Cork-based, sports media website, PunditArena.com, along with nine other enterprising young businesses, was recognised at the IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme Awards and Showcase held at the Aula Maxima in UCC this evening.
This year’s IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme Awards and Showcase celebrated the progress and achievements to date of the ten graduate led start-ups who participated in the 2013/14, nine-month business incubation programme, marking an important milestone with the completion of the fourth phase of the successful entrepreneurial programme.
The awards, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, EY and JW O’Donovan Solicitors, were presented in front of an invited audience including representatives of Cork City Council, Cork County Council, local business leaders, UCC staff, friends and family; who were introduced to the new companies operating across a range of sectors including food/nutrition, fashion, agriculture, online platforms and software solutions.
Four of the awards were made based on presentations participants gave to the judging panel of respected business people the previous evening at Bank of Ireland’s Regional Headquarters on the South Mall, while a fifth was peer nominated. The judging panel was made up of Diarmuid Lynch, area manager, Bank of Ireland; Gillian Keating, partner, JW O’Donovan; Seamus Downey, taxation director, EY; and Declan O’Mahoney, CEO, HeartSine Technologies Ltd.
The top award, the Bank of Ireland/ IGNITE Business of the Year Award 2014, was presented to PunditArena.com founders, UCC graduates Richard Barrett and Ross O’Dwyer. Pundit Arena, powered by articulate fans and established journalists, provides writers with a high level of autonomy and the freedom to passionately write about the sports of interest to them. It is essentially an online sports broadsheet powered by the sporting public. The company launched last November after Barrett and O’Dwyer decided to collaborate, having initially started out on the IGNITE Programme working on two separate sports based websites. Today, Pundit Arena has over 200 contributors, a sub-editorial team of six, and a further trio involved in digital marketing.
Two further awards were made in recognition of business planning and innovation. The EY/ IGNITE Business Plan Award was presented to UCC engineering graduate, Walter O’Grady, founder of Froblem for his written business plan. O’Grady develops software solutions to help service providers in the infrastructure and facilities management sector address and remedy structural and maintenance issues promptly when they arise. His reporting app, Froblem allows users to alert organisations of problems encountered instantaneously, thereby improving customer relations, and ultimately reducing the organisation’s cost.
The JW O’Donovan Solicitors/ IGNITE Innovation Award went to UL Bachelor of Business Studies graduate, John O’Donoghue founder of AgTeCH4, who demonstrated the most innovative use of technology to deliver his service. AgTeCH4, which launches this summer, delivers slurry gas detection solutions to the agricultural sector in Ireland, the UK and rest of Europe.
Speaking about the calibre of start-ups on the programme, Diarmuid Lynch, Area Manager, Bank of Ireland, who chaired the judging panel, said: “We had a tough job, as each participant demonstrated true entrepreneurial spirit and steadfast determination. Each start-up demonstrated to us that they have the ability to develop successful businesses and I’m sure we’ll hear lots more from them in the near future.”
Past winners of the IGNITE Business of the Year Award include Dr Sinead Doherty of AnaBio Technologies Ltd., who later went on to be crowned Cork Chamber’s ‘Emerging Business of the Year 2014’; Eoin O’Carroll and Kevin Bambury of Portable Medical Technology Ltd.; and Mike McGrath of supply.ie. Other recent award winners included Brendan Finucane of Vconnecta Ltd.; and Declan Gordon of Mohago Ltd.
The IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme is nine-month business incubation programme at UCC aimed at nurturing, developing and strengthening entrepreneurial potential.