Websummit 2014 is on! Guerilla mentoring is here!

November 4th, 2014 No comments

As well as attending the 2014 websummit in Dublin over the next 3 days, I will be offering free #guerillamentoring to any startups who are interested.


Tweet me @billylinehan so we can connect and arrange to have a coffee together.


Starting a business in Ireland? You might be interested in an objective view of the range of government supports, which ones make sense for your business at this stage?


Like all countries there are a plethora of supports for startups, most of value to specific groups BUT at the right place and more importantly at the right time. Some programmes are PR driven, whether supported by public or private sectors.


Me, I specialise in offering strategic planning through workshops, cooperative business plans &  business planning and practical business mentoring.

Enjoy the summit!


Celtar business and management consultants



4 Myths of Entrepreneurship, and Ireland

September 18th, 2014 No comments

With the advent of the most hyped web summit to date, it  is worth reflecting - based on solid research elsewhere - on the support for entrepreneurs and ‘ordinary’ businesses in Ireland.

Probably one of the most intelligent sources of research on entrepreneurship that I have come across in recent years emanates from the Kaufmann Foundation based in Kansas City, USA, says Billy Linehan of Celtar.


Dane Stangler of Kaufmann delights in challenging all of us in the enterprise support community – and Enterprise Ireland in our local context – by demolishing commonly held assumptions about

- small business and job creation

- the typical age range of successful entrepreneurs

- why governments and local authorities should stop trying to copy and re-create mini ‘Silicon Valleys’

- and that incubation centres are NOT effective in launching early-stage companies


I love this animated sketchbook, see it at




“There are several areas in which I think our research and the research of those we fund has been making headway in, if not disproving, at least pushing back against conventional wisdom or what turn out to be myths,” Stangler says in the three-minute animated video.

“Myth-busting Entrepreneurship,” notes four commonly held beliefs and attempts to set the record straight.

  • Challenging the notion that small business plays the most important role in growing the economy, Stangler notes that the age of the firm is a more important variable than the size of the firm.  “It’s new and young companies that create most jobs and innovations, not necessarily small companies,” he says. (This is accepted by most commentators in Ireland, except possibly ISME and the SFA?)


  • He cites multiple studies that refute the popular stereotype that most entrepreneurs are 23-year-olds starting tech companies in their local coffee shop or their bedroom.  “By and large,” he says, “the ‘peak age’ for starting a company is in the mid to late 30s, early 40s.” (majority of Enterprise Ireland startup support and PR has been targeted at young men in their 20s, though this is slowly changing)


  • Stangler warns against efforts to recreate Silicon Valley in the hopes of creating a hotbed of high-tech startups. “Silicon Valley is a very unique place that’s never going to be replicated.  We all need to stop trying to be a Silicon fill-in-the-blank, not just in the U.S., but anywhere around the world,” he says. (time for Enterprise Ireland, Dublin City Council, #startupireland and Dublin chamber of commerce to consider their approach to tech startups in Dublin?)


  • More recently, Stangler and the research team at Kauffman have been examining the role of business incubators to launch early-stage companies. “Most research shows that incubators are not effective at all for actually producing companies,” he says. (politicians will loathe losing the opportunity and kudos of creating bricks and mortar incubation centres all over the country, and Enterprise Ireland and Forfas might review their relevant investment and job creation policies)


Stangler concludes by acknowledging the importance of harvesting more research to uncover myths and propose constructive alternatives.

State agencies, colleges and state funded quangos in Ireland must continually review their enterprise development policies, justify their expenditure and demonstrate on our behalf the return of their investments .


See more about the foundation at www.kauffman.org


Billy Linehan is MD of Celtar, business advisers, Ireland



Thank you for reading

The One Hour Business Plan – practical planning for your business

June 14th, 2014 No comments

Introduction to the One Hour Business Plan

Preparing  a presentation on business planning I came across the idea of a One-Hour-Business-Plan. The blog post was written by Caroline Cummings who works for the business plan specialists, Liveplan.com . She suggests that a channel Twitter approach could be used in writing a plan, with each section of less then 140 characters!

