Belfast Telegraph

Acorn Angels syndicate pledges £1m to aid north west start-ups

By Donna Deeney

A group of business magnates from Londonderry has pledged to invest over £1m into Northern Ireland companies – with a major focus on the north west.

The syndicate will be known as Acorn Angels, inspired by Derry's heritage and the adage, 'mighty oaks from little acorns'.

Each 'angel' has committed to invest up to £100,000 of their own money to help either start up businesses or high growth companies.

Among the founding member of the group are George Fleming (Fleming Agri-Products Ltd), Patrick McGonagle (Pakflatt), John McMonagle (Omega Mechanical Services), Ann-Marie Slavin (Opt2Vote), Paul McElvaney (Learning Pool), Philip O'Doherty (E&I Engineering), Padraig Canavan (founder of Singularity), Richard Sterling (former managing director of Coolkeeragh Power Ltd) and Eamonn Gee.

Paul McElvaney, who is the co-founder and chief executive of Learning Pool, said: "One of the biggest barriers for any up and coming entrepreneur is early stage capital investment and like other members of the group, I have first-hand experience of the difficulties in raising financial assistance in those early days.

"Our plan is to offer help to local entrepreneurs set up in their own city and particularly within the tech sector. Derry has already demonstrated that it can compete in the global market."

This is the first time the concept has been seen in the north west but a similar project is already up and running under an umbrella name of Halo based at the Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast, which has invested over £7m into companies in Northern Ireland.

The formation of the new Derry-based angel group coincides with the recent opening of the North West Regional Science Park where the inaugural meeting of the Acorn Angels was held.

Alan Watts, director of Halo at the NI Science Park, said: "The Halo programme provides pitch training, mentorship and advice to companies seeking private sector investment.

"Not only can angels invest substantial capital, notably over £1m available in this instance, but they come with vast amounts of knowledge and key business contacts – vital ingredients for any high growth potential companies here.

"With two Halo groups already successfully operating in the Belfast area we are delighted that this new group in Derry will have a focus on stimulating fast growth start-ups in the north west."

Belfast Telegraph