Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs

The purpose of the Competitive Start Fund is to accelerate the growth of start-up companies that have the capacity to succeed in global markets. The fund is designed to enable those companies to reach key technical and commercial milestones.

Applicants to the fund should ideally be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Be able to clearly demonstrate that product or service has reached MVP stage, and that the product is, at a minimum, live in beta.
  • That the product or service has demonstrable customer validation with (trial and/or paying) customers. 
  • A fully articulated proposition addressing a clear gap in the market with market research conducted with customers / potential customers.
  • Evidence of innovation, internationalisation potential and employment capacity. Clear market opportunity for the proposed product or service. Clear knowledge of the competitive landscape.
  • Clear execution plan outlined, identifying suitable channels to international markets.

Assessments are undertaken on the applications submitted, it is important to note that the greater the progress the applicant has undertaken towards generating sustainable revenues the stronger the application. Applications from projects that are at idea, concept or design stage may be considered to require further development before applying for the competitive start fund.

If successful in progressing to pitch the applicant may be required to supply contact details of (trial and/or paying) customers prior to any Enterprise Ireland investment completing as part of our due diligence process.

The Competitive Start Fund (CSF) aims to support early stage start-ups.  A competition, specifically for Female Entrepreneurs or female-led start-ups, active in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Services sectors will opened on Tuesday 25th June, 2019 and closed on Tuesday 16th July, 2019 at 3pm.

      • Completed application forms must be submitted through the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System by 3pm on Tuesday 16th July, 2019.
      • A Video Pitch must be submitted on the platform by 11:59pm on Tuesday 16th July, 2019 (when you commence the application form an email regarding the video pitch will be sent to you separately).

A valid application must contain both a video pitch and complete application form.

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Download Start-up Showcase Directory 2019


As well as securing up to €50k in funding, ten of the successful applicants will also have the opportunity to participate in Dublin BIC’s INNOVATE accelerator programme. Delivered over a 12-week period in the Guinness Enterprise Centre, the interactive INNOVATE programme will increase the capabilities of the participants and move them to investor-ready within a short period. 

HidraMed Solutions


Sonia Neary, Wellola

Female Entrepreneur Competitive Start Fund's support network

Am I eligible?

You are eligible to apply if you are an existing or potential client of Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up Department.

This call for applications to the Competitive Start Fund is open to:

  • A female-led start-up or a start-up with a female forming part of the lead management team
  • Companies that are active in the relevant sector(s) as listed in the call for applications with a female founder or a female as part of the lead management team
    Individuals with a female founder or a female as part of the lead management team, who have an establishment in Ireland. All intellectual property and assets relevant to the execution of the business plan must reside in the Irish entity.

In addition, applicants must fulfil all of the following criteria:

  • The undertakings must be a small enterprise as defined at,
  • In this regard, other connected businesses (in addition to the applicant enterprise) must be taken into account as defined by EU legislation.
  • Must be a manufacturing or an eligible traded services business (as listed in the Service Industries Order 2010)
  • Must not have received equity funding of more than €100K prior to the competition closing date.  Equity includes Ordinary Shares, Convertible Preference Shares, Convertible Loan Notes and Directors' Loans.  Sweat equity does not apply;
  • Must be pre-trading or have recently commenced trading, i.e. does not have revenues in excess of €60k in the current financial year to date or in any previous financial year;
  • If not a company, must have commenced operations within the last three years;
  • Must be capable of growing to 10 jobs in Ireland and realising sales of €1m within 3 years.  [If a company is required to have FDA or CE approval, these targets must be achievable within three years of approval to sell];
  • Must not be engaged in the gambling, adult entertainment, tobacco or military sectors; 
  • Applicants must be eligible to live and work in Ireland. If their current visa status does not allow them to run a business in Ireland they must regularise their visa situation before receiving an investment.  (Enterprise Ireland has a help-desk to advise non EU applicants on the relevant rules).

*starting up defined as the relevant competition closing date.

Please note:

  • If an application is successful and is currently in receipt of an Enterprise Ireland Feasibility Grant, the full amount of the Feasibility grant must be drawn down before the Competitive Start Fund investment can be made or, alternatively, the company/individual must forego the balance of the Feasibility Grant prior to starting the CSF.
  • If the applicant is successful and currently in receipt of a New Frontiers scholarship, or a Priming Grant from the Local Enterprise Office, the application will not receive Competitive Start investment until they have completed drawdown of the New Frontiers scholarship/priming grant or declined further payments.
  • The majority of the management team must be based in Ireland.
  • Any intellectual property that is required to execute the business plan that is currently owned by the promoters must be assigned to the company prior to the CSF investment completing.

Legal Basis: The legal basis is Section 31 of the Industrial Development Act 1986.
State Aid Basis: The State aid basis is De Minimis Aid EC No 1407/2013.


