‘It has been really helpful for me in growing our business’ Says Derya Sousa:

The New Frontiers programme is designed to provide entrepreneurs with the skills, support, and confidence needed to increase their chances of succeeding in business.

“I wanted to broaden my business knowledge and it has been really helpful with that. It was a great introduction to Ireland’s start-up ecosystem,” says Kianda Technologies’ Derya Sousa
More than 4,000 entrepreneurs have participated in the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers start-up business support programme since its inception in 2012.

Among them is Kianda Technologies founder Derya Sousa who completed the programme in May 2018. “It has been really helpful for me in growing our business and I would recommend it to anyone who is starting a business,” she says.

Delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by the Institutes of Technology (IoTs) and Technological Universities (TUs) across 18 locations nationwide, the New Frontiers programme provides entrepreneurs with the skills, support, and confidence needed to increase their chances of succeeding in business.

Kianda Technologies is a no-code application development and business process automation platform empowering citizen developers, business users and knowledge workers to take control of digital transformation.

“I founded the company with my husband Osvaldo in 2016,” says Sousa. “We both come from a technology background and had worked for companies in a variety of sectors on IT projects. We knew that there was a gap in the market for this and that people without technical knowledge should be involved in IT projects.

“Technology should be more inclusive. Our platform allows organisations to accelerate digital transformation and optimise business process management without the need for coding skills. They can streamline existing processes by automating them and viewing them on a digital dashboard to identify bottlenecks. We are about four years in the market now and we have customers across the globe with our main focus on Europe and the US.”

Derya first heard about the New Frontiers programme when her company was based in the incubator space in TU Dublin in Blanchardstown. “That’s where we got our introduction to the programme,” she recalls.

“I started on the programme in November 2017 and graduated May 2018. I wanted to broaden my business knowledge and it has been really helpful with that. It was a great introduction to Ireland’s start-up ecosystem. It was really eye-opening to see the range of supports available to start-up businesses and the different routes you can take to build business. It was also great to be among like-minded entrepreneurs - some people just had an initial idea; others were like us and were already in the middle of starting the business.”

It also gave Sousa the opportunity to evaluate what she was already doing in the business. “It allowed me to see if what we were doing was correct. How can we do it better? That was quite helpful. Many different aspects of the programme are very good, and I learned a lot about marketing, presentation skills, financial modelling, fundraising and more.”

The one-to-one mentoring was another very valuable feature.

“That was very important,” says Sousa. “It allowed us to see what we could be doing more of and why some businesses fail. We could see the mistakes other people made and try to avoid them. The programme is also a great opportunity for start-ups to get information on the support available from Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices.”

Three years on from the programme and Kianda Technologies is thriving. “Business is going really well,” she says. “We are offering what companies need now more than ever. We are helping to ease the digitalisation process and offering an easy route into the digital-first world with less resources. Growth has been a lot faster since January and we are planning to expand our team to 20 by the end of the year. Customer numbers are up 40 per cent since start of the year, and we now 25,000 active users on our platform.”

The New Frontiers programme has played a key role in that success. “It makes you aware of the different aspects of how to run a business. It gives you those skills and a good mix of knowledge. It helps you make the right choices and to avoid mistakes. There are so many unknowns when you start a business it’s great to hear other entrepreneurs’ stories,” Sousa says.

The programme is aimed at reducing the risk of starting up a business and increase its chances of success, according to New Frontiers national programme manager Paula Carroll.

“It is designed to support early stage entrepreneurs and help them grow their ideas into successful start-up businesses. It is very much a regional programme. No matter where you are in the country you should be close enough to one of the IoTs or TUs to avail of the programme. The aim is to develop sustainable businesses throughout Ireland.”

The programme is delivered in three phases, consisting of practical and interactive workshops, personalised one-to-one mentoring by seasoned business mentors from the Enterprise Ireland Mentor network, and financial support and co-working space.

Other benefits include a support package valued at €30,000 including a €15,000 tax-free stipend in phase two and further support to the value of more than €10,000 should participants go on to phase three. Very importantly, no equity is taken in the business in return for the financial support.

“Phase one is part-time where the entrepreneurs come in and kick their ideas around to see if they are viable and worth pursuing,” says Carroll. “They can then apply for phase two which is competitive with a limited number of places. That’s full-time for six months so if the entrepreneur is in in employment, they have to make the leap at that point. We give a €15,000 bursary to help with that. If after that they need more time, they can stay for a further three months in phase three.”

Entrepreneurs considering the programme should have an innovative business idea with export and employment potential, she adds. “It needs to demonstrate commercial potential as well. If the entrepreneur has experience or technical knowledge in the area that will help them succeed as well. They also need to show drive and ambition.”

83 per cent of the start-ups which had come through the programme were still in business
Once on the programme participants learn everything they need to start up and run a business. “The training in phase one is quite foundational and it deepens and broadens in phase two. At the end of phase two many of them go on to get additional support from Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). They may also apply for support under the Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund while many go on to become a High Potential Start-Up client (HPSU).”

The results have been outstanding by any measure. “Since 2012, 4,000 entrepreneurs have come through phase one with 1,500 completing phase two up to end of 2020,” says Carroll. “Every year we accept 500 onto phase one and 170 onto phase two. We did some research at the end of 2019 and found that 83 per cent of the start-ups which had come through the programme were still in business at that point.”

To discover more about the New Frontiers programme and to register your interest, please visit the website at newfrontiers.ie

Source:  Irish Times

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