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Demo-day at jailhouse aims to lockdown future startup investment

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by Startacus Admin

Prison walls are never built to scale, but startups are. We took a look over the recent StartPlanetNI StartPlanetNI demo daydemo-day at Crumlin Road Gaol, with their current cohort of startups pitching for their ‘big break’ and to hopefully lockdown future investment...

We love a good startup pitch competition or accelerator program demo day here at Startacus HQ. From the bizarre but super 'cool', Polar Bear Pitchingwhich has snowballed into an international pitch comp, to the more traditional demo-day event - for example, the recent Entrepreneur First demo-day held in a packed hall of investors at King's Place in London, it’s fair to say that pitching opportunities, most often or not, help to put a spotlight on a startups scalability and investability (or not).

Step forward, last week’s StartPlanetNI demo-day, which merged the traditional demo-day format, with a fab venue, with seven startups from four countries pitched to an audience of international investors at Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast (Jail).

The Belfast based Crumlin Road Gaol is a historic Victorian-era prison which was a working gaol for over 150 years. It has housed prisoners through times of severe punishment, world wars, and political conflicts. Sixteen years after its closure, the gaol opened to the public for both public walk-arounds and for private events and parties.

StartPlanetNI demo dayTaking the demo-day format out of the traditional conference venue, is a brave move by StartPlanetNI, but a great way of helping to get both their accelerator and the pitching startups some fab coverage and publicity - albeit the conference space at Crumlin Road Gaol is like any good venue (but that's not the point!).

Northern Ireland’s only private equity based startup accelerator, StartPlanetNI focuses on helping businesses establish themselves in Northern Ireland, fast-track their technology based ideas for global markets and gain access to early stage investment.

The culmination of a three-month long programme of intensive mentoring, the ‘Demo Day’ event gave participating startups from NI, Italy, Great Britain and Hong Kong the chance to prove they were investment ready and actively seeking support.

Gavin DuffyWith the evening hosted by Investor and Irish Dragon Gavin Duffy, two awards were presented at the event, with ‘Most Investible’ Company going to Kami. Led by Hong Kong entrepreneurs Alex Cheung, Simon Ho, Jonathan Chan, Howard Cheng and Barry Au, deep-tech specialists in the space of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Software Engineering, Kami creates literate machines that can think, reason and communicate like humans.

NI based startup Gordon Campbell of gaming start-up Testify being voted by his StartPlanetNI peers as best overall contributor to the programme. Gordon created Testify alongside his brother. Testify is a self-service platform through which game studios can watch, listen and learn from real players all over the world in their own environment, and receive valuable feedback before their games are released to the mass market.

Kami - most investible at StartPlanetNI demo day

StartPlanetNI is backed by private sector investment through a fund which utilises Northern Ireland’s first Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). The programme is part of the SOSv Revolution Co-Working space and co-delivered by StartPlanet and local startup experts Xcell Partners.

Speaking on the importance of having a global presence, Bill Liao, lead mentor at StartPlanetNI and European Venture Partner at SOSv said:

“It is critical that our companies raise their expectations - go all out to compete at a global level and win important and valuable markets wherever that may be. 
The ability to compete in different markets and scale globally is a key factor in attracting investment to grow the business further.”

During the programme, participating startups were based in the purpose-designed coworking space, 112 Donegall Street, in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The StartPlanetNI demo-day at Crumlin Road Gaolspace is part of a global network of SOSv Revolution co-working spaces, ranging from San Francisco to Cork, and further afield to Shenzhen and Shanghai.

With this startup demo-day location, we hope you agree that this is one occasion where the jailhouse does rock (sorry!). High-five’s to StartPlanetNI and the pitching startups, and the very best of luck to both this growing UK accelerator and the startups that took part in the current cohort, namely Kami, 11 Derma, Testify, Cloudrupture, recent Startacus startup of the week Flyte, Media Vox Pop (more on them soon), and ProtectBox.

This cohort follows on from the inaugural StartPlanetNI programme that included startups from NI, Scotland, Ireland and Russia, including, amongst others Orca Money, Glistrr, Pavanu, and Clinishare.

Talking of Startup Pitching Competitions - you might want to check out Belfast based startup pitch event upSTART which is currently open for startups to apply to pitch...

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Published on: 3rd April 2017

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