Belfast-based companies, Yedup Ltd and Liopa Ltd, were today named the best new start and best early stage companies respectively at the regional final of the 2016 InterTradeIreland All-Island Seedcorn Investor Readiness competition.
Yedup and Liopa overcame tough competition from the other finalists in their categories and both companies have secured €20,000 to help finance their ventures. They will now go on to compete in the all-island final of the competition, on Wednesday 23 November at The Waterfront Hall, Belfast, for the overall prize of €100,000 and the best category prize of €50,000.
Best regional new start company, was Yedup, a leader in the emerging field of ‘adaptive’ artificial intelligence. The company has developed machines that, like humans, learn continuously in real time. This allows Yedup’s technology to analyse big data streams – such as live and evolving social media content – faster and more accurately than is possible with standard artificial intelligence techniques.
Initial target clients are high frequency hedge funds, where the technology provides opportunities for market foresight, enabling funds to trade ‘ahead of the market’ based on being first to know as price-sensitive news and events emerge on social media.
According to Co-Founder, Dr Martin Spollen, taking part in Seedcorn has given Yedup the opportunity to network with early stage technology investors and gain valuable feedback.
Best regional early stage company, Liopa is a spin-out from Queen’s University Belfast and the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), incorporated in November 2015. The company is a leading independent provider of biometric authentication and verification technology, having commercialised more than 10 years of research in the field of speech and image processing; with particular focus on the fusion of speech and lip movements for robust speech/speaker recognition in real world environments.
With a global market for the technology, CEO Liam McQuillan viewed the Seedcorn process as an opportunity to develop the company’s pitch as Liopa gained exposure to the investment community. They will use the prize money to assist in the production of the first market-ready product, whichy they hope to have available around mid-2017.
Now in its 14th year, Seedcorn is the island’s biggest business competition for new start and early stage companies in any sector, from any part of the island. The competition, aimed at companies who have a new equity funding requirement, has an overall cash prize fund of €280,000, with no equity stake taken. Since its inception in 2003, companies that have gone through Seedcorn and reached regional final level, have raised in excess of €200m. Encouragingly so far for last year alone, this figure stands at more than €10 million.
Connor Sweeney, Seedcorn Project Manager, InterTradeIreland added: “With a total cash prize fund of €280,000, Seedcorn is the largest business competition on the island of Ireland. Furthermore, it is widely considered by the business and investment community to be the gold standard for new and emerging companies. In addition to offering vital funds to businesses, it also gives companies experience of pitching to investors and helps entrepreneurs hone their skills.
“Since the competition began 14 years ago we have seen a huge variety of businesses compete, with the standard continuing to rise year after year. There was certainly no shortage of ambition, innovative thinking and passion this year!
“Every single one of our Northern Ireland finalists has demonstrated excellent creativity and business prowess and it is a pity that there can only be one winner in each category. It is always exciting to work with companies at an early stage in their development and I am confident that all of our regional finalists will achieve future success. Seedcorn is a great platform for these fledgling companies to perfect their business plan and strategies, as well as to network with potential investors.
“I would like to wish Yedup and Liopa all the best for the upcoming final. Both have the potential to go all the way. Watch this space!”
The all-island final will take place at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on 23 November, where these two Belfast-based companies will go head-to-head with the Dublin, Munster and Connacht & Leinster finalists for the titles of Best Category winner, worth €50,000 and the Overall Winner, worth €100,000.
Companies can follow the Competition on Twitter (@ITI_seedcorn) where they can get valuable information and advice from experts. Further details are also available on the Seedcorn website at www.intertradeireland.com/seedcorn