Hello everyone, this is a post we’ve been meaning to write for a while now – better late than never as they say. Firstly, let’s explain exactly what the AIB Start-up Academy is. The AIB Start-up Academy is a joint venture between The Irish Times and AIB to help start-ups by providing information and networking opportunities. It includes an intensive 8-week course given by industry experts and mentors to help mould and elevate business ideas and start-up companies. In late 2015 the AIB Start-up Academy applications opened, and, thinking we would never get in the finals, we applied and our journey began.
In January of 2016 we received a call that would change the future of our company forever -we made it in to the final 22 start-ups out of over 400 applicants. We were very excited, but we knew we had a lot of work to do before we faced the judges in February. The pitching session – which consisted of a five-minute elevator pitch and a grilling from the judges – took place at the Irish Times’ offices in Dublin. We were all very nervous, but we did have a friendly face on hand to settle us a little – 2015 Start-up Academy winner Fabien Peyaud – who came along on the day to offer some support and words of wisdom.
After a day of laughter, nerves, and some brilliant business ideas, the 11-company shortlist for the 2016 Start-up Academy was announced, and we were very proudly ranked among the 10 other amazing companies named on the day.
In early March we all met at Irish Times’ offices for our first Academy module. Over the next eight weeks we were faced with a series of challenges as the expert mentors helped us shape our business ideas and give us the skills to realise our full potential. Johnny Ryan helped us change the way we think when designing our products, making sure that the customer is central to all thinking, and that their needs are met first and foremost. From E-Commerce with Vinny O’Brien to Networking with Lisa Hughes and Social Media with Felicity McCarthy, the 8-week course was invaluable to our business going forward.
In April the near-unthinkable happened and we were named as the overall winners! Having spent so much time with the other finalists, and forge real friendships, we were honoured to be chosen among such a stellar line up.
Our prize was a life changing fund of €250,000 worth of mentorship, advertising, marketing, coaching, and a cash injection to help bring our products to market. Since winning the competition over 18 months ago we have gone from strength, and honestly would not be where we are without this academy, AIB, Irish Times, our amazing team of mentors, and finalists. The 10 finalists are listed below, including the two runners up, Blackwater Distillery & Popertee. Thank you so much to everyone involved, AIB, Irish Times, our coaches, and to all the start ups we had the pleasure of meeting and learning from.
- Blackwater Distillery
- Brendan Joseph
- Buska Ltd
- Cool Bean Company
- Rebel Chilli