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What difference could €100,000 make to your fledgling business?

Companies are encouraged to enter now for slice of €280,000 cash prize fund

What difference could €100,000 make to your fledgling business?  Would it help you to develop a prototype?  Would it allow you to move on to the testing phase?  Could it even offer an expedited route to market for your product or service?  If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions then there is no better time than today to enter the Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition, as the deadline for entry of 30th May 2014, is fast-approaching.

The competition, now in its 12th year, offers a total cash prize fund of €280,000, with a top cash prize of €100,000 for an early-stage business on the island.  It provides the opportunity for firms to refine their business plan, gain exposure to investors and improve their business concept.

Connor Sweeney, Seedcorn project manager for InterTradeIreland, explained: “Seedcorn mirrors the investment process as closely as possible with the ultimate aim of the Competition, now in its 12th year, to help to transform equity raising businesses into first-class investor-ready companies.  No equity stake is taken in any of the winners’ businesses and all applicants benefit from expert advice at each stage to refine and perfect their business plans.

“The application process is as simple as possible for entrants.  All companies have to do is to submit a short online application form answering 18 straightforward questions. Following that, firms will also have to upload a visual representation of their business idea which could be a short video, a slideshow presentation or both. Those selected to go through to the next stage will be invited to submit their full business plan by 5th September.”

Following scoring of all business plans, the top three ‘New Start’ and the top three ‘Early Stage’ companies in each of the four regions across Northern Ireland and Ireland will be invited to present at their regional final.  Prior to the pitch, all 24 regional finalists will be invited to take advantage of a day-long, intensive investment pitch masterclass to refine, hone and perfect their presentation skills.

Firms will then be invited to deliver a pitch in front of a judging panel comprising venture capitalists, business angels and some of the island’s leading industry experts. The judges are looking for the same elements as a potential investor including high growth projections, the optimum risk/reward profile, a strong management team and the ability to exit.

Connor added: “Local firms have been very successful in the competition to date.  Previous winners have included Belfast-based Catagen, which has expanded into the US with a deal worth around £750,000 and Analytics Engines, also based in Belfast, that recently secured investment worth £1m plus.  European studies confirm that equity backed companies grow at six times the rate of non-backed companies, which can only be good for the local economy.  I would urge all young companies to apply as soon as possible.

“One of the key benefits for successful applicants is that all plans submitted will receive detailed evaluation and feedback from members of our experienced judging panel.  This in itself is an invaluable benefit and can help companies to move on to the next stage, whether that is to attract investment or to develop other growth strategies.  The competition is a very worthwhile step in starting to take the first strides in raising the funds to compete on the global stage.”

Over the last eleven years, Seedcorn has supported more than 1950 enterprising businesses through the Competition process.  During that time companies that reached regional final level have gone on to raise more than €185m of new equity.

This year’s competition is open to independent ventures incorporated in Northern Ireland or Ireland, in the seed, start-up or early-stage of business development and ideally targeting international markets.   There are two categories for the 2014 competition, ‘New Start Companies’, which are deemed to be those who are seeking to raise between €50,000 and €299,999 and ‘Early Stage Companies’, deemed to be those who are seeking to raise in excess of €300,000.

Companies can find out more information on the application process by visiting www.intertradeireland.com/seedcorn where there are also video tutorials to guide you through the process. You can also follow the competition on Twitter @ITI_Seedcorn or join the Seedcorn Network on LinkedIn where businesses can get valuable information and advice from experts.

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