Serena Lawless, SMB sales manager, Google; Maeve Dorman, director EMEA Telesales and Merchant Operations at PayPal; David Walsh, director of SME and Commercial, eircom Business Solutions.
eircom Business Solutions today launched Digital Boost, a €250,000 seed fund for Irish SMEs looking to innovate and grow their business through investment in digital solutions.
The fund is designed to offer tangible assistance to the SME community in four key areas: business mobility; digital training; sales and marketing; and business productivity. eircom Business Solutions has partnered with Google, PayPal, Samsung, the Digital Marketing Institute and Salesforce to deliver a suite of digital funding to successful applicants.
The initiative was launched following research by eircom Business Solutions and Red C which highlighted the areas that SMEs most need help with in growing their business. The study revealed that training and skills support is much sought after by Irish SMEs, with eight out of 10 recognising the need for additional training within their organisation. Three quarters would like to learn more about harnessing the power of social media while 60% of those surveyed claimed they are not maximising their use of analytics in their business.
When it comes to sales and marketing, almost half (48%) of SMEs hope to implement an e-commerce option for their business in the future, while budgetary restrictions are an issue for many, with over six in 10 saying they lack the financial resources to implement new channels for advertising.
David Walsh, director of SME and Commercial, eircom Business Solutions said: “Our new Digital Boost seed fund is a key pillar of our overall strategy to support the growth of SMEs. We feel strongly that providing solutions like fibre broadband, 4G services etc. is not enough. Underpinning the provision of such services has to be a strong support and education mechanism for SMEs. We are passionate about showing SMEs how to maximise the many opportunities that the right digital presence can make to their business.
“An estimated 47,000 businesses in Ireland either don’t have a web presence or do business online and our research shows this is largely due to budgetary constraints combined with a lack of technical expertise. This fund is designed to address these challenges and will complement and hopefully boost the government’s National Digital Strategy which has committed to getting 2,000 businesses online before the end of next year and has the potential to create 150,000 jobs by 2020. Additionally, the Nielsen Global Survey revealed that e-commerce sales worldwide will reach $1.5 trillion in 2014, increasing nearly 20% over 2013 – so it is vital that Irish businesses are equipped to exploit this valuable market. Digital Boost is one of a number of initiatives we have developed to provide support to Irish SMEs.”
The Red C research also found that business productivity is being hindered by a lack of appropriate software, with 40% admitting they don’t have the right software in place and 47% claiming that more modern accounting software would improve efficiency. Another area of improvement identified was mobility, with 42% saying they do not have the most relevant and up-to-date technology. Almost 6 in 10 (58%) agreed that they could benefit from developing an app for customers while a further 51% felt their business needs a cloud-based system.
Applications for funding will be accepted over three rounds, between October 2014 and June 2015, and at the end of each round an expert panel will award successful applicants, with funds to spend with the partners on technology and digital related support.
Open to all SMEs and mid-market enterprises, businesses can apply by uploading a short video or a five slide presentation to the Digital Boost website outlining their funding proposal and the fund area they require.