DIT Hothouse and IBM’s global entrepreneur programme – a growing partnership

As the innovation and technology transfer office for Dublin Institute of Technology, DIT Hothouse has been involved as a key partner with the IBM Global Entrepreneur Partner programme since its launch in 2010, according to Bernadette O’Reilly, who is the innovation centre manager there.

A graduate of the New Frontiers programme at the centre, Irish start-up Profitero won the global SmartCamp finals in 2012.

The three co-founders of Profitero – Volodymyr Pigrukh, Dmitry Vysotski and Kanstantsin Chernysh – grew their business idea while working at Google, IBM and Microsoft in Dublin, respectively, before entering DIT Hothouse.

Their company has pioneered pricing intelligence software targeted at retailers and manufacturers.

Following IBM’s first ever Entrepreneur Week, which ended last Friday (7 February),  New Jersey-based for-profit research group Coriell Life Sciences was announced as the 2013 SmartCamp finals winner.

DIT Hothouse is based in the Docklands Innovation Park in East Wall, Dublin 3, a stone’s throw from the so called ‘Silicon Docks’, and close to the headquarters of Enterprise Ireland.

As well as helping commercialise intellectual property that stems from DIT research, DIT Hothouse is also an incubation centre for start-ups via New Frontiers – an Enterprise Ireland entrepreneur development programme.

Right now, some 15 start-ups are incubating at the centre, including FenestraPro, the cloud-based software solution for architects, and VisiLit. The latter is pioneering online tools for live entertainment professionals, and theatres in particular.

So what was the impetus for DIT Hothouse to get involved with IBM and its Global Entrepreneur initiative?

The relationship was set in motion after Noel Crawford at the IBM Technology Campus contacted DIT Hothouse and explained the ethos of the programme, according to O’Reilly.

“It fitted with our own missions and objectives to support the growth of high-potential technology start-ups,” she says.

Through its New Frontiers programme, DIT Hothouse supports and incubates around 70 start-ups each year.

“We felt that the programme offerings of access to IBM resources and mentoring, along with the networking events, would accelerate the development of those companies that fitted the profile,” she adds.

And DIT Hothouse also likes to keep in contact with its alumni of companies – this figure is more than 200 ventures at the minute, and growing.

“These companies are constantly innovating and benefit from access to thought leaders in the technology space,” said O’Reilly, adding that, from her own vantage point, to date, this particular IBM programme has delivered three major benefits to the participating start-ups at DIT Hothouse.

Firstly, it gives ventures access to IBM software for the development and testing of their products, which, she says, “significantly reduces the initial cost of product development.”

Secondly, it provides access to mentoring and networking events.

This, says O’Reilly, enables the entrepreneurs to stress test their products with other experts in their field:  “It helps them build relationships with the right people who can potentially open doors for them in the future – be in terms of raising investment and in making introductions to potential customers,” she explains.

The third benefit is the credibility and visibility that goes along with being associated with the IBM brand, she adds.