Who doesn’t like free money. Is money really free though? In my experiences over the course of the past two odd years I can say that it ‘kind of is’. Ok, well what do I mean about that?
Let’s look at how we were able to utilize ‘free money’. Innovation Vouchers, a 5K voucher from Enterprise Ireland (EI) that can provide an injection into an aspect of the business you are wishing to grow that involves the development or exploration of an innovation that has the potential to kick on and be commercially viable. Well, that’s the hope from an EI perspective. But these little nuggets are truly golden. You see, once you’ve identified what you want to do with your 5K voucher you need to identify a technology gateway. What’s a technology gateway?
We used a 5K Innovation Voucher to build product requirements for Chemishield. As part of the planning phase for software development and from never having written a line of code in my life I felt it was important to engage with a technology gateway partner that could translate my story into something that could be built. Think of it this way – going to an architect with loads of house magazines and showing them exactly what you want and them developing drawings, plans etc.
Once we had our requirements built, we then set about using a matched innovation voucher. This is where it’s what I class as ‘kind of free money’. The matched voucher is 5K from EI and 5K from your own business. Now because we had a framework and plans, we could kind of capture the concept of what we wanted built. But sometimes you need visuals, sometimes you need to walk through your house painted, with all of the furniture, bells and whistles in place to truly grasp what it is that you want. Therefore, we utilized this mechanism to build out wire-frames and mock-ups regarding the look and feel of the product. This in turn would allow us to showcase the concept to potential customers.
A picture says a thousand words. Was it worth 10K? In hindsight it’s a saucy amount of money to pay but using the technology gateway partner there was continuity from the first voucher, which meant I didn’t have to re-explain everything again. They got me. Now, the big one. Once we had our requirements built, along with artistic mock-ups, our idea had been validated by potential customers, whereby we could go through an ‘Express Innovation Voucher‘ application and let me tell you, it certainly was not ‘express’. Essentially, the application for this was written by the technology gateway whereby we sought funding for 85K to build a ‘minimum viable product‘ or MVP. A relatively simple process. We received 80% of the 85K and funded the rest ourselves.
So, this is an example of obtaining money relatively easily from EI. In my opinion I’ve found the Local Enterprise Office to be a terrific starting point for assistance, be it their TAME grant, Marketing Assistance, Capacity Expansion Grant, IBYE competition. Decisions are made quite quickly and for the most part, the money is free and not ‘kind of free’. In next month’s installment I’ll discuss the pros and cons of using the ‘Express’ Innovation Partnership as a mechanism for developing a MVP.