Business start-up success stories hailed at Belfast venture capital conference

Supporting innovative SMEs is key to delivering higher productivity and better jobs, the Northern Ireland Economy Minister, Conor Murphy MLA, has said.
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Mr Murphy made the comments as he opened the 2024 InterTradeIreland Venture Capital Conference at Titanic Belfast, welcoming over 600 delegates from across the island of Ireland.

Hosted by Susan HayesCulleton - award-winning author, speaker, and co-founder of “The Positive Economist” - the event connected early-stage and start-up businesses with venture capitalists, business angels and other investors.

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Conor Murphy said: “Small and medium sized enterprises are fundamental to the economy, making up more than 99% of our firms. Supporting innovative small and medium firms, and the entrepreneurs behind their success, is therefore key to meeting my economic priorities of higher productivity and better jobs.

“The Venture Capital Conference is all about making connections between these ambitious entrepreneurs, high growth potential firms and investors who can help them on their journey. It provides an ideal forum to help businesses secure the funding that will enable them to realise their plans for growth, whether they are seeking that early seed funding which is so vital or trying to secure larger scale investment to begin trading in new export markets.”

The theme of the all-island conference was ‘Accessing Venture Funding in 2024’, with keynote speeches and panel discussions focusing on how start-up entrepreneurs can navigate the fundamentals of raising venture capital, and current sources of equity funding. Delegates heard from venture capital funds including Techstart Ventures, Clarendon Fund Managers, and HBAN, who shared insights into what investors look for in a pitch.

Reasons for business optimism

Margaret Hearty, Chief Executive at InterTradeIreland added: “Across the island of Ireland there are many reasons for optimism for the business and investment community. We have developed a strong equity culture, with supporting infrastructure both for business angel and venture capital investment. We can see that over the past year Ireland has fared well in terms of venture capital funding, against a sharp decline across Europe. In Northern Ireland, with a restored Executive and new trading arrangements largely settled, there is a real sense of optimism and momentum, with firms and investors welcoming the opportunities presented by a unique trading position and political stability.

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“In this landmark 25th anniversary year for InterTradeIreland, we are proud to continue to support ambitious entrepreneurs, make them investor-ready, and connect them with expertise that can help scale up their businesses.”

Keynote speakers included Laura Haldane, co-founder and Head of Sales and Marketing of SciLeads, one of Northern Ireland’s fastest growing companies and Deirdre O’Neill, CCO and Co-Founder of Hertility, an award-winning Irish MedTech startup, who shared their experiences of raising funds and scaling up their businesses.

Deirdre O’Neill said: “Seeking and accessing venture funding can be a daunting experience for start-up entrepreneurs, and this event is a great opportunity for early-stage firms to get insights from other founders, network, and connect with investors. I was glad to have the opportunity to share my experiences of raising capital and scaling up Hertility, and hopefully inspire new start-ups to take their businesses to the next level.”