How Competitive Start Fund approval helped Nasal Medical lead the way in drug-free allergy prevention and relief

How Competitive Start Fund approval helped Nasal Medical lead the way in drug-free allergy prevention and relief

Martin O’Connell, founder, Nasal Medical

“Getting the Competitive Start Fund (CSF) approval validated what we were trying to do and gave us the confidence to grow.

Martin O’Connell, founder, Nasal Medical.

Key Takeouts:

  • 25% of Europeans suffer from a nose, chest or sinus allergy, a figure set to rise to 50% within a decade.
  • With support from Enterprise Ireland, including a Competitive Start Fund (CSF) investment in 2016, Nasal Medical’s Allergy Filter has revolutionised the drug-free allergy-prevention market.
  • Nasal Medical has a presence in the UK and will launch in the US in October. The company is working on a contract with one of the largest pharma companies in India and is exploring other markets in Europe with help from Enterprise Ireland.

Case Study: Nasal Medical

According to Allergy Ireland, about 25% of Europeans suffer from some sort of nose, chest or sinus allergy, a figure that’s set to rise to 50% within the next decade. While medical products can offer some relief, finding a long-term drug-free way to alleviate symptoms is high on the wish list of sufferers. With the help of several supports from Enterprise Ireland, including a Competitive Start Fund (CSF) investment in 2016, Nasal Medical has revolutionised the drug-free allergy-prevention market with its discreet and effective Allergy Filter.

“The ‘light bulb moment’ came through an unfortunate event on my family’s farm in Kerry,” explains founder Martin O’Connell, “when our cattle contracted tuberculosis I knew that I had to come up with a solution to prevent a reoccurrence, and from this, the concept for Nasal Medical, and a filter for humans, was born.”

How Nasal Medical secured CSF support“Nasal Medical specialises in anatomically designed nasal products to aid comfortable and effective breathing. Covering five target markets including pollution, allergies, sleeping disorders (mild sleep apnea and snoring), congestion and performance endurance, we address a myriad of major global problems – alleviating sleep disorders, protecting against the inhalation of seasonal allergies and contaminated air and enhancing athletic performance.

“We have launched two products so far, the Discreet Snoring Aid and the Allergy Nasal Filter, while the Travel Nasal Filter, Sports Aid, Pollution Filter and Snore Watch App will be launched in early 2020.”

The products are currently sold online, as well as in pharmacies in Ireland. “Google and eBay have been really helpful; we’re also recently selling through Amazon,” Martin explains. “We have a presence in the UK and will be expanding this soon along with our launch in the US in October. We’re also working on a contract with one of the largest pharma companies in India. In addition, we’re exploring other markets in Europe, with the help of Enterprise Ireland.”

 

How Nasal Medical secured CSF support

Martin and the team first approached Enterprise Ireland after developing a product prototype. From there, he was introduced to a development advisor in the High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU) unit, who helped the company to secure a feasibility grant and mentor in 2014, followed by a CSF investment in 2016.

“Aside from the funding, which has helped us in key areas of our business, the support and mentorship we have received as clients of Enterprise Ireland has been invaluable to us. They have opened doors for us, and connected us with people we could only dream of talking to.

The team in Enterprise Ireland has supported us every step of the way. We benefitted from advice and help from development advisors in the HPSU team and have also worked with the Eastpoint-based Market Research Centre, as well as overseas market advisors who took us to another level in export growth development.”

 

More than just funding

“The mentor Enterprise Ireland provided had huge experience in our sector, as well as great contacts. He was able to offer us first-hand advice and guidance and played an integral role in making sure that our patent protection and regulatory affairs were in order.

Following this, we were introduced to the team at SteriPack. Without them and without Enterprise Ireland, we probably wouldn’t be in existence today. The manufacturing side of the business was an obstacle for us, but the team at SteriPack were there to help us throughout the whole process. We have also received huge support from Eamonn Sayers in the Guinness Enterprise Centre, Chanelle, Lady McCoy, Pat Mullen of MSD Accountants, Dr. Paul Carson and John O’Dea.”

