Small businesses in Ireland: 9 ways to get funding for your start-up

Small businesses in Ireland: 9 ways to get funding for your start-up

Posted: Tue 17th May 2022

For most start-ups, there comes a time in the development of the company when the founders need to consider how best to fund their company.  

Here, Enterprise Nation Ireland's corporate finance adviser Johnny Harte takes a look at some funding options which may be available to you as you're starting up your business.  

Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs)

A variety of financial support is available through the 31 LEOs across Ireland, including:

  • feasibility grants to help with market research

  • support to make your potential product or service sustainable (up to €25,000)

  • priming grants (start-up grants)

  • business expansion grants  

The only issue with the LEO grants is that they only cover around 50% of costs or investment, which can be a challenge for many start-ups.

Some companies that have gone on to be hugely successful have benefited from not only the financial support available from the LEOs, but the training and mentoring on offer too.

Find a full list of LEOs

Enterprise Ireland 

This is the government agency in Ireland responsible for supporting Irish businesses in manufacturing and internationally traded services. It actively supports early-stage businesses by way of investment and grants, but provides guidance and support for later-stage, larger Irish companies as well.

Enterprise Ireland has over 50 different schemes and grants available (aimed at different stages of company development), with a number of initiatives specifically aimed at people who are just starting their own business (for example, the New Frontiers programme and the Competitive Start Fund).

However, it also supports companies at the seed stage of investment through its High Potential Start-Up Funding (HPSU).

Also worth mentioning are the Innovation Vouchers (worth €5,000) available to help companies work with higher-education institutions to explore a business opportunity or problem.  

Another recent scheme is the Online Retail Scheme. This programme is aimed at companies that want to develop a more competitive online offer in order to increase their customer base and build a more resilient business.

Get support from Enterprise Ireland

Private investors 

Private investors (also called angel investors) are essentially individuals who have perhaps sold their own company, made money from previous investments or have some other source of wealth and now want to invest in early-stage companies.  

They often come together and form syndicates – you can find a list on the website of the Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN), the umbrella group for the development of angel syndicates in Ireland.

In fact, most funding of early-stage companies in Ireland in the €250,000 to €750,000 range will be a combination of money from individual angel investors or syndicates, seed funds and Enterprise Ireland.

Learn more about the Halo Business Angel Network

Venture capital (VC) funds 

Venture capital (VC) is where institutional investors provide funding to start-up companies that they believe to have long-term potential for growth. In return for providing funding, they take an equity stake in the business.

It's seen as a higher-risk investment, but VC firms believe there will be an above-average return on the companies in which they invest and that the risk is worth it.  

There are well established (and some newer) VC funds in Ireland – these include:

It's worth researching what type of companies each VC firm invests in, what they look for in a company and the level of funding each one can invest.

You'll find more details on about VC firms in Ireland at the website of the Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA). IVCA publishes a quarterly report that looks at the investments being made in Ireland. It gives a good overview of the companies that are attracting funding, at various levels and from various sources.

Bank debt 

In the past, taking on a loan from your bank was seen as a difficult path, for several reasons. And given there's little choice when it comes to traditional banks (even less so now with the departure of Ulster Bank and KBC), many early-stage companies have avoided it.

We've seen some changes over the last few years which mean bank debt is easier to apply for and can require fewer personal guarantees. Overall, it means founders can hold on to more of the equity in their business (see the Venture capital (VC) funds and Private investors sections above).  

Another source of debt financing is Microfinance Ireland, a not-for-profit lender established by the government to provide additional lending to start-ups and existing SMEs.

It provides loans ranging from €2,000 to €25,000 that businesses can use for:

  • working capital

  • marketing

  • start-up costs

  • buying stock, equipment, machinery and business vehicles

Find out more about Microfinance Ireland 

Alternative sources of funding 

Revenue-based financing

This is when firms raise capital by pledging a percentage of future ongoing revenue in exchange for investment. The firm pays a portion of its revenue to the finance provider at a set percentage until it has paid back a certain amount of the original investment.

Revenue-based financing can be fast and flexible, avoids dilution (when a company's owners weaken their overall control by issuing more shares) and limits risk, while helping companies accelerate their growth. Wayflyer would be a good example of an Irish company leading the way in this area.  


Crowdfunding is another way to generate funds for your business. It allows you to promote your fundraising campaign and raise funds from a large number of individuals via an online platform.  

One example is Irish company Spark Crowdfunding, which has already had many successful campaigns on its equity crowdfunding platform, with some companies raising in excess of €1 million.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending 

P2P lending helps individual investors who want to invest money for a reasonable return to connect with businesses that need working capital.

Linked Finance, an Irish P2P lending platform, has pioneered this type of lending in Ireland since 2013, and allows businesses to borrow up to €500,000. 

Invoice finance 

Invoice finance has been around a long time. But Irish companies like InvoiceFair now offer a market-based funding model which provides working capital for SMEs across all sectors.

The idea is that companies sell receivables (or approved invoices) or future receivables (such as purchase orders, contracts or recurring revenue) to a pool of institutional funders.


Show Me the Money: 9 June 2022

A free in-person event for aspiring business owners to access funding and support.

Join the event on Thursday 9 June 2022 at TU Dublin Aungier Street to gain tips on how to access finance, connect with funders, learn from panel discussions and be inspired by key speakers – all under one roof!

Register for the event today

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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