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Programmes | 19/01/2021

Aspiring start-up entrepreneurs encouraged to join 2021 Co-Founders Programme

Catalyst is inviting applications for its Spring Co-Founders programme, which aims to tap into Northern Ireland’s talent base and encourage more people to get involved in start-up ventures.

The programme brings together talented, skilled and ambitious individuals from technical and commercial backgrounds, to meet like-minded people interested in developing new product ideas focused on technology, engineering and science.

Now delivered completely online, Co-Founders is a part-time programme for first time entrepreneurs and early-stage start-ups that takes place one night a week for 11 weeks with 2 introductory weekends to meet the cohort.

For the past three years the programme has received applications from across Northern Ireland, and with location no longer a barrier to entry Catalyst is hoping to welcome even more participants from every region. The application deadline for the next programme is 8th February.

Since launching in Belfast in 2017, Co-Founders has delivered six cohorts involving 379 people who have formed more than 100 teams – over a third of whom are still working together. At least 25 teams have received Proof of Concept funding, and 11 teams have progressed to the full-time Propel pre-accelerator programme.

Catalyst successfully completed its 6th Co-Founders programme in December 2020, with 10 teams reaching the final and two awarded prizes of £10,000. The winning teams were Yellow Iron and Bluestack, who Catalyst will also continue to support with additional mentoring.

Yellow Iron, founded by Donavon McKillen and Lee Johnston, aims to disrupt the equipment rental space, making the search for large equipment easier. Bluestack, founded by Cathal Canavan and Sarvesh Pimpalkar, aims to address the problem of stolen or misplaced lifebuoys which are managed by local authorities. Bluestack are working on a low-cost electronic device which includes sensors to monitor the lifebuoys’ activity and a software platform which will help local authorities manage the assets and know when new devices are needed.

The funding will provide an opportunity for the winning teams to pursue their ideas and contribute to the thriving innovation ecosystem in Northern Ireland, as previous participants have done.

For example, Overwatch Research, who took part in the initial pilot back in 2017, are now scaling their business, recruiting additional talent to their team and winning contracts with leading innovative drug development teams. It is transforming how scientific researchers manage their experiments while collaborating with their colleagues through intelligent services. The company closed its first significant venture capital funding round in 2020.

Sonya Kerr, Programme Manager from Catalyst added: “The quality of the teams formed over the past few years and the ideas generated from the entrepreneurial talent in Northern Ireland has been incredible. The Co-Founders programme provides the unique opportunity for individuals who have dreamed of being entrepreneurs to have a go. We believe that increasing the number of innovative startups in Northern Ireland can play a major role in the recovery of the economy from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Co-Founders programme is currently open for applications for its Spring 2021 cohort and 5 teams will be in the running to receive £10,000 each at Demo Evening in June. You can find out more from the team at the Co-Founders Download event via Zoom on Tuesday 26th January at 12.30 book your place here.