The dust settles: Propel and LaunchPad

Over the past eight months we have participated in two well known business accelerator programmes, Propel and LaunchPad. For the greater good I felt it might be useful to share some of my thoughts on the pros/cons of each.

1.       Propel is currently run on behalf of Enterprise Ireland (EI) by PA consulting. In our case the programme was split into two phases.  Phase 1 involved ~20 companies and was run over a number of 1day seminars. These seminars were designed to help promoters flesh out their propositions a bit and develop a first pass elevator pitch. Promoters were told from the start that only 10 companies would progress to phase two so there was a healthy competitive element to the programme from the start. In my experience the people who openly participated and were receptive to constructive criticism were the companies that ultimately progressed to phase 2. Phase 2 was run over 6 months and involved 10 companies. Most companies received CORD funding and desk space at a location of their choosing. My phase 2 pros and cons:


  • Great participation and support from other companies involved.
  • Great speakers who were willing to share their experience.
  • Challenging environment.  The programme consistently challenged your assumptions about your target market.


  • I would say the programme is too long. 12 weeks should be enough for a minimal viable product and market validation.
  • A little heavy on business theory at times.
  • There was no prize money on the table for the final pitches or overall winner. This took the competitive edge out of the programme a bit.

Overall opinion: Go for it, you’ll learn a lot and it will knock some corners off your proposition.

2.       LaunchPad at the NDRC started in January 2011 and ran for 12 weeks. There were 10 companies selected to participate. Companies received €5k per promoter and €5k expenses, desk space and services. Unlike Propel it was a requirement that all companies be based at the NDRC. Throughout the programme there was a heavy emphasis on applying the lean start-up methodology to projects.  The brief from the LaunchPad team from day 1 was focus on commercial viability because technical viability is pretty much a given. This forced many of us out of our comfort zone toward our market and customers. My LaunchPad pros and cons


  • Positive, constructive work space.
  • The heavy emphasis on messaging and presentation was great for us.
  • Focussed competitive energy between companies throughout the programme.


  • You have to give up equity. Of course this can viewed as a positive too as it gives you negotiating experience in a safe environment.
  • Weak on connections and door-opening.  This was our experience with both Propel and LaunchPad. 
  • There is no support for business plan preparation which most investors and EI require for any kind of funding.

Overall opinion: Go for it, great programme and a great place to accelerate an idea.

Final thoughts: In my view every first time start-up should look to do at least one accelerator programme. The reality is that there is so much that you need to know when you start a business and attempting it in isolation will be challenging in the extreme. 

NDRC: A Bridge Between Academic Innovation And The Marketplace

The National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) is an independent enterprise that endeavours to bring ideas nurtured in the academic world into the commercial marketplace should they be suitable. NDRC’s first projects began in 2008 when NDRC itself became operational and it is currently collaborating with 34 partners both in Ireland and internationally.

Plastic Pollution in Oceans | NRDC
NRDC: Plastic can be found in every ocean and waterway on the planet, even in places uninhabited by humans, and it's wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems.

We’re treating the oceans like a trash bin: around 80 percent of marine litter originates on land, and most of that is plastic. Plastic that pollutes our oceans and waterways has severe impacts on our environment and our economy. Seabirds, whales, sea turtles and other marine life are eating marine plastic pollution and dying from choking, intestinal blockage and starvation. Scientists are investigating the long-term impacts of toxic pollutants absorbed, transported, and consumed by fish and other marine life, including the potential effects on human health.

getHealth joins NDRC!

We’re really excited to be a part of the Launchpad IV programme at the National Digital Research Centre. We know that, as Ireland’s first accelerator programme focused on supporting the next generation of digital entrepreneurs to accelerate good ideas to sound start-ups, the NDRC can help us validate every aspect of our business.

NDRC is an independent enterprise dedicated to accelerating research from idea to income. Our collaborative approach with technology and business innovators drives greater collective success while cultivating bolder attitudes towards invention and investment.

NDRC analyses and assesses new and emerging technologies and market opportunities within the economy’s most important sectors. We support the development of ideas, bridging the gap in knowledge, expertise and financial support that separates innovation from the marketplace.

