Getting the Competitive Start Fund: Advice from Enterprise Ireland

Getting the Competitive Start Fund: Advice from Enterprise Ireland

In the last part of this series, GirlCrew chats to senior development manager and female entrepreneurship manager, Sarita Johnston, to get Enterprise Ireland’s perspective on CSF funding. 

From EI’s perspective, what do you find are the most common mistakes with CSF applications?

There are a number of common mistakes we regularly see with applications.  At Enterprise Ireland the main mistakes we see are:

1) Assuming that the evaluator already knows the market. Or sector the applicant plans to sell into. It is important to explain and describe the market. And back it up with figures of the sector. For example the size of the market and the opportunity that you intend to target.

2) Not reflecting the business’ scope and vision as a High Potential Startup. At CSF application stage, we look at businesses in terms of their potential to have turnover of one million euros, to employ 10 or more staff in Ireland in the future and their ability to eventually expand into export markets. It is important to articulate this potential.

3) Not identifying a skills gaps on the team. And listing people on the advisory team, who are not involved. Quite a lot of early stage businesses have skills gaps on the team. And whilst this doesn’t put us off investing in businesses, it is important that these gaps are identified, and in setting out the milestones, that there is a plan to address them. If you don’t have a particular expertise on your team and you haven’t received full commitment from an advisor to join the advisory board, say it as it is, and set it out as a future milestone. Only list the advisory team members who are actively involved in advising on your business. This should be clear from your application submission. Showing awareness of what you have and don’t have in place at CSF stage is important.

4) Applying for CSF too early.  You need to be a little further along on the road map than ideation stage. We would advise applicants before applying to have a minimal viable product (MVP) and/or to have undertaken some development training or startup business course such as New Frontiers that helps the promoter articulate the value proposition and their business proposition clearly. Participating in one of the many startup business courses throughout Ireland shows a commitment to fleshing out the opportunity and refining the value proposition.

5) Misreading the questions on the application form. It is important to note you can only be judged on what is included in your application and the video. Read the questions carefully and answer the questions that are asked. And practice in advance of submitting the video.


What are some clear signs of a successful CSF application?

  • Where a promoter can succinctly communicate their value proposition in terms of what problem they are solving. What are they  doing that’s different? Why the opportunity is now? And how they are going to make money?
  • The credibility and expertise of the promoter on the management team. Indications of the commitment of the team or clear signs of involvement and commitment from the advisory team members are crucial. We invest in teams, not individuals.
  • Having clear commercial and technical milestones. Enterprise Ireland welcome ambition, so long as the milestones are realistically achievable.
  • Where the business promoter stands out in how they sell the business proposition in the video submission. We often look at the videos before reviewing the applications. This immediately gives us a sense of how the promoter would come across to potential investors.

Are there any new developments with CSF?

Enterprise Ireland look at a number of different cohorts as opportunities on the market emerge. This year we have focused on supporting females, graduates and overseas entrepreneurs with the Competitive Startup Fund.

We have just opened CSF to the ‘Experienced Professional’. This is aimed at professionals with over 25 years’ industry or sector experience. Ideally with 10 years’ experience in a leadership role. We are combining this funding with a place on an accelerator programme run by the DCU Ryan Academy in conjunction with ISAX (Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange) for ten successful applicants. The application process opens October 11th and closes October 25th.

We will also be continuing to look at Fintech, Medtech and Agritech this coming year. Next year, there are plans to look at the Marine sector and manufacturing & internationally traded services, including the following subsectors: Internet, Games, Apps, Mobile, SaaS, Cloud Computing, Enterprise Software, Lifesciences, Food, Cleantech and Industrial Products.

Any advice for people abroad looking at a move to Ireland with their startup?

Enterprise Ireland are open to applications and welcome all queries from experienced overseas professionals. Those who see Ireland as a good place to set up a business. Before setting up a limited company and arriving in Ireland, we recommend getting in touch with our overseas team. They can advise on applicable taxation and company set up before moving over.

Where’s a good place to start for any GirlCrewer considering setting up a business or in the early stage of business?

A good starting point is to contact your Local Enterprise Office (LEO). They can advise on startup courses, funding opportunities and events around the country.  Keep an eye on the Enterprise Ireland website this coming year. We will be launching further initiatives to support navigating the startup ecosystem and entrepreneurial supports in Ireland. In the early stages you can start testing your business idea by talking to potential customers or experts in the sector who can give guidance on the market. Look beyond your family and friends to validate your business idea and potential market.

Huge thanks to Sarita, and Enterprise Ireland, for their help with this series. Don’t forget we also have insight from companies who successfully obtained CSF funding.

  • Glissed – an online marketplace to link beauty professionals with customers.
  • Connect the Dots – a data-driven social enterprise that curates unique events.
  • Luvguru – a new style of dating app that allows you to play matchmaker.

If you are applying for CSF, or have successfully obtained funding Enterprise Ireland, let us know your top tips in the comments. What would be your one piece of advice when it comes to creating the perfect application?

12 thoughts on “Getting the Competitive Start Fund: Advice from Enterprise Ireland”

  1. I really admire people who dare to open a business and for those who doesnt should really read your posts about this! Atleast I am now motivated!

  2. This is such a great advice for those who want to start a business. I will definitely check this out.

  3. Oh, I’m not so much into the understanding of starting the business, but all what I can read from this post is that the tips are really real one and I could relate since I was in job for straight 9 years. Great holistic info!

  4. Thanks for sharing these key points. Very useful especially for women who wants to start their own enterprise.

  5. Excellent tips to get biz started .It sounds like a very streamlined setup.Wish we had something like this here.

  6. These would seem a no-brainer for anyone who wants to start a business. However there are a lot of them who don’t seem to get it right. This is a great guide for those ones!

  7. This post is very informative and with key information on starting a business.That’s really helpful for those who are willing to start their own business,but do not have much idea on where to start!

  8. I learned Business Ad in college and I must say that you’ve listed important points here. Some might say that if you have money, just go with it. They don’t know that a lot of factors must be considered to start one and these factors will determine whether the business will fail or succeed.

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