to pitch to the evaluation panel.  The pitch will take place on Wednesday 1st June 2016. Enterprise Ireland will cover the travel and accommodation costs.
  • Successful applicants will be required to move to Ireland.  Enterprise Ireland will assist entrepreneurs who need a visa to live and work here. Successful applicants from outside the EU will be eligible for a Startup Entrepreneur Visa which permits the holder and his/her family members to reside and work in Ireland – see details here for rules of the scheme. The €50k investment from Enterprise Ireland will fulfill the funding requirements of the visa.  Advice and assistance on this is available from the help desk.

All applications to the fund must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System.

Please note that applicants may only apply for either CSF Regional Entrepreneurship OR CSF International Entrepreneurs, not both.

More information on starting a business in Ireland is available at

Overview of the Competitive Start Fund

The purpose of the Competitive Start Fund is to accelerate the growth of start-up companies that have the capability to succeed in global markets. The fund is designed to enable those companies reach key commercial and technical milestones, for example:

  • Evaluate overseas market opportunities and reach firm conclusions regarding the viability of the proposed business.
  • Build a prototype.
  • Secure a reference site.
  • Develop a market entry plan for exploiting international opportunities.
  • Secure partnership deal or strategic alliance.
  • Identify suitable channels to international markets.
  • Secure third party investment e.g. business angel, Venture Capital.

Am I eligible?

You are eligible to apply if you are an existing or potential client of Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up Department.

The Competitive Start Fund is open to:

  • Companies that are active in the relevant industrial sector(s)


  • Individuals who, prior to Enterprise Ireland’s investment, will form a company which will be active in the relevant industrial sector(s)

In addition, applicants must fulfill all of the following criteria:

  • The applicant, whether an individual or company, must undertake to register a company in Ireland prior to Enterprise Ireland’s investment.  Enterprise Ireland will invest only in the Irish registered company. Where the applicant is an existing company, the new Irish registered company should not be a subsidiary of the existing company – but it could, for example, have the same shareholders as the existing company.
  • All intellectual property and assets must reside in the Irish entity.
  • They must be resident outside Ireland at the time of application.
  • The majority of the management team/founders must undertake to be based in Ireland for at least one year post investment (e.g. if there are two persons in the current management, at least one person must move to Ireland).
  • Must be a manufacturing or an eligible traded services business (the eligible services as listed in the Service Industries Order 2010).
  • Must not have received equity funding of more than €100K prior to the competition closing date.  Equity includes Ordinary shares, Convertible Preference Shares, Convertible Loan Notes and Directors Loans.  Sweat equity does not apply.
  • Must be pre-trading or recently commenced trading, i.e. does not have revenues in excess of €60k in the current financial year to date or in any previous financial year.
  • If a company, it must be less than five years old [from date of registration].
  • Must be capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising sales of €1m within 3 years.  [If a company is required to have FDA or CE approval, these targets must be achievable within three years of approval to sell];
  • Must not be engaged in gambling, “adult entertainment”, tobacco or military sectors [services to the gambling sector are eligible provided income streams are not linked to amounts gambled]

Please note:

  • Where an applicant is a subsidiary of a parent company, the eligibility criteria will be applied to the group as a whole.
  • If the applicant was a sole trader or a partnership prior to applying to CSF as an individual or a Limited company and the business is exactly the same, then the eligibility criteria will be applied to the former entity.

What is the maximum funding and on what terms?

  • Applications are considered on a competitive basis.
  • The maximum support available is €50,000 for a 10% ordinary equity stake in the start-up company.
  • The investment will be released in two equal tranches.
  • The first tranche will be released on confirmation of an additional equity investment of €5,000 after the call close date.  This should be  new cash into the business – capitalisation of existing loans will not qualify
  • The overall equity investment will be towards the costs associated with implementing the business plan and making progress on key technical and commercial milestones.
  • Each Start-up invited to pitch will be entitled to up to a maximum of €1,000 per company to permit them to travel to Ireland experience the start-up ecosystem here over a number of days.
  • In addition to the investment of €50k, successful applicants will be eligible for a range of supports, including mentoring, and a development program.  See details of our HPSU Start supports.
  • For successful applicants, the investment should be completed promptly – certainly within 6 months of offer of investment.

How do I apply?

If you are a first time applicant you must register on the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System.

Applications must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System during the call open dates.  We strongly recommend that you log in and commence your application well in advance of the call closing date.  You can commence your application and save it to revisit at a later stage.

sample application form  is available here to download. Please note, this sample is still in draft and is subject to change. Also, If you do not have a PPS number please enter n/a or 1234567A.

In addition to the written online application, you must pitch your proposition using our online-video platform. You will be asked to complete a 6-8 minute online video interview / pitch which will be viewed by the evaluation panel as part of the evaluation. This video pitch, which is mandatory, requires you to address the following questions:

  • What are you going to sell? (1 minute maximum)
  • Who are you going to sell it to? (1 minute maximum)
  • Why are they going to buy it from you? (1 minute maximum)
  • How are you going to sell it to them? (1 minute maximum)
  • How are you going to make money? (1 minute maximum)
  • You will also be given 2 minutes max to add any additional comments

You will receive an email after commencing your Competitive Start Fund online application inviting you to complete your online video interview.  Read Video Pitch Briefing Document.

Please note that an application for approval of an equity investment for companies selected under this scheme shall be subject to:

(a) Approval from Enterprise Ireland’s Investment Committee. (b) The company agreeing to the Terms and Conditions set out in the Enterprise Ireland Term Sheet. (c) The company agreeing to enter into a Share Subscription and Shareholders Agreement with Enterprise Ireland. For more information on this Equity Process, read our CSF Equity FAQs.

How is my application evaluated?

Assessment Part 1

An evaluation panel comprising external consultants and Enterprise Ireland will score applications under the following criteria:

Evaluation CriteriaWeighting
Company and Promoter Profile20%
Product/Service & Market Opportunity20%
Business Proposition – delivered by Video Pitch20%
Product/Service Innovation10%
Ability to deliver key Commercial and Technical Milestones over the coming 12 months10%
Likelihood of developing into a HPSU [company with at least 10 employees and €1million revenue within 3 to 4 years]20%

For information, download CSF Assessment 1 Scoring Guidelines .

All applicants will be notified by email of the result of this assessment on3rd May 2016.   If they are successful they will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the panel on 1st June 2016 (Assessment Part 2).

Assessment Part 2

The top scoring applications (up to 20) will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the evaluation panel comprising external experts and Enterprise Ireland.  They will score the application based on the following equally weighted criteria:

  • What specific need does your product / service address? Why would someone be “compelled” to purchase your offering?
  • What is it about you and / or your management team that makes you capable of executing on this business plan?
  • What would be the impact of €50K on the execution of this business plan?

Up to ten applicants will be selected to go forward to Enterprise Ireland’s Investment Committee for approval.

Please note: Enterprise Ireland reserves the right to seek additional clarification from the applicant in regard to your application.

Closing Date for Applications

The closing date for all applications for those active in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Services sectors including Internet, Games, Apps, Mobile, SaaS, Cloud Computing, Enterprise Software, Lifesciences, Food, Cleantech and Industrial Products is Wednesday 6th April 2016.

Competitive Start Fund – International Entrepreneurs

For more information, please contact:   +353 1 727 2202 (9am – 5pm)

If you want to learn more about qualifying and applying for Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up supports, go to Start a Business Section of the Enterprise Ireland website.

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