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Spark of Genius: Three Irish start-ups to compete for €25,000 prize

September 24th, 2014

Europe’s biggest startup competition has chosen three Irish finalists to compete for a €25,000 prize and a fast-tracked advancement process with senior US business executives. 

The Web Summit’s lucrative European ‘Pitch’ competition will see three startup finalists which emerged from the ESB-sponsored Spark Of Genius startup contest. The ESB contest featured a shortlist of 30 Irish startups from a longlist of hundreds.

The three chosen finalists are  a 3D printing service, a public procurement platform and a system that cuts down on tinnitus.

Other contenders ranged from consumer sentiment apps to online fashion retailing, social gaming, crowd funding and reading recommendation services.

One of the three finalists, Love and Robots, is a service that allows users to pick products and have them delivered or their 3D design downloaded to a local 3D print facility for quicker delivery. The service also allows users to alter or tweak designs of products before they are 3D printed. The company, run by sisters Emer O’Daly, Kate O’Daly and Aoibheann O’Daly, is a rebranded version of FabAllThings.com.

Another finalist, TenderScout, creates ‘market intelligence’ for companies whose business is partially based on winning public sector contracts. The software gives companies more accurate predictions on their likelihood of competing for, and winning, public sector tenders across Ireland, Britain and the rest of Europe. The company was founded by Tony Corrigan, who also owns an IT consultancy, Komino.

The last finalist, Restored Hearing, helps reduce the incidence of tinnitus based on patented materials and processes it has developed. The company, which was recently accepted in Dublin’s Wayra Academy with ?40,000 of funding, was co-founded by chief executive Rhona Togher and chief technical officer Eimear O’Carroll.

The competition’s judges included Dublin’s new ‘Commissioner for Startups’, Niamh Bushnell, KPMG’s David O’Kelly and Mary Moloney, global chief executive for the CoderDojo Foundation.

All three startups will now enter a final round of competition at the Dublin Web Summit’s Pitch competition, which sees 2,200 European startups compete to make a final list of 200. The 200 are then scheduled to pitch to some of the hundreds of senior investors at the Web Summit. This year, however, the Web Summit has said that it is accelerating the three ESB Spark Of Genius winners into the final part of the Pitch competition, resulting in a final tally of 203 entrants.

“I was blown away by the depth and quality of all of these 30 startup pitches,” said Marcus Segal, the Web Summit’s Entrepreneur in Residence who co-hosted the event at the NDRC’s headquarters.

“I’ve told them that I’m definitely interested in looking at some of them again and maybe helping them with questions they have on further funding. Because you don’t normally see this kind of quality in a startup contest.”

Segal was formerly chief operations officer for Zynga, creator of Farmville and one of the largest ‘social gaming’ companies in the world.

“We had hundreds and hundreds of entries for this competition,” said Bernadine Maloney, corporate communications manager at ESB. “It took quite a long time to get it down to 30.”

Previous winners of the Pitch competition have gone on to achieve global fame, with 2012 winner SmartThings recently acquired by Samsung for ?155m.

The two winning teams will be flown to Coca Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, to meet with executives for strategy sessions on their startup.

More than 20,000 people are expected to see Hollywood star Eva Longoria and supermodel Lily Cole joining tech titans such as Tinder founder Sean Rad and star venture capitalist Peter Thiel at Dublin’s Web Summit in November.

The global conference, which will also host Dropbox founder Drew Houston and former Apple chief executive John Sculley, has announced its expansion as a “festival of ideas”, incorporating major new sections in sport, film, food, film and music.

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