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10 Ireland startups that are scaling up. Time to grow!

(Feb 2023) A great idea or a breakthrough technology are mere starting points for any startup that hopes to turn itself into a successful business. In Ireland, Huawei teamed up with start-up and innovation hub Dogpatch Labs to provide ten promising startups with much of what they need to move to the next stage of their development: coaching from highly-experienced business and technology experts, access to Huawei’s global network of business partners, technical support from Huawei’s R&D, and an opportunity to pitch to Huawei’s venture arm, Hubble.

                The ten lucky startups took part in a three-week program in the fall of 2022. It culminated on November 11 with a pitch day during which a representative from each business venture took to the stage to explain to a global audience which included potential investors and partners what their company does and why it has potential to scale and grow internationally.

Graphite Note developed a no-coding AI development technology

In recent years, Ireland has turned into a magnet for startups and small innovative firms. It offers an excellent work-life balance that promotes creativity as well as a range of government policies favorable to newly-formed companies. As a result, startups from the whole world are setting roots on the island.             

One example is Graphite Note. The firm’s CEO, Hrvoje Smolic hails from Croatia. He moved to Ireland, he says, “because of the phenomenal start-up ecosystem,” that provides him everything he may need, including finding his business partner Vinnie Lynch. Meanwhile, the green environment is a source of inspiration. “I got my best ideas why walking around the national park at Killarney,” Smolic says.

Graphite Note has developed an intriguing technology that enable companies of any size to develop machine learning without having to learn any software coding. This is obviously useful to a vast number of companies and organizations. “There are actually only a handful of people that can do something with machine learning,” Smolic points out.

Helgen created an interface for robots to communicate with each other

Another company Ireland attracted is Helgen Technologies.  The holder of a PhD in robotics from Universidad de Sevilla, CEO Leopoldo Rodriguez selected Ireland to base his startup after he worked and did advanced research in several countries.  Being in Ireland, he says, gives him the opportunity to deploy and test Helgen’s technologies on nearby businesses.  “We’re transforming agricultural communities into digital communities,” he says.

The market need that Helgen fills, Rodriguez explains, is to offer a technology that enables robots to communicate with each other. “Basically, robots don’t connect very well with each other if they are manufactured by different company,” he notes.  One of the main reasons Helgen took part in the three-week business scale up program is the chance to leverage Huawei’s global footprint. “A lot of our customers are from Asia, so we feel that Huawei could potentially boost that connection up.”

Little Red Edu is another venture eyeing the Asian market. Founder and CEO Anna Carmody spent some time working in Vietnam to teach English after studying product design in college. Marrying those two elements of her background, she saw a market need for a product that could teach English to three to six-year old children in way that is entertaining and immersive. 

Little Red Edu offers an immersive English study app aimed at young children

“We are building interactive animated games,” to keep the kids interested in the lessons that last no longer than 20 minutes each, Carmody says.  The platform also provides a way to keep track of the progress the children make. “Speech recognition tracks every phonetic sound that the child makes and puts it in a progress tracking system for the parent or teacher.”

Tracking is one of the main features of the technology offered by Empeal, another of the 10 startups.  But what Empeal’s tracks is the health data of adults to help users better manage their well-being. “We gather lifestyle information and create a footprint of the user, connect them to health coaches, and then we walk them through full achievement of physical and mental well-being,” says Aurobinda De, co-founder and director of Empeal.

Empeal hopes to team up with Huawei to distribute its health monitoring app globally

The small firm  already has thousands of registered users and has operations in India as well as Ireland. Now the company plans to expand further internationally with the help of Huawei Cloud. “Huawei with this cloud platform all over the world, they can help us grow quite significantly,” De says. Empeal and Huawei complement each other, he adds. “They [Huawei] are trying to go into medical, we’re trying to combine medical and lifestyle,” he says.

Among the companies selected for the three weeks program, Empeal wasn’t the only one hoping to learn from Huawei’s global expertise and markets. The disruptive financial startup Defactor had similar hopes. “I believe Huawei can help us dramatically to scale internationally,” says Alejandro Gutierrez, co-founder and operations lead.  “They can knock on or open up doors that we can’t at the moment.”

Using blockchain technology, Defactor has developed a solution for digitalizing assets that currently cannot be used as collaterals for loans. “The idea is to bring in traditional financial players and teach them to use the liquidity that is now trapped in the DeFi environment,” Gutierrez says. DeFi, he explains, stands for decentralized finance. “We tokenize real-world assets to use them as collateral for financial services." Launched in February 2021, the Irish-based company also has operations in Portugal and India.

Defactor uses blockchain to create new forms of loan collaterals

Having started life as a startup in 1987, Huawei feels a natural affinity for helping other startups.  “Huawei is committed to supporting Ireland’s fast-developing start-up ecosystem, which is critically important to long-term national economic development and innovation,” says Huawei’s Ireland CEO Tony Yangxu. 

And when the startups are so promising, there’s probably also some money to be made for Huawei. “I’m very impressed that a lot of them already have their first paying customers,” says Dr. Ryan Qian Gong, chief investment director at Huawei. “It is amazing, what they have and what they have in their future.”