Being awarded the CSF in 2016 was a big turning point for the company. “Getting the CSF investment validated what we were trying to do and gave us the confidence to grow. The CSF also helped to get our product ready-to-sell, in terms of packaging, literature and finance for our first order.

“There’s a bit of work involved in applying, but that work will stand to you in the future – it will help you to develop a robust business plan, a detailed presentation, and iron out any issues, such as applying for patent protection and getting your finances and projections together. It will also help you to create a clear vision of your company for the future.”

 

Advice for companies planning to apply for future CSF calls

  • Martin’s advice is to get your business plan in place: “Know exactly where the money will be assigned within the business and make sure key areas are prioritised.”
  • Next: “Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve with the money, and where you want the company to be in five years’ time. If you don’t have much financial experience, you should speak with an accountant who will assist with the financial projections and P&Ls in the business plan.”
  • And: “Seek advice from someone who has been through the CSF process before.”

Enterprise Ireland is launching a new Competitive Start Fund – All Sectors call on Tuesday 7th July 2020. Aiming to support early stage start-ups, this CSF is open to early stage companies in manufacturing and internationally traded services.

Learn more about the Competitive Start Fund.

Industry Bulletin – Opportunities and  Risks in the UK Construction Industry

Download the report here.

The instinct to survive always trumps the need to adapt, at least in the first iteration. This is a primal and ungovernable force, and is as prevalent in corporations as it is in human nature. Notwithstanding, the widespread return to business in June, presents an opportunity for the industry to re-set our ambition; an opportunity to re-build in the image of the businesses we would like to be, ‘future ready’.

This Enterprise Ireland report has set out to identify and analyse key opportunities and risks in the UK Construction Industry as we emerge from the strictest lockdown measures in modern times.

Inside Innovation Show – Hibergene

Inside Innovation brings you the stories of Ireland’s leading innovators and changemakers. Across the series we will cover a whole range of topics from innovating in a crisis, to looking at the future of many business areas. We go behind the stories, to understand what drives these innovators and what the innovation success factors are, from capability building, to culture and leadership.

The podcast is hosted by innovation expert Aidan McCullen.

The second episode is part of a series ‘Innovating in a Crisis’. In a rapid response to Covid-19, Hibergene Diagnostics launched a new Covid-19 test, that delivers positive results in just 30 minutes. Gary Keating, CTO of Hibergene talks capability building, agility, speed and collaboration, all important factors in the company’s success in innovation.

Garrett Murray

Horizon 2020 – An unmissable opportunity for ambitious Irish innovators

Significant levels of grant support and equity investment are up for grabs under the Horizon 2020 European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator Pilot, and Ireland’s recent success shows that Irish companies have what it takes to win.

The EIC Accelerator Pilot supports high risk, high potential SMEs and innovators to help them develop and bring to market innovative products, services and business models that could drive economic growth.

In the most recent call, eight Irish companies secured a total of more than €31m placing Ireland second, jointly with France and Denmark, in terms of the number of companies awarded funding.

“The March call results have been particularly good for Irish companies,” says Garrett Murray, National Director for Horizon 2020 at Enterprise Ireland. “The success is a testament to the research and innovation capability of Irish companies and the vibrancy of our high potential start-up and commercialisation eco-system.”

Among the successful Irish companies were five whose innovations related to coronavirus. One of these, Aquila Bioscience, has developed revolutionary decontamination technology that helps protect people from dangerous pathogens and other viral infections.

“We are delighted to receive funding from EIC which allows us to substantially scale up production and deliver this technology more quickly to workers in Ireland and across the globe,” says Lokesh Joshi.

 

Support for applicants

With multiple EIC calls during the year there are ongoing opportunities for companies to pitch for a slice of the lucrative support, but, says Murray, it’s important for companies to realise that it is a very competitive process.

“We recommend that companies considering applying for EIC Accelerator support contact Enterprise Ireland first. Our team of National Contact Points are experts on the programme and work with companies to bring them through the process step by step including reviewing drafts of their application before submission.

