Successful DCU Organised Spark2Start event for Entrepreneurs

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On Saturday 1st October in the Guinness Enterprise Centre (GEC) a unique collection of entrepreneurs gathered for #Spark2Start2016. Spark2Start is a free Startup Community Event for early stage entrepreneurs/startups where experts from all sections of the startup ecosystem came together to share their experience and advice. This event was hosted in the GEC with future events being planned in NDRC, DogPatch Labs and DCU Alpha.

The event proved very popular and the venue was full to capacity. Event organiser Ray Walshe and Founder of Spark2Start commented in his opening address that the turnout was a testament to the value of bringing all the ecosystem players together under one roof. Walshe said “Having experts from Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centres, incubators, accelerators, co-working space, venture capital leaders, angel investors and startup consultants present, created valuable opportunities for startups to network. This is definitely the best way to do this type of pipeline event for the next generation of early stage startups. A huge debt of gratitude is owed to all those who helped make the event such a success”.

The morning part of the agenda was split between two rooms with Founder Expert Panel (Anne Lanigan, Andrew Parish, Patrick Leddy and Max Thiel) and the Technology Expert Panel (Stephen O’Driscoll, Hugh Brady, Cathal Gurrin, Alex O’ Connor and Andew McCarren), sessions running in parallel. After coffee there were guest talks from John McGrane Founder of NSI Technology and Jonathan Mills (Director E-Business Development Isle of Man Government) providing valuable advice on building a team as well as a business.

The Pitching session showcased the technology and business cases of five early stage startups, WeSavvy, Performance Tracking Solutions, Trezeo, Ballzey and Dynamic Res. After Lunch, Max Thiel (Co-founder of Event.Cards) ran a workshop on Product Development and Garret Flower (Founder of Parkpnp) gave a talk on “Ireland’s first mobile parking platform”. The event culminated with the most popular session “Ask Me Anything” where over 25 experts made themselves available for one-to-one sessions with the entrepreneurs present. Many of the conversations started here went on after Spark2Start2016 closed and indeed will continue in the weeks to come.

The events main sponsor is Enterprise Ireland and Anne Lanigan, Head of HPSU Start at Enterprise Ireland said “In addition to demonstrating the huge enthusiasm for ‘starting up’, the large attendance at Spark2Start was an indication of the diversity of those setting out on the path of entrepreneurship – young and old, male and female, Irish and from Overseas. Spark2Start is a valuable initiative in linking these budding entrepreneurs with peers and relevant supports as well as providing clarity on what can be a confusing ecosystem.’

Stephen O’ Driscoll from Science Foundation Ireland chaired the Technology Expert Panel session where a number of SFI Research Centres were present to give technology advice to startups. O’ Driscoll said “This was an important event attended by inspiring entrepreneurs. For many, STEM was at the heart of their vision, and it was really exciting to see the enthusiasm with which they wanted to engage with the SFI Research Centres represented at the event.

Barry O’Dowd VP Emerging Business from the IDA, fielded questions on scaling and internationalization in the “Ask the Experts” networking session in the afternoon. ‘O’Dowd said ‘There is a definite upsurge in the Irish startup scene which was clearly visible in the interest and quality of attendee at today’s event. It was particularly interesting to see the high incidence of international and overseas attendees. This augurs well for the entrepreneurial gene pool.