Posted on Thursday 3 September 2015 by Ulster Business

Start up revolution promised by new program

Niall Casey from Invest NI and Bill Liao

A program designed to give start-up companies a funding and knowledge boost has just been launched in Northern Ireland.

Start Planet NI was unveiled this week by Australian entrepreneur, venture capital investor, diplomat and author Bill Liao and has been backed by Invest NI to the tune of £2.6m.

The money will be used to establish a five-year “seed accelerator” to attract both international and indigenous business with technology-based ideas in the knowledge economy sectors.

Companies need to be at start-up stage and be able to demonstrated “high potential” before being able to access early stage support and private equity investment.

The three-month long Start Planet NI Accelerator will be based in Revolution BFS, a new purpose-designed accelerator and co-working space currently being developed on Donegall Street, in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. This space will be part of a global network of SOSventures Revolution co-working spaces – from San Francisco and Schenzen, to Cork and New York. As well as benefitting from access to the global network and a programme of intensive mentoring and support during the first three months, companies will have the option to stay on in the space for a further six months free of charge.

Each of the 10 successful companies will receive £15,000 to £40,000 seed funding. In return they will be expected to release 8% equity.

Uniquely, this new accelerator offers an innovative co-operative approach to the investment and associated equity.  For example, 2% of all equity will go towards a Founders’ Fund, which plans to generate shares in a pool made up of each company participating in the five year programme. This means the success of any participant will be shared by all programme participants.

Jeremy Fitch, Invest NI’s Executive Director of Business Solutions Group said: “Supporting ambitious entrepreneurs to develop innovative start-ups is a critical part of Northern Ireland’s economic strategy. The Start Planet NI model will match some of the best start-ups from Northern Ireland with their international counterparts, and will help build a strong and vibrant start-up community within the wider Knowledge Economy.

“Each successful team will gain access to this shared co-working facility, where they will receive intensive mentoring and support as well as access to an established influential global network.  Together with the important seed funding and access to additional private sector investment, and the unique Founders’ Fund, we are greatly increasing their potential to succeed internationally.”

Wayne Murphy, Accelerator Manager, StartPlanet NI said: “Start Planet NI is focused on helping entrepreneurs who have the potential to transform their start-ups into high-value businesses, and the combination of innovative workspace, funding, mentoring, business support and global reach ensures we are offering the best environment to allow them to do just that.”

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