Writing a business plan can be painful: I don’t know anybody who likes writing their business plan, it is a task most people avoid till the last moment. The One Hour approach limits this pain, takes away the stress and gives you a worthwhile outcome.

Our Experience: There are a lot of benefits in writing a short business plan using the One Hour Business Plan model, and then expanding on it later. Achieving a quality result in a short time is great for those who have huffed and puffed about starting to write a plan, and find it a daunting prospect.

Business plan content should always be challenged and assumptions cast aside. So it  is beneficial to invite a friendly business adviser with an external perspective to participate in the planning with you. 


 Steps to create a one hour business plan:

  • Prepare by thinking about answers to the questions
  • Grab a whiteboard / flipchart / large piece of paper
  • Ask an independent business adviser to work with you, and facilitate the exercise
  • Start writing!


  1. A one-sentence description about your business. (Value Proposition)
  2. The “problem” your product is responding to by being in the market. (the Market Need)
  3. A description of your products (photos are always appreciated). (Your Solution)
  4. Who else in the market is doing similar things and why your products are better?(Competition)
  5. Who buys your products (or will buy your products)? (Target Market)
  6. How much does it cost you to produce one of your products? How much do your products cost, how many of them will you sell this year, and how will you make a profit?(Financials: Budgeting & Forecasting)
  7. How do (or will) you market your products? (Sales Channels & Marketing Activities)
  8. What are your business achievements? What are you working toward? (Milestones & Goals, past and future)
  9. Who are you, and why are you the right person to lead your venture? (Management Team)
  10. How much money you need to launch or grow your business, and what specifically will you use the funds for in your business? (Funding Needs & Use of Funds)

Positive result: A short to-the-point planof the business which can be presented to funders and business partners, and shared with staff and stakeholders.

Help! A friendly business adviser can facilitate the planning hour, ensuring all questions are answered & act as a scribe recording the content.


Sharing “Thoughts and Ideas about effective business planning” presentation by Billy Linehan of Celtar, for the Women’s Business Network sponsored by the Dublin City Local Enterprise Office, see  http://goo.gl/5dhtbJ . Seven business plans were created and presented during the evening.

Great night. Most informative and loved the insights from each table on the business plan exercise” attendee at the Alexander Hotel, Dublin, Monday 9 June 2014,  

Interested in creating your own One Hour Business Plan?

For individuals, startups, groups, companies – contact Billy Linehan at billy.linehan@celtar.ie


Skype: celtar.inspire

Business advice Dublin Ireland

Everything you want to know about Doing business in the UK – and are not afraid to ask

March 27th, 2014 No comments



Business information from Celtar business consultants

Details from Enterprise Ireland on Doing business in the UK, a comprehensive list of websites is below.

Starting off with names and contact information for EI staff in London.

Office Location

Manager and Team Contact Details

Supports and Services for Enterprise Ireland Clients

How to Access our Services

Supports for International Buyers

Useful Country Reports, Guides and Links

Upcoming Events


Enterprise Ireland
2nd Floor, Shaftesbury House
151 Shaftesbury Avenue
Tel: +44-207-438-8700

Google Maps Link
Giles O’Neill
Director – UK and Northern Europe

Tel: +44-207-438-8701
Fax: +44-207-438-8749

Click here to email Giles O'Neill, Enterprise Ireland Giles O’Neill

Gavin McWhirter
UK Manager
Key Sectors & Enterprise Solutions

Tel: Tel: +44-207-438-8722
Mobile: +44-773-6060230
Fax: +44-207-438-8749

Envelop icon Gavin McWhirter

Christine Esson
UK Manager
New Market Entrants

Fax: +44-207-438-8749

Envelop icon Christine Esson

View contact details for all staff servicing the United Kingdom


Supports and Services for Enterprise Ireland Clients

Enterprise Ireland Market Advisers work with you to find a tailored solution to help you accelerate your company’s exports by:

  • assessing opportunities for your company
  • identifying routes to market
  • finding distribution partners
  • identifying potential customers
  • assessing competition
  • introducing you to buyers
  • assisting you to set up in the market



Useful Country Reports, Guides and Links


A Guide to doing Business in Great Britain





For information about

1. Doing Business in Ireland

see http://www.scoop.it/t/doing-business-in-ireland 

2. Ideas on how to Grow Your Business

see http://www.scoop.it/t/grow-your-business-fast

Government support for small business & SMEs in Ireland January 2014

January 30th, 2014 No comments

State support for small business & SMEs in Ireland January 2014


This is a list of government funded schemes and incentives aimed at supporting small and medium sized business, published by the DEJI (Irish government Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation) in January 2014.