Our aims are simple: we want to knuckle down and work hard, we want to plan, we want to set goals, we want to focus on the needs of our users (the true needs), we want to explore our ideas around design and user experience, we want to detail a business opportunity with the view of securing an investment at the end of the programme…all because we love this space and we love what we’re doing.

Best of luck to all the great companies that will work along side us for the next 12 weeks. We’re really looking forward and excited about learning from them and in helping out in any way we can.

Lift Off At The NDRC

At the Digital Hub in Dublin yesterday nine companies showcased their businesses in a series of short presentations. They had all just completed twelve weeks of the National Digital Research Centre’s (NDRC) Launchpad programme. This event was an opportunity to pitch their business to an invited audience of more than a hundred people. More than half of which were potential investors.

What are these chemicals in my products?

Whenever I go to use any chemical product - be it shampoo, dish soap,bathroom cleaner, or table wipes - I’m always floored by the long list of chemicals that these products generally use. I try to be eco-conscious, but I know that I’ll inevitably buy things that still have long and concerning ingredients. This link from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) is a useful tool in determining what exactly I’m using in my home.

Tales of the fallen to help weed out corruption?

Apart from focusing on legal solutions to root out corruption, Chinese authorities are also experimenting with some innovative preventative exercises.

One such exercise was undertaken in Beijing recently, with nearly 200 officials from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top economic planning body, visiting prisons to meet with and draw lessons from fallen officials.

The officials visited two prisons and met former officials who have been jailed on corruption charges. They were asked to interact and learn from the stories of the prisoners.

According to reports, the exchanges included tearful confessions and solemn statements of how greed and temptation had led to the fall of the once mighty.

Following the exercise the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection issued a statement expounding on the experiences of the visiting officials.

It claimed that the experience had deeply moved them and made them far more conscious of the importance of integrity when faced with temptations to abuse their power.

NRDC: Clean by Design Grows to Scale: 2014

NRDC: The Clean by Design initiative is an innovative ‘green supply chain’ program to leverage the purchasing power of multi-national corporations to reduce the environmental impacts of factories abroad.

Personally can’t see fashion as ever being environmentally friendly.

Any industry that focuses on image that is replaced every 3 months is too superficial for me. Not when the world is plummeting towards collapse and half the world lives in poverty.

Perfect correlation between oil price increase in China and earthquakes around the world

A post of how effective dates of oil price increase in China are perfectly correlated with occurrences of earthquakes across the globe got viral online. Many netizens said that notices of oil price increase from China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRAC) is the best earthquake prediction.

'Mr. Confession' and his boss drive China's antitrust crusade

By Michael Martina and Matthew Miller BEIJING (Reuters) - A signboard at the top of a staircase in the ageing Beijing offices of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) directs lawyers and company officials to numbered conference rooms for antitrust meetings. The printed list names half a dozen or more companies on any given day - a sign of the recent flurry of activity from the NDRC - one of China’s three antitrust regulators. Inside those rooms, lawyers and executives describe meetings with the NDRC as “interrogations”, where raised voices, flaring tempers and verbal reprimands are commonplace. From interviews with more than two dozen attorneys, executives, and experts, who have been drawn into investigations with the NDRC’s price supervision and anti-monopoly bureau, a picture emerges of a culture of intimidation under the leadership of Director General Xu Kunlin.
Source: Reuters
China moves to scrap price caps on low-cost medicines

According to China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), price caps on retail prices for low-cost medicines will be scrapped as the regulator looks to address quality problems and shortages. Instead companies will be allowed to set prices depending on their production costs.

China fines Japanese auto parts firms $200 mn for monopoly

China has fined 10 Japanese auto parts firms more than $200 million for price-fixing, authorities said Wednesday, in what state media called the biggest-ever penalty for violating the anti-monopoly law. The companies were found to have implemented monopoly pricing agreements for more than 10 years, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) regulator said in a statement. It fined them a total of 1.24 billion yuan ($201 million), in what state broadcaster CCTV said was the biggest fine China had imposed since its anti-monopoly law took effect in 2008. “The companies… unlawfully affected prices of auto parts, finished vehicles and bearings in China and harmed the interests of downstream manufacturers and consumers,” the NDRC statement said.
Source: AFP