Jerry Clifford: The Power of the Endeavour Program

Last week we gave a brief outline of the Endeavour program in our article Endeavour: New Program for 2011. Since then we have had the opportunity to talk in depth to Dr. Jerry Clifford, Head of Development at the Institute of Technology Tralee, one of the founders of the program.

To recap: Endeavour is part of a series of business programs that are aimed at different age groups.

  • The Junior Entrepreneur Program which is for children of 11-12 years old.
  • The Young Entrepreneur Program for students in their transition year, 16 years plus.
  • The Endeavour Progam which is launchpad for startups.

How successful was last year’s Endeavour program?

“When we looked at it, Endeavour last year was a huge success. We worked with some fabulous companies. Probably the top start up companies that are around in Ireland at the moment. Companies like Datahug, Gaelforce and tapmap amongst others.

“These companies on the basis of rounds of funds almost secured or rounds of funds actually secured have a collective valuation in excess of €10 million. This is not the companies themselves giving you figures out of the air. These are figures based on people pumping money into these companies.

What will be different this year?

“We review everything we do as we are going through it and at the end of the year. We visited a number of incubator programs in New York and in Silicon Valley – particularly Y-Combinator and Plug and Play.

“We got a huge amount of things right and a critical component was the ability to bring in one to one mentoring. This year we are back with a revised program where we have two phases:”

  • Phase One is a short seven week program which runs concurrently in Dublin and in Kerry. This requires a commitment of one evening a week for six weeks and then one Saturday for all the day. For each of those evenings there are going to be two entrepreneurs and one professional advisor covering all the topics that are key to developing a startup business.
  • Phase Two is a five month intensive program working with national level mentors. Each participant on this part of the program will have a dedicated mentor. There are also mentor teams overseas in New York, Silicon Valley and Asia. We have also partnered with Plug and Play in the Valley to be able to access their expertise.

“We want to get as many people as possible on to Phase One but mentoring capacity is the limiting factor for accepting people on to Phase Two.

“These companies that participate are going to get every single chance to accelerate their progress as they go through the program.

“The corporate partner, Kerry Group, have really come on board. Kerry Group is probably the ultimate Kerry start up. They started off in a caravan with two or three guys and now have a market capitalization of around €4.5 billion. They are putting their resources behind Endeavour not only fiscally but also with expertise in large scale international business.”

How does something like Endeavour fit into the larger Irish tech scene?

“Endeavour shouldn’t be looked at on it’s own. It should be regarded as being a part of a suite of initiatives which resulted in Kerry being the European Entrepreneurial Region of the Year in 2011.

“There is a community motivation from this perspective in having enhanced economic activity in your community. We have 2,500 students in this college. We have to ensure that this talent is retained in the County so that they can feed back to the next series of entrepreneurs. They are the ones who are going to make Ireland a better place.

“If Ireland is to have a future, I think it is Irish grown companies that are absolutely going to be that future. Irish companies that are trading internationally right from the get-go and not focused solely on the domestic market.”

Applications for the program close on the 26th of January. There are plenty of spaces still available. As Jerry says, “The critical message that we do want to get out is; fantastic if you have an idea, fantastic if you have a startup but for the people who don’t just want to have a job but they want to have a career by working with an innovative startup then absolutely they should get involved.”

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