“Applicants need to think clearly about how they are going to articulate three things in their application: the excellence of their innovation; how their product or service is going to impact in the market; and how they are going to implement their strategy to scale their business. These are the three major criteria on which the applications are judged,” explains Murray.

If companies are successful at stage 1 they are called to interview in Brussels (currently via digital communications).

“Our team do mock interviews with the companies, putting them through their paces in exactly the same way as they will experience in Brussels, to give them the opportunity to refine their pitch.”

Companies can apply for grant support only, a mix of grant and equity, or initially a grant with the option for later discussion with the Commission in relation to equity.

“We always advise ambitious companies to seriously consider applying for equity particularly in the current environment where the availability of venture capital is reduced,” says Murray. “Getting equity from the Commission provides leverage to get more private sector funding.”

 

More than financial support

As well as financial support, successful EIC Accelerator applicants get coaching and mentoring, provided through the Enterprise Ireland team.

“The Commission regards that as a very important part of the process. It’s not just about awarding a grant or investing by way of equity but also helping companies develop their strategy.”

Kite Medical was awarded a grant in the most recent call. The company has developed a system for the detection of kidney reflux.

“This funding from the European Commission will allow Kite Medical to further develop the KITE system to progress into a clinical study. The funding will also support an additional six jobs at the company and establish our market launch strategy. The project outcomes will facilitate fund raising to support our commercialisation plan,” says Joan Fitzpatrick, Kite Medical’s CEO.

 

Future calls

There continues to be many opportunities for Irish enterprises and researchers under the EIC and across the Horizon 2020 Programme, including calls for proposals under the European Green Deal, worth around €1bn that will be issued in the autumn.

The next EIC Accelerator call for applications will be in October and will have a focus on female entrepreneurship where, should the first-round evaluation show that a minimum of 25 per cent of companies selected for the final-stage interviews are not led by women, additional interviews will be planned.

“We are particularly encouraging female-led companies to apply for the call in October. There are a lot of great female entrepreneurs in Ireland and this is a great opportunity for female-led companies to get additional funding,” says Murray.

SMEs of all sizes are eligible to apply for EIC Accelerator funding including start-ups, which tend to form the majority of applicants.

“There’s no disadvantage to being a very small company. The Commission considers how quickly a company is going to scale and whether EIC support will help accelerate that and get the innovation to market faster,” says Murray. 

“The only disadvantage that companies can have is if they’re not ambitious enough.”

 

For more information about support under Horizon 2020 please contact h2020support@enterprise-ireland.com

 

 

How the CSF supported PeachyLean’s growth

“The Competitive Start Fund enabled PeachyLean to make a significant hire and provided the strategy required to support our growth into new markets.

Sharon Keegan, Founder and CEO PeachyLean 

1. Describe your business

PeachyLean is an award-winning shapewear and active wear business instilling support, shape and confidence to women all around the world.

 

2. How did getting the Competitive Start Fund (CSF) progress your business?

CSF enabled me to make a significant hire within the Peachylean team as well as providing us with the mentoring and support, both from Enterprise Ireland and Innovate Dublin BIC, which has given our team the confidence and strategy for growth and scale into new markets.

 

3. What are your top tips to other businesses interested in applying for the CSF?

  • Take your time and use the application process to take a good look at your strategy for scale.
  • Research the cost implications around your plan and ask for advice from any previous CSF candidates.
  • Take feedback on applications as great advice and understand that if you’re not successful first time around there is always room for growth and progression.
  • Believe in yourself and keep going!

 

4. What are the next steps for PeachyLean?

This year we launch our new innovation in shapewear, working alongside our new distribution partners we will launch into the UK market. We continue to meet and work towards strategic partners in the US and South American Markets.

Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs opens on 7th July 2020 – See other founders discuss CSF or Click here to apply

    Padraig Neylon, CEO AddJust

    AddJust – Creating solutions for the construction sector

    “Getting the Competitive Start Fund gave AddJust the validation needed to support our growth trajectory.

