IntertradeIreland venture capital conference highlights

VC Conference 01 final

Patrick Joy, Founder of Suretank and Ernst and Young's Entrepreneur of the Year 2013, was keynote speaker at the 2014 InterTradeIreland Venture Capital Conference at Titanic Belfast which took place recently. More than 350 delegates attended the all-island event, which focused on the theme 'there has never been a better time to raise equity' and highlighted the growing strength of the NI market. It brought together the island's leading venture capitalists, business angels and start-ups to share insight into the array of funding options available including the two new government venture capital funds available in Northern Ireland.  picture: Darryl Mooney
Patrick Joy, Founder of Suretank and Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2013, was keynote speaker at the 2014 InterTradeIreland Venture Capital Conference

More than 350 delegates at the recent Venture Capital Conference, organised by InterTradeIreland, heard that there has never been a better time to raise equity due to the diversity of funding available. With supports in place to deliver two new government venture capital funds with the capability to make single investments of between £500,000 to £2million, innovative businesses in Northern Ireland have now got more access than ever before to equity funding.

The conference, the only one of its kind on the island, saw entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business angels, other investors and company representatives who may be seeking investment, gather together to hear the latest industry news. With venture capital activity on the island up by 6% in 2013 from €260m to €284m according to the recent IVCA ‘venture pulse’, the event highlighted the many funding opportunities now available to businesses.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Minister Arlene Foster, who spoke at the conference commented: “Venture capital funds are invested in ground-breaking innovation and help to build fast-growing businesses. Government initiatives promoting venture capital and business angel finance remain high on my Department’s agenda.

“With two companies, Crescent Capital and Kernel Capital, appointed to deliver public-funded investment, the future of stimulating high-growth and economy-boosting businesses, remains positive. Continued government support for the Halo business angel networks enables the matching of investors seeking opportunities with high growth potential companies. Overall, there has never been a better time for ‘investor-ready’ companies to raise equity.

“This is the 13th annual Venture Capital Conference demonstrating InterTradeIreland’s commitment to promoting equity finance in Northern Ireland and Ireland.”

InterTradeIreland offers SMEs various equity supports including regional equity advisory clinics delivered by a venture capital professional, investment pitch masterclasses, business planning workshops and the very successful All-island Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition.

Grainne Lennon, operations manager for InterTradeIreland, explains:  “The Northern Ireland marketplace is displaying increased buoyancy with investment funding opportunities now more in line with what is available for high-growth and early-stage companies in Ireland, which is excellent news for local fledgling businesses.  With substantial potential investment available from the VC and business angel community, this conference helped enhance delegates’ knowledge of many sources of funding.  The outlook for 2014 is extremely bright as innovation and available equity are both at their highest levels in recent years, which is further stimulating the venture capital market and economic regeneration across the island.

“The opportunity to network with investors, improves companies’ understanding of what is being looked for, including due diligence requirements and what they need to do to become ‘investor ready’.  Venture capitalists and business angels will have a checklist in their head of sectors in which they are interested and the desired financial gains.  There was a warm and open environment which allowed companies to make their first impression and introduce themselves to potential investors from across the island, which could set the ball rolling for securing future investment for their business.

“The diversity of funding and equity supports are greater than ever for high-growth companies with increased seed and growth venture capital funding, business angel funding, government match funding, co-investment funding and European funding streams including Horizon 2020, which will replace FP7.

“Belfast technology company, Analytics Engines, shared its experience at the conference and told how they raised more than £1million in venture funding for its products, highlighting the accessibility innovative companies can have to venture capital, if they are ‘investor-ready’ to do so.  The company received this private venture capital to explore new markets but has previously taken advantage of government initiatives, including the European FP7 funding stream.”

Delegates heard from one of Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs, and winner of EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2013, Patrick Joy, of Co. Louth based Sure Tank, as well as four other younger enterprises’ experience of raising equity.

Giving his advice to the entrepreneurs attending the conference Patrick said: “As an entrepreneur you have to look at it from the investor’s perspective; they are taking a calculated risk and are backing the people at the heart of the company.  So you need to be committed, love your customers and thrive on the buzz of the business you are building.  You have to have ambition and enthusiasm and believe in yourself enough to take risks; no matter what business you are in.

“Inevitably, you are going to encounter setbacks along the way, but it’s about how you come back from those setbacks that counts and what investors are interested in. I could not have achieved the success I have had without the belief in my business and my team and the necessary support received from early stage investors.”

The conference also included a speed networking session and three parallel sessions covering early stage funding, series ‘A’ funding and life sciences. Risk sharing, crowd-funding and state supports from InterTradeIreland, Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland, also formed part of this comprehensive conference programme.

InterTradeIreland’s 13th Venture Capital Conference was supported by Crescent Capital, Kernel Capital and Mills Selig. For further information on InterTradeIreland’s supports and equity initiatives, visit www.intertradeireland.com/equity.

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