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Apply for Competitive Start Fund (CSF) for Women Entrepreneurs


There is up to €50,000 in equity funding available to a maximum of 15 successful applicants with early stage start-up companies.

As well as securing up to €50k in funding, 10 of the successful applicants will also have the opportunity to participate in Dublin BIC’s INNOVATE accelerator programme. Delivered over a 12-week period in the Guinness Enterprise Centre, the interactive INNOVATE programme will increase the capabilities of the participants and move them to investor-ready within a short period.

The purpose of a CSF for women entrepreneurs is to accelerate the growth of women-led start-up companies that have the capability to become High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) companies with the potential to employ more than 10 people and achieve €1million in export sales within three years.

Introduced in 2012 as part of Enterprise Ireland’s female entrepreneurship strategy, the dedicated fund is designed to enable companies reach key commercial and technical milestones which will ensure delivery of their product or service to a global audience. Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund is funded by the Government of Ireland through the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Open Date:


Close Date:


The purpose of the Competitive Start Fund is to accelerate the growth of start-up companies that have the capacity to succeed in global markets. The fund is designed to enable those companies to reach key technical and commercial milestones.

Applicants to the fund should ideally be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Be able to clearly demonstrate that product or service has reached MVP stage, and that the product is, at a minimum, live in beta
  • That the product or service has demonstrable customer validation with (trial and/or paying) customers
  • A fully articulated proposition addressing a clear gap in the market with market research conducted with customers/potential customers
  • Evidence of innovation, internationalisation potential and employment capacity. Clear market opportunity for the proposed product or service. Clear knowledge of the competitive landscape
  • Clear execution plan outlined, identifying suitable channels to international markets

Assessments are undertaken on the applications submitted, it is important to note that the greater the progress the applicant has undertaken towards generating sustainable revenues the stronger the application. Applications from projects that are at idea, concept or design stage may be considered to require further development before applying for the competitive start fund.

You are eligible to apply if you are an existing or potential client of Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up Department.

This call for applications to the Competitive Start Fund is open to:

  • A female-led start-up or a start-up with a female forming part of the lead management team
  • Companies that are active in the relevant sector(s) as listed in the call for applications with a female founder or a female as part of the lead management team
    Individuals with a female founder or a female as part of the lead management team, who have an establishment in Ireland. All intellectual property and assets relevant to the execution of the business plan must reside in the Irish entity.

In addition, applicants must fulfil all of the following criteria:

  • The undertakings must be a small enterprise as defined here
  • In this regard, other connected businesses (in addition to the applicant enterprise) must be taken into account as defined by EU legislation
  • Must be a manufacturing or an eligible traded services business (as listed in the Service Industries Order 2010)
  • Must not have received equity funding of more than €100,000 prior to the competition closing date.  Equity includes Ordinary Shares, Convertible Preference Shares, Convertible Loan Notes and Directors’ Loans.  Sweat equity does not apply
  • Must be pre-trading or have recently commenced trading, ie does not have revenues in excess of €60,000 in the current financial year to date or in any previous financial year
  • If not a company, must have commenced operations within the last three years
  • Must be capable of growing to 10 jobs in Ireland and realising sales of €1million within three years
  • Must not be engaged in the gambling, adult entertainment, tobacco or military sectors
  • Applicants must be eligible to live and work in Ireland. If their current visa status does not allow them to run a business in Ireland they must regularise their visa situation before receiving an investment

Enterprise Ireland will invest €50,000 for a 10% ordinary equity stake in the start-up company, which will be released in two equal tranches.

  1. The first tranche will be released to successful applicants only when it provides confirmation of additional new cash investment for equity of €5,000. This new investment in equity of €5,000 by the successful applicant is to occur post the relevant call close date. Capitalisation of existing director/related party loans will not qualify. The company must also meet the general terms and conditions of the scheme
  2. In addition to €50,000 equity investment, successful applicants for this call will be invited to participate in a business development programme designed for early stage companies. The precise form and content of the program has yet to be finalised but will include networking, business coaching and blended learning

Cresco Innovation works with companies to develop and implement innovation strategies. We help client companies identify opportunities to develop new products and services, and then create a package of support to ensure that the idea is turned into a commercial reality.

Our services include securing grants (as a team we have raised around £40million over three years), business planning, IP advice, access to finance and funders, project management and IP commercialisation support.

We regularly act as the interface with the funding bodies and help clients ensure that their projects are properly managed to ensure the best outcome for all.

Call to find out more

If you’d like to know more about this competition, please give us a call on 01509 261182 and one of our team will be delighted to help you access this funding opportunity for your business.