What is the maximum funding and on what terms?

Applications are considered on a competitive basis.

Enterprise Ireland will invest €50k for a 10% ordinary equity stake in the start-up company, which will be released in two equal tranches.

  1. The first tranche will be released to successful applicants only when it provides confirmation of additional new cash investment for equity of €5,000. This new investment in equity of €5,000 by the successful applicant is to occur post the relevant call close date. Capitalisation of existing director/related party loans will not qualify. The company must also meet the general terms and conditions of the scheme.
  2. In addition to €50,000 equity investment, successful applicants for this call will be invited to participate in a business development programme designed for early stage companies. The precise form and content of the program has yet to be finalised but will include networking, business coaching and blended learning.


Eligible costs

The overall equity investment will be towards the costs associated with developing the business plan and making progress on key technical and commercial milestones. The following activities are expected to form the basis of expenditure;

  • Salaries
  • Travel
  • Consultancy Fees
  • Other Expenditure


How do I apply?

If you are a first-time applicant you will be required to register on the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System.

Applications must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System during the relevant call open and call close dates. We strongly recommend that you log in and commence your application well in advance of the call close date and time. You can commence your application and save it to revisit at a later stage.

Apply here

Download sample application form from a previous call. Please note, character counts on each field are not outlined in this sample and is subject to change.

To support your written online application, you will be offered the opportunity to pitch directly to the Assessment Part 1 Evaluation Panel using video interviewing technology. You will be asked to complete a 6-8 minute online video interview / pitch which will be viewed by the evaluation panel as part of the evaluation process. This video pitch is mandatory, 20% of the overall marks are allocated to this submission. You will be asked to address the following questions:

  • What are you going to sell? (1 min Max)
  • Who are you going to sell it to? (1 min Max)
  • Why are they going to buy it from you? (1 min Max)
  • How are you going to sell it to them? (1 min Max)
  • How are you going to make money? (1 min Max)
  • You will also be given 2 minutes max to add any additional comments

You will receive an email after commencing your Competitive Start Fund online application inviting you to complete your online video interview/pitch. Read Video Pitch Briefing Document.

Please note that an application for approval of an equity investment for companies selected under this scheme shall be subject to:

(a) Approval from Enterprise Ireland's Investment Committee.
(b) The company agreeing to the Terms and Conditions set out in the Enterprise Ireland Term Sheet.
(c) The company agreeing to enter into a Share Subscription and Shareholders Agreement with Enterprise Ireland.

For more information on this Equity Process read our CSF Equity FAQs.

Application Support Days

Application Support Days will take place in Business Innovation Centers nationwide:

Contact your local BIC for further information on these events or to register to attend.


How is my application evaluated?


Assessment Part 1

An evaluation panel comprising external consultants in conjunction with representatives from Enterprise Ireland will evaluate each application and will score them under the following criteria:

Evaluation Criteria


Company and Promoter Profile


Product/Service & Market Opportunity


Business Proposition - delivered by Video Pitch


Product/Service Innovation


Ability to deliver key Commercial and Technical Milestones over the coming 12 months


Likelihood of developing into a HPSU [company with at least 10 employees and €1 million revenue within 3 to 4 years]


For information, download  CSF Assessment 1 Scoring Guidelines.


All applicants will be notified by email on Wednesday 7th August, 2019 if they were unsuccessful in this call or will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the panel on Wednesday 21st August, 2019 (Assessment Part 2). 


Assessment Part 2

The top applications will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the evaluation panel comprising external industry experts and representatives of Enterprise Ireland at the offices of Enterprise Ireland in East Point Business Park, Dublin 3. The date of this pitch is Wednesday 21st August, 2019

The evaluation panel will be asked to score the applicant's performance based on the following equally weighted criteria:

  • Business Model - explain how this company will generate revenue and scale internationally.
  • Management Team - describe how the proposed management team have the necessary skills to scale this business and clearly identify gaps and proposed actions to address them.
  • Roadmap - clearly outline the steps necessary and the resources required over the next 12 months.

The evaluation panel will select the start-ups to go forward to Enterprise Ireland’s Investment Committee for approval.

Please note: Enterprise Ireland reserves the right to seek additional clarification from the applicant in regard to your application.


Closing date for applications

The call close date for applications for Female Entrepreneurs or a female-led new start-up company active in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Services sectors including Internet, Games, Apps, Mobile, SaaS, Cloud Computing, Enterprise Software, Lifesciences, Food, Cleantech and Industrial Products is Tuesday 16th July, 2019 at 3pm.


Key contact/more information 

Download CSF Female Entrepreneurship Reference Document - TO FOLLOW

For further information, please contact:
 + 353 1 727 2202 (9am - 5pm)

If you are not a client of Enterprise Ireland and want to learn more about qualifying and applying for Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up supports, go to our Start a Business Section.


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