Investment house Elkstone, which has backed startups like drone delivery service Manna and digital food-ordering platform Flipdish, has closed Ireland’s largest early-stage venture fund to invest in Irish founders who are building internationally scalable companies.
The €100m fund will invest €1m-2m into startups across all sectors over the next three to four years.
More than 100 investors have come into the fund overall, including Enterprise Ireland’s seed and VC scheme, which has invested €20m. A further €35m has been committed by Elkstone’s existing client base.
The firm, which also invests in real estate, has seen three companies that it’s backed — Flipdish and healthcare startups LetsGetChecked and Thirty Madison — hit $1bn valuations in recent years. Other Elkstone-backed companies include job search platform Jobbio and Coindrum, a startup that makes machines for converting coins into notes and vouchers.
Irish eyes on more unicorns
Merriman says that while Ireland has produced seven unicorns — eight if you count payments giant Stripe, ran by the two Irish Collison brothers in California — the market still isn’t that deep or broad.
That could change once there are are some “exit windfalls” — enabling employees to cash their shares and use the money to start their own ventures (the so-called mafia or flywheel effect that has helped other tech scenes grow).
“Though as a country we’re a late starter [in tech], we have a lot to leverage off,” he adds, listing the broad talent pool and the presence of Big Tech players like Meta and Google.
The downturn could also help the Irish startup scene, he says. “It’s good and healthy that it’s forcing startups to be leaner and squeeze more out of their tight resources. That quality bar is very healthy. But there’s obviously less capital available and more competition for it, so deserving companies may not get the start they need.”
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