    Pádraig Neylon, Co-Founder and CEO, AddJust

    1. Describe your business

    AddJust is a contract and financial management platform helping the construction industry to streamline its communications, payments, budget management and change requests.

     

    2. How did getting the Competitive Start Fund (CSF) progress your business?

    Being backed by Enterprise Ireland’s CSF gave AddJust the validation that helped us when introducing our service to public sector and established private sector clients.

     

    3. What are your top tips to other businesses interested in applying for the CSF?

    My advice would be to carefully plan how the CSF investment will progress your business and ensure you get to the next stage.

     

    4. What are the next steps for AddJust?

    The next step for AddJust is accelerating our growth across public sector and large scale clients.

     

    Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund – All Sectors opens on 7th July 2020 – See other founders discuss CSF or Click here to apply

       

      Wendy Oke, CEO TeachKloud

      TeachKloud – Enabling educators with support from the CSF

      “Getting the Competitive Start Fund helped TeachKloud to upgrade our product, hire key personnel and raise further funding.”

      Wendy Oke, Founder and CEO TeachKloud.

      1. Describe your business

      The TeachKloud Early Learning Management System is a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solution accessible using internet browsers from any location, that enables educators to streamline all aspects related to managing their business, comply with regulations and communicate with parents.

       

      2. How did getting the Competitive Start Fund (CSF) progress your business?

      Getting CSF helped the team at TeachKloud upgrade the product, hire key personnel, onboard staff and raise further funding.

       

      3. What are your top tips to other businesses interested in applying for the CSF?

      Get in contact with Enterprise Ireland as soon as possible, they are incredibly helpful and will guide you through the process. That may be giving you advice on developing a solid plan, talking to customers or just on how to submit your CSF application.

       

      4. What are the next steps for TeachKloud?

      TeachKloud is hyper-focused on product development to ensure customer success, team growth and scaling into the UK market over the next six months.

       

      Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund – All Sectors opens on 7th July 2020 – See other founders discuss CSF or Click here to apply

         

        Inside Innovation Show – Combilift

        Inside Innovation brings you the stories of Ireland’s leading innovators and changemakers. Across the series we will cover a whole range of topics from innovating in a crisis, to looking at the future of many business areas. We go behind the stories, to understand what drives these innovators and what the innovation success factors are, from capability building, to culture and leadership.

        The podcast is hosted by innovation expert Aidan McCullen.

        Episode 1 – Interview with Martin McVicar, CEO & Founder of Combilift

        The first episode is part of a series ‘Innovating in a Crisis’. An Irish innovator who innovated in the Covid-19 crisis is CEO and Founder of Combilift, Martin McVicar. The Irish engineering firm leveraged the innovation skills that make it a world leader in forklift trucks, to solve a global shortage of the ventilators required to fight Covid-19.

        Market Watch Industry Bulletin – Automotive

        The spread of the coronavirus led to an unprecedented collapse of many important car markets in terms of producers, their suppliers and the distribution channels across the globe . Work came to a standstill in almost all countries. But as severe as the slump was initially, the return of production is currently giving the industry hope. A large number of vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers were able to resume operations, albeit only to a limited extent. In addition, stabilization strategies and aid packages have been developed in recent months.

        In this latest industry bulletin, Enterprise Ireland has primarily surveyed leading market experts and industry leaders, and collected their views, gathering specific recommendations for companies, to stabilize, reset and recover from the current situation.

        Read the full report here.

        Industry Bulletin – Agritech & Machinery Dealership view


        Reporting from across world markets, Enterprise Ireland’s Agritech Market Advisors have compiled this buyer sentiment update consisting of case studies from importers, distributors and leading dealerships of agricultural equipment.

        As part of our Market Watch series, we have interviewed 23 companies to provide first-hand updates of the situation on the ground in key regions across the world.

        Read the full report.

        Resetting your business model

        Resetting your business model in response to Covid-19

        In preparing for tomorrow’s world, businesses need to reset their business model to remain relevant to their customers in the new environment

        The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world and transformed the environment and operating rules for business. Last year’s winning formulas have become failed propositions almost overnight, and many of yesterday’s compelling products and services are obsolete in the context of tomorrow’s needs.

