I had a chat last week with Dervilla Mullan from eircom about the eircom Innovation Fund, which I covered last November too. The closing date for this is February 15th. Hopefully there will be a lot of interest in it.
The gist of it is that eircom are giving away €100k to 4 companies, that’s 25k each plus all the help eircom can provide including their seriously powerful marketing machine and a chance to show off your product/webservice at the Golden Spiders as well as eircom using their extensive contacts to help out.
I asked her why they decided to do this, given it seemed to be a departure by eircom and something quite unusual for any Irish company to do. Dervilla explained that it certainly was a new way of doing service creation where traditionally a lot of the work was done internally and/or with big partners but the Web 2.0 area is a whole different environment and eircom are interested in designing the front-end experience while partners do the rest. She pointed out that a lot of people have a lot of great ideas and a lot of time they can’t carry them out because they lack support. eircom would like to partner with the right ones and given the right support both eircom and the company can share in the success.
It also seems that while eircom are the first to do this, other companies might also be starting to use this model.
I brought up the fact that eircom are not looking for equity or some or all of the IP. Dervilla said they consulted some web companies about their fund and it was suggested that they not ask for equity and they’re happy to do that.
In terms of what they are looking for, they’re intererested in all applications both standalone and on website. If the idea is good they can be flexible but obviously something that they can use on their portal or to offer their broadband users would be more interesting to them. They also want to target more niches and are starting to do that with their music store and other offerings and they probably forsee that for the teenager/youth market the existing eircom portal might not be the best place to get their attention.
There will be a judging panel for all submissions which will be comprised of eircom and Enterprise Ireland staff and this will create a shortlist. Those on the shortlist will then present their ideas to the panel. They will be selecting 4 companies in March, though they can be flexible with the numbers too (please god let there be at least 4 very good ideas) and they’ll work with companies to have 6 weeks cycles/goals where they can see how they are getting along and if they need any assistance. They would like to see a product commercially launched in 6 months and in time for the Golden Spiders where the 4 companies will show off their products and they will then work with the companies over the next 6 months helping them to measure performance and making any changes/iterations that are needed.
The innovation fund is not a once off either. They hope to do this every year from now on. It’s up to the web companies now to get applying.
Why not partner with some of the Web folks here if you have an idea but not got the skills to build something yourself? Worth a gamble, right?