 The list may look impressive; the schemes are aimed at different segments of the small and medium business sector. In fact few are supportive of smaller companies who have been denied loans by their banks. Financial support is aimed at “innovative” companies that wish to export.

 I have edited the document to include what is most relevant to Irish business – you can email me for the full document, or find it here http://goo.gl/AHtnOp customised by a TD with his photo at the front .



 Support for business

 Unemployed – Start Your Own Business:  TAX

 An exemption from Income Tax up to a maximum of €40,000 per annum will be provided for a period of two years, to individuals who set up a qualifying, un-incorporated business, having been unemployed for a period of at least 12 months prior to establishing the business.

New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme TRAINING

 The national entrepreneur development programme is delivered at a local level by the Institutes of Technology. If you have an innovative business idea and are planning to establish and run your own company, the New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme can provide you with a package of supports to help accelerate your business development and to equip you with the skills and contacts that you need to successfully start and grow your company. The 13 institutes can be found at http://www.ioti.ie/locate-our-institutes .


 Capital Gains Tax Relief for Serial Entrepreneurs: TAX

 A lower rate of CGT rate will apply for anyone who invests the proceeds of disposal of assets of a business sold since 1st January 2010 into a new business during the next 5 years when the latter comes to be sold. The assets of the new business will have been held for at least 3 years. Commencement of this measure is subject to receipt of EU state-aid approval.


Seed Capital Scheme: TAX

 If you are a PAYE worker and start up and work full-time in your own company, you can get tax relief on the capital you invest in the equity of the company. The relief is a refund of the income tax you paid on an equal amount of income in any of the previous six years. The maximum investment on which relief can be claimed is €600,000.

Three Year Corporate Tax Exemption: TAX

 New companies get relief from Corporate Tax for the first three years of up to €5,000 per employee (max €40,000 Tax Credit).

The Micro-enterprise loan fund: FINANCE

 Loans of up to €25,000 are available from Micro Finance Ireland for commercially viable proposals from enterprises with no more than 10 employees that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by commercial banks. Borrowers will pay a commercial interest rate, (think 9%?). Call 01 2601007 or visit www.microfinanceireland.ie

Local Enterprise Office: New name for the City/County Enterprise Boards, to be located in & managed by local authorities

 Offering business mentoring, training, & grants (for feasibility studies, employment & business growth) to startups & businesses with less then 10 employees

 They are promised to be a First Stop Shop for all enterprise supports in every county and also provide the business support service of the local authority. The LEOs will draw and build on the successful County Enterprise Board (CEB) model which supports 900 new projects per annum. It will continue to offer direct access to mentoring, microfinance, grants (where appropriate) and seamless access to the wider range of EnterpriseIreland support for high potential enterprises. The LEO  for Dublin City will be based in the Wood Quay offices of Dublin City Council. There are concerns about public accessability to services in the local authority building.


 Enterprise Ireland Feasibility Study Grant: FINANCE

 Used to investigate the viability and potential of an innovative/high potential start-up and the development of an Investor Ready Business Plan.

Competitive Start Funding:  COMPETITION for FINANCE

 The Competitive Start Fund offers early stage enterprises with significant potential the opportunity to compete for an investment of €50,000 towards the start-up and market-launch process. Successful starts can graduate to the additional supports available for “High Potential Start-Ups”. Note EI takes 10% equity as a return for the €50K investment.


 Back to Work Enterprise Allowance: Scheme for unemployed starting a business

 If you have been signing on for over 12 months and you would like to become self-employed, the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) allows you to keep your social welfare payment for 2 years (Year 1: 100%, Year 2:75%). To qualify, you must be setting up a business that a “Local Integrated Development Company” !!! or a Facilitator has approved in writing in advance.

