The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition

The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition, now in its ninth year, looks to nurture creativity and hone entrepreneurial skills among early-stage technology entrepreneurs on the island of Ireland.

Participants will have the opportunity to develop their business ideas and compete for the opportunity to pitch for a place on one of NDRC’s investment programmes, cash prizes and other supports.

What is it?

Founded by San Francisco based Ireland Funds America Board Director, Bill McKiernan of WSM Capital, LLC, The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition focuses on early-stage entrepreneurs and promotes the skills and resilience needed to develop globally scalable businesses, attract investment and ultimately, to create jobs.

The Ireland Funds has partnered with NDRC to help you bring your idea from concept to pitch. Applications will be accepted until Sunday, 11 March 2020. Ten business ideas will then be selected to receive mentoring and support from NDRC through a series of workshops during May and June, with the opportunity to compete to pitch for a place on one of NDRC’s investment programmes, €27,000 in prize money and other supports.

First prize
The opportunity to pitch for a place on one of NDRC’s investment programmes along with €15,000 cash prize. NDRC is Ireland’s most successful digital accelerator, specifically designed to enable entrepreneurial teams transform solid ideas into commercially viable startups.

Runners-up prizes

  • €7,000 cash prize (first runner-up)
  • €2,000 cash prize (second runner-up)

Mental health innovation prize

  • €3,000 cash prize for a technology idea that focuses on mental health, courtesy of St Patrick's Mental Health Services.

All finalists will receive detailed feedback on their business ideas and pitches from the NDRC Venture Investment Team and Judging Panel.

Who is eligible?

The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition is open to university and third-level students (undergraduate, post-graduate, post-doctoral) and recent graduates (2 years or less) in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland at pre-investment stage. Specifically we are looking for four things:

  • A technology/digital proposition
  • Global scalability potential
  • Team (must be more than one person)
  • Should be at pre-seed stage

General Guidelines

Applications close on Wednesday, 11 March 2020.


We are looking for smart new business ideas amongst Ireland’s early-stage technology entrepreneurs. Convince us that your business idea is the next big thing and you will receive support to develop your business idea from concept to pitch. Ten companies will be selected to participate on four pre-acceleration workshops. At the finale, our judging panel comprising leading entrepreneurs, executives and investors, will select the winner and runners-up.


Friday, 31st January 2020
Applications open
Apply online until Wednesday, 11 March 2020.

Wednesday 25 March 2020
Shortlist selection of ten companies announced.

Workshop Days will take place at NDRC in Dublin. Teams must be available for all sessions.

Workshop 1: Wednesday, 15 April 2020
Problem Canvas and Introduction to The Ireland Funds

Workshop 2: Thursday, 30 April 2020
Customer Validation

Workshop 3: Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Value Proposition + Market Opportunity

Workshop 4: Wednesday 27 May 2020
Pitch Preparation

Workshop 5: Wednesday 10 June 2020
Practice Pitch

Final Pitches: Tuesday, 23 June 2020

The Ireland Funds
The Ireland Funds’ mission is to harness the power of a global philanthropic network of friends of Ireland to promote and support peace, culture, education and community development across the island of Ireland and among Irish communities around the world.

NDRC is an early stage investor in tech companies and startups funded through the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. NDRC’s digital ventures cross a range of industry sectors. It invests primarily using an accelerator model, providing modest amounts of capital and a high level of hands on support to early-stage digital companies. Since 2007, NDRC has invested in more than 250 portfolio companies, which have gone on to secure more than €190 million in cumulative follow-on funding. The collective value of the ventures in our portfolio is in excess of €490 million. We are delighted to be recognised as the #2 University Business Accelerator in Europe (UBI 2018).

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services
“SPMHS” is a leading, independent, not-for-profit mental health service provider. SPMHS works to provide the highest quality mental healthcare, to promote mental wellbeing and mental health awareness, and to advocate for the rights of those experiencing mental health difficulties. This is achieved through a human rights-based approach, the enhancement of evidencebased knowledge and by striving to be at the cutting-edge of new initiatives and advances in the field.