Image: Ormeau Baths, Belfast
Ambitious early-stage companies chosen by IgniteNI to help put Northern Ireland on the map for global tech innovation and entrepreneurship
NORTHERN IRELAND – IgniteNI recently revealed the 20 start-ups that will be participating in the renowned 2021 Propel Pre-Accelerator programme which kicks off this week. Supported by Invest Northern Ireland, Propel is designed to help early-stage entrepreneurs who use innovative and disruptive technologies to build their business and achieve international success.
This year’s programme saw unprecedented levels of interest with 897 startups coming through the recruitment process, putting demand for Propel 2021 on par with some of the most sought after programmes in the world. The announcement marks promising news for the start-up scene in Northern Ireland.
Based out of the Ormeau Baths in Belfast, IgniteNI supports 30 companies each year through the prestigious Propel Pre-accelerator and Accelerator programmes, which are aimed at building global technology companies through mentorship, investor access, advice and support. As part of the six-month programme, Propel participants receive £15,000 in equity-free funding from InvestNI, weekly workshops and access to a global network of mentors and investors, 12 months of office space at the Ormeau Baths, and £250,000 in credits from partners to support their business.
With record-breaking levels of interest and a high calibre of startups, the selection process was extremely competitive. Among the businesses taking part in this year’s programme are Vikela Armour, a next-generation ballistic body armour business; and BeLeased, a data-driven tenant-finding platform (please see the full list of businesses below).
After four years in Northern Ireland, Ignite has been behind many of the start-up success stories emerging from the region. Former Propel participant Phil McElnay, CEO of MedAll, raised funding for his start-up from European venture capital fund SeedCamp; while teams such as Material Evolution and Enginius have both progressed to participate in the highly-renowned US-based Techstars accelerator programme.
Research from Enterprise Northern Ireland reveals that two-thirds of start-ups in Northern Ireland are exporting beyond the region. IgniteNI is hoping to boost these figures and enhance the region’s reputation for producing the world’s most successful early-stage companies. IgniteNI hopes the Propel Pre-Accelerator programme for 2021 will help to further establish Northern Ireland as a hive of technological entrepreneurship during challenging times.
Commenting on the quality of applicants and companies chosen for this year’s Propel Pre-Accelerator Programme, Chris McClelland, Programme Director of Ignite NI, said:
“The record-breaking number of applications to the 2021 Propel Pre-Accelerator speaks volumes about Northern Ireland’s rapidly-growing entrepreneurial community. The quality and quantity of the applicants have been incredible, making it extremely challenging for us to select the top 20 early-stage businesses for this year’s cohort.
For a region of this size, the high level of interest in Propel 2021 inspires great confidence for the future of entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland. We’re excited to see what’s in store for the start-ups over the next six months, and we hope to share lots of good news stories from the 2021 cohort as the programme progresses.”
Stephen Wightman, Director of Technology Solutions at Invest NI, added:
“While the Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenge for all of us, it has put things into perspective for many who have been inspired to pivot their careers or finally get the ball rolling with that business idea that they always wanted to pursue. At Invest NI, we are eager to nurture those business ideas and are working more closely than ever with IgniteNI to make Northern Ireland the best place to start a business.”
The Propel 2021 startups are as follows:
54North was founded by Sam Gaw to build modern tools for developer operations.
ActPsych Marketing is a personal and professional development start-up for forward-thinking actuaries. The ed-tech company was founded by Mark Farrell and Suzanne Farrell.
Animal Manager is a data-driven animal care platform focused on quantifying equestrian performance. The agritech business is founded and led by Rachael Coulter.
Anneal is a productivity solution founded by Nick McCleery to make engineering more workable.
BeLeased is a data-driven tenant-finding platform designed to bring flexible renting to everyone. Founded by Nicky Moorhead, the proptech platform was designed to bring flexibility to the medium to longer-term rental market, benefitting both landlords and tenants.
Boop is an ed-tech platform that encourages collaboration and teamwork among the key people involved in the care and development of students. Founded by Debbie Craig, Boop empowers children with special education needs to reach their full potential.
CCODR is a digital dispute resolution platform. The legal-tech solution was founded by Gary Lyons, John Keers and Aaron Moore, to help support the civil justice system as the integration of online dispute resolution evolves within the legal sector.
Civic Dollars was founded by Stephen McPeake to incentivise active health and community engagement. The platform rewards users for spending time within a variety of different public zones, such as parks and other open spaces, by awarding Civic Dollars that can be spent on public transport, leisure centre access and discounts from local businesses.
Crafted Equestrian is a company born out of a passion for the welfare of horses. Founded by Jenny Gregg, Crafted Equestrian has designed its products thoughtfully to ensure comfort and performance for a range of disciplines including showjumping, dressage, polo, racing and driving.
Defensive Thinking was created by Matthew O’Neill and Mark Williams to build peace in the digital age. The start-up focuses on cybersecurity policy and strategy to develop confidence, restore trust and build peace within the infosec sector.
Ecko is an early-stage start-up created to empower and connect music creators worldwide. Founded by professional composer JP McCorley, the audio technology start-up takes ideas and helps to make them a reality. The start-up is passionate about creating transformative technology and music that moves people.
Gratsi was founded by Jack Spargo to facilitate contactless gratuity and tipping for workers within the hospitality and food industries. Gratsi eliminates the need for cash handling, replacing it with fully encrypted digital payments to keep workers in control of their tips.
Hill Street Hatch is a pop-up space and idea lab in Belfast, founded by Ema O’Kane and Ryan Crown. The business is reimagining the future of hospitality within Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. Hill Street Hatch welcomes entrepreneurs within the Belfast hospitality sector, who are looking to test and launch new concepts and ideas.
Lane 44 is a start-up tackling the issue of single-use plastic, by creating a sustainable alternative to overpriced plastic razors. Founded by Blayne Shaw and Toyah Warnock, the company has developed eco-friendly razors that can provide sensitive skin with a close shave.
Linc was founded by Jonathan Smyth to provide digital measuring solutions to the e-commerce and retail industries. Linc offers a disruptive digital measuring app and integrable API that can increase engagement, reduce returns, and provide vital data insights to retailers.
Project Zano is a fintech platform designed by Roger Warnock, Ann Guo and Paul Ellingstad. The company has set out to inspire businesses and communities to hack the world around them for good.
Sativa Learning is an education platform designed for the cannabis industry. Founded by Ryan McCreanor, the start-up provides practical education from UK-based medical and legal cannabis experts to help dispel myths and misinformation associated with the CBD and cannabis industries.
Shahnanigans was founded by Shahwali Shayan to transform audience engagement through augmented reality marketing solutions. The platform enables marketers to create conversions using augmented reality filters on Instagram and Facebook.
Twister is an early-stage fashion and design tool created by Lukasz Domagala to transform the way that people design and buy jewellery.
Vikela Armour is a next-generation ballistic body armour company founded by engineer Peter Gilleece. The company is creating new, more comfortable type of body armour that provides better protection coverage through its use of cutting-edge ballistic technology.