Short-Term Enterprise Allowance: Scheme for unemployed starting a business

 The Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (STEA) gives support to people who have lost their job and want to start their own business. It is paid instead of Jobseeker’s Benefit for a maximum of 1 year. It ends when the entitlement to Jobseeker’s Benefit ends (that is, at either 9 months or 12 months).

CRO (Credit Review Office): bank lending mediation service

 An SME can appeal the refusal of credit by the banks involved in NAMA to this office, provided they have already used the internal review procedure of the bank. The threshold for applications that can be reviewed by the Credit Review Office is €3m. Over 55% of appeals have been found in favour of borrowers and this has resulted in €18.5M credit being made available to SMEs and farms. The Credit Review Office is not a state agency, is funded by the NAMA banks, and charges a low fee for its services. See www.creditreview.ie .



Jobs Plus: Scheme to bring unemployed back to the workforce

 Gives an employer who recruits a person who has been at least 12 months out of work a €72 – per-week subsidy for 2 years provided the job is a full-time position, for a minimum of 30 hours per week and you must work at least 4 days in any 7 day period. Visit www.jobsplus.ie  to register online. It is proposed to reduce the threshold for JobsPlus eligibility to 6 months of unemployment for people aged under 25.

FÁS Wage Subsidy Scheme: Scheme to subsidise employment of disabled people

 Provides financial incentives to employers, outside the public sector, to employ disabled people who work more than 20 hours a week. A person on the Wage Subsidy Scheme is subject to the same conditions of employment as other employees


The Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA) TAX

 Is a tax incentive for companies paying corporation tax and aims to encourage investment in energy efficient equipment. The ACA offers an attractive incentive whereby it allows companies to write off 100% of the purchase value of qualifying energy efficient equipment against their profit in the year of purchase.


 Momentum: Training scheme to bring unemployed back to the workforce

 Is a new programme. There are 6,500 places in programmes involving certified classroom training and work experience with a company for people who have been on the live register for 12 months or getting credits. Visit www.momentumskills.ie

JobBridge: On the job training scheme to bring unemployed back to the workforce

 Offers an internship of 6-9 months to persons who have been signing on as available to work and getting a payment or credits for at least 3 months. Time on completed programmes in FÁS training, back to education or a community scheme will count towards eligibility. Participants will receive €50/week on top of their welfare. Effective resourcing initiative for some SMEs. 


Credit Guarantee Scheme: FINANCE

 Companies refused credit by their bank for lacking adequate security for a normal commercial loan, or because the bank has limited understanding of the specialized aspects of the business environment in which they operate are eligible for a partial credit guarantee from the state for up to three years to help them secure the credit. The Government provides the lender with a 75% guarantee for which the borrower pays a 2% premium.


 Employment and Investment Incentive Scheme: TAX

 Allows up to €10m capital to be raised by a company for investment from private individuals, who will get personal tax relief on the investment provided they hold the investment for at least 3 years. The initial relief for individuals is 30% but up to now it has been subject to a cap for high earners. That cap is now being removed for three years so an individual will be able to invest up to the full maximum of €150,000 per annum allowed under the scheme in a growing company.

Research and Development Tax Credit: TAX

 Research and Development attracts additional tax credit of 25% which can be offset against Corporation Tax or PRSI. This credit has only applied to R and D expenditure over and above that spent in 2003. The amount of expenditure eligible for the R&D Tax Credit on a full volume basis (without reference to the 2003 base year) is being increased from €200,000 to €300,000. The limits on the amount of expenditure on R&D outsourced to third parties which can qualify for the R&D Tax Credit is being increased from 10% to 15%.


 Enterprise Ireland has a suite of Supports for Companies to develop markets:

 You have to be an Enterprise Ireland client to access publicly funded programmes

 A. Some are aimed at enterprises taking the early stages to create new opportunities or open export markets

 Potential Exports Division: EI’s Potential Exporters Division provides a wide range of initiatives focussed on helping companies export more. The ‘Get Export Ready’ programme includes practical measures for early exporters.