        This requires businesses to take a long, hard look at their business models in order to remain relevant to their customers in the new environment. They will need to reassess what they sell, who they sell it to, and how they make money from that. They will also have to examine why people buy from them and how that translates into profitability.

        According to Business Financial Consultant Brendan Binchy, companies need to focus on four key areas when seeking to reset their business models:

        • Their current product offering and how can it be developed, changed, or delivered differently
        • Who their customers will be in future, both current and new, and if there is a need to drop some existing ones
        • The reasons customers buy from them, their new value proposition, and how they will do something unique; and
        • How they will make money – lower input costs, production efficiencies, premium price or volume increases.

        When looking at the product offering, Binchy advises companies to ask the hard questions. “Have you got any inherent future proofing protection for your product or service? What is unique about it? What is its lifecycle in the market? How much of your revenue is dependent on it? What are most profitable products?”

        The answers to these questions will help decide what products to retain or drop, as well as inform new product development efforts.

        Customers should be subject to a similar analysis, he advises. “Who uses your products? What are their demographics? Who are your most profitable customers? Where are they? What defines your ideal customer and where can you find more of them? Why are you still dealing with unprofitable customers?”

        This will assist in defining target customers. “Businesses should categorise customers into groups according to their profitability and different attributes, and then select which ones they want to deal with in future. This may lead them to stop dealing with some of them. Companies shouldn’t be afraid to fire customers who don’t value what you do.”

        The next step is to establish why these customers will buy from the business. “Go out and ask your customers,” Binchy advises. “Bring them in and talk to them about it. Find out the defining attributes of your most important customers and find ways of meeting their expectations. This will help you pick the right people to work for; people who value what you do. If a multinational has been buying from you for the past 10 years, you must be doing something right. Find out what that is and build on it.”

        Making money is the other and perhaps most critically important part of the jigsaw. This will require the business to look at the key business model drivers of products and services, marketing and sales, and finance, in terms of profitability, cashflow and return on investment. “They are the what, the who and the how of the business model,” Binchy explains. 

        “The enablers are your people and systems and processes that support the business. You can’t grow a business without all three drivers, being robust and in balance with each other. You can have great customers and products, but you won’t have a business if you’re not making money.” says Binchy

        An analysis of those drivers, along with the enablers, will give you a clear view of the revenue and cost bases of the business, and will help identify how the pathway to profitability can be bridged. “A business might look at reducing materials, labour or other operational costs. It can also look at production efficiencies or seek to increase prices if it can be positioned in a premium segment of the market.”

        The remaining question is how to finance the transition between the old and the reset business models. “The money and support are there to help companies bridge between the two. We just have to hope the transition period between them is going to be as short as possible,” Binchy adds. “The Enterprise Ireland Covid-19 Business Financial Planning Grant is there to help businesses start the journey. It offers a 100% grant up to the value of €5,000 to fund the cost of a financial consultant to prepare a financial plan that shows exactly how the company intends to reset and adapt its business model as it emerges from lockdown. The Lean Business Continuity scheme offers vouchers worth up to €2,500 to fund the cost of training and advisory services.”

        He points to the €450 million Covid-19 Working Capital Loan scheme and the €200 million Future Growth Loan Scheme available through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland as potential sources of loan finance for companies.

        In addition, there are the Enterprise Ireland Sustaining Enterprise Funds which offer funding up to €800,000 to fund the implementation of stabilisation and viability plans. Smaller businesses can also apply for funding of up to €25,000 or €50,000, depending on the size of the business.

        Both schemes feature repayment moratoriums for the first three years, a very important consideration according to Binchy. “That is very attractive when the company doesn’t have repayment capacity for the moment. They can’t go to the banks if they are in that position. Businesses have to dance very carefully when seeking funding, and these schemes certainly help with that.”

        Learn more about the Enterprise Ireland supports available in our Accessing Liquidity & Managing Cashflow webinar

        Adapting your business model

        Adapting your business operations in response to Covid-19

        As businesses reset and recover, every aspect of a business’s operations should be examined and analysed to identify efficiencies and better ways of doing things

        Having identified a pathway out of the crisis, made required changes to the business model and developed a cash conservation strategy, businesses need to turn their attention to operational matters if they are to adapt quickly to the changed environment.

        Every aspect of a business’s operations should be examined and analysed to identify efficiencies, better ways of doing things, or things which shouldn’t be done at all. Companies around the world are already engaged in this process and those that delay will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, according to Business Transition Consultant Brendan Binchy.

        He points to a survey of 3,000 CEOs carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit which found that almost all of them are going to implement operational agility measures as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. “That train has already left the station as far as they are concerned,” he says. “Every company should take a quick and hard look through the whole functional side of its business.”

        He offers a checklist of the five core functional areas of the business which require attention – products and services, marketing and sales, finance, people, and systems and processes.

        “They need to take a walk through that checklist and identify areas where they can improve effectiveness and efficiency,” he adds. “For example, when looking at the operational model they should ask if it is possible to morph to online, or if product and service delivery modes can be changed.”

        On products and services, he advises careful management of stock levels as a starting point. 

        “New product development should also be reviewed, you have to look at the cost to bring it to market and how quickly it can generate new revenues streams or if you need to do it at all at the moment.” says Binchy

        Similarly, expansion plans should be subject to reappraisal and put on hold if not justified by a clear payback. Supplier relationships are also important, and discussions should be held with a view to reducing costs and achieving efficiencies.

        “With international supply chains, some companies are moving away from “just in time” policies to making sure there is “enough in time” to meet demand,” Binchy adds. “There is risk associated with internationalisation, and companies could consider moving to a portfolio of multiple suppliers to deal with this.”

        Other considerations relate to the production process itself. “If the company is starting up again, what needs to happen in the production flow? Does everyone need protective screening measures? Will you sub-contract some things out which had been done internally?”

        Turning to marketing and sales, he recommends a selective appraisal of investment, but with targeted reductions based on return on investment rather than wholesale cuts which could cut off the market cycle.

        Another area to look at is pricing strategy and the potential impact of discounting. Care should be taken to avoid a situation where discounts lead to volume increases which in turn may cause problems in the production process and perhaps divert resources from more profitable lines. It’s a classic case of weighing up the price volume trade off.

        The finance function should become more fully integrated into the management of the business, he advises. “The finance team should be a core part of the overall management team. This means you will know all the things you need to know about the business and its finances as they happen, rather than find out about them in a report two or three months later.”

        Binchy says communication is vital when dealing with people in your business. “You have to remember that you’re dealing with human beings and you should support them in the same way as you support your customers. When you are faced with implementing inevitable pay rationalisation measures you should segment your employees carefully to ensure that those people who are adding most value are rewarded appropriately.”

        The final item on the checklist is systems and processes. Along with people, these are the underlying enablers of the business and every element should be assessed to ensure it is delivering value to the business either in terms of revenue generation, service improvement, or efficiency and productivity gains. Regardless of how good a process can appear there is always a better way, Binchy notes.

        Businesses seeking to adapt and modify their operations to meet the changed environment created in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic can avail of support in the form of Enterprise Ireland Lean Business Continuity Voucher and the Covid-19 Business Financial Planning Grant.

        The Financial Planning Grant is worth up to €5,000 to pay up to 100% of the costs of an approved financial  consultant to work with the company on the development of a business and financial  plan, while the Lean Business Continuity Voucher is worth €2,500 and can be used for training or advisory services to help them identify and implement the measures needed to ensure they can continue to operate during the current period.

        Where additional finance is required to fund new initiatives Binchy points to the Enterprise Ireland Sustaining Enterprise Fund which offers funding of up to €800,000 to eligible companies. There is also a fund for smaller companies which offers funding of up to €25,000 and €50,000 depending on the size of the business.

        Learn more about the Enterprise Ireland supports available in our Accessing Liquidity & Managing Cashflow webinar