  • Acumen: A cross-border Business Development Programme designed to stimulate cross-border trade (between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) and develop other forms of commercial co-operation amongst SME’s throughout the island of Ireland.
  • Innovation Vouchers: Vouchers worth €5,000, are available to assist a company to work with a registered college or knowledge provider to explore a business opportunity or technical problem

 B. Enterprise Ireland also supports companies with export strategies:

 Developing a new product offering

                         Research and Development opportunities                 

                         • Entering an entirely new geographic market

                         Going Global Grant

                         Internationalisation Grant

                         New Geographic Market Research Grant

                         International Selling Programme

                                         Taking on a marketing graduate to place in-market

                          Graduates for International Growth

                        • Developing improved business processes that maximise efficiency through various “lean” initiatives

                         Lean Transform Grant

                         Lean Start Grant


Development capital scheme (225 million):  FINANCE

 Enterprise Ireland is partnering with private fund managers to create a fund targeted at growing manufacturing, technology and international trading services companies in Ireland. The main objectives of the Fund are to:

                        – Increase the availability of risk capital to established Irish companies,

                         – To close the equity gap experienced by Irish SMEs,

                         – To encourage and leverage private sector investment in the Irish economy

Through the Fund, Enterprise Ireland has up to €50m available to make commitments of up to €25m with fund managers.

The seed and venture capital schemes (700m): FINANCE

 This is a planned scheme of €175 million Seed and Venture Capital Scheme 2013-18, aimed at supporting innovative Irish SMEs. The scheme is targeting an additional €525 million in funding from the private sector, which will mean a total fund of €700 million available for investment over the lifetime of the scheme. Enterprise Ireland has recently made commitments to a number of funds in the Technology and Life Sciences Sectors. It is expected that these funds will begin to come on stream in 2014 – announcements will be made as the funds are established.


Innovation fund Ireland (250m): FINANCE

 Innovation Fund Ireland is a joint initiative between Enterprise Ireland and the NPRF and provides a unique opportunity for international venture capital fund managers to establish their European headquarters in Ireland and access entrepreneurs and innovative companies. Ireland already has an active venture capital industry and Innovation Fund Ireland is an initiative to further increase the availability of risk capital for innovative companies.

 Under the Scheme commitments have been made to a number of Funds. The following funds have been established and announced to date; DFJ Esprit, Polaris, Soffinova and Highland Capital Partners.


NPRF support funds for the SME sector (850 million): FINANCE

The National Pensions Reserve Fund, NPRF has developed a range of support funds for the SME sector to provide equity, credit and recovery investment. The NPRF will invest between €350 million and €500 million with a view to creating a total funding pool of at least €850 million for investment in SMEs.

                         BlueBay Ireland Corporate Credit I Ltd: The BlueBay fund, to which the NPRF has committed €200 million, is a €450 million credit fund that will provide loans to larger SMEs and mid-sized businesses in Ireland. BlueBay is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada and is a specialist asset manager of fixed income credit, corporate loans and alternative products. Loan amounts are expected to range in size from €5 million to €45 million and BlueBay is able to access additional capital for situations that require larger amounts. The loans can be used by borrowers for a variety of purposes such as refinancing existing liabilities, acquisition finance or investment expenditure.

Carlyle Cardinal Ireland SME Equity Fund:


                         The Carlyle Cardinal fund, to which the NPRF has committed €125 million, is a €300 million – €350 million private equity fund that will focus on investing in healthy businesses seeking to grow, including those with overleveraged balance sheets. The fund, which has received commitments from other-third party investors, is operational and is managed by Carlyle Cardinal Ireland in Dublin. Appears to be targeted at larger SMEs and mid-sized businesses.

 Better Capital Ireland SME Turnaround Fund:


                         The Better Capital fund, to which the NPRF has committed €50 million, is a €100 million private equity fund that will invest in underperforming businesses, “distressed businesses”, which are at or close to the point of insolvency but have the potential for financial and operational restructuring. The fund is for “Irish based mid-market companies” and is operational and managed by Better Capital in Dublin.  Appears to be targeted at larger SMEs and mid-sized businesses.

Brought to you by Celtar, advisers to business