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An early stage company which helps delivery firms plan routes more efficiently claimed a prize worth £50,000 at Ascend the inaugural start-up competition at Innovation Nation in Newry.

Cork-based SmartRoutes took the top spot in a tightly-fought competition made up of some of the best start-ups in Ireland. The competition was run by start-up platform Startacus.

SmartRoutes walked away with a cash prize of £3,000, as well as professional advisory services from, amongst others, KPMG, Kx Technology, Lanyon Communications and Startacus which together total £50,000.

Pictured at the Innovation Nation dinner in Newry Town Hall are: Garrett O’Hare from Flexi Work Space, Ashleen Feeney, Director at KPMG; Calvin O’Callaghan, founder of SmartRoutes; Kevin McGivern from Kx; host Connor Phillips.
Pictured at the Innovation Nation dinner in Newry Town Hall are: Garrett O’Hare from Flexi Work Space, Ashleen Feeney, Director at KPMG; Calvin O’Callaghan, founder of SmartRoutes; Kevin McGivern from Kx and host Connor Phillips.

Calvin O’Callaghan, founder of SmartRoutes which took the top prize, said: “We’ve taken no formal investment onboard so winning the Ascend start-up competition will be absolutely massive in helping drive things forward for SmartRoutes.”

Second place was taken by Clare-based company Get the Shifts tech-centric staffing solution which is disrupting the Irish hospitality sector by supporting bars, restaurants, cafes, festivals, and other hospitality and events businesses to source experienced, temporary staff in their area on demand.

The judges also awarded Northern Irish startup Cropsafe with a ‘One to Watch’ title.

Cropsafe, with a team of three co-founders aged 17, impressed beyond their years, and their pitch for their AgriTech platform that utilizes satellite imagery to accurately detect and predict impending diseases within farmers’ crops, left a mark on the audience and the Ascend judges.

Mark Murnin, Chair of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, said: “The Ascend start-up competition attracted some brilliant entries and a very worthy winner in SmartRoutes. These are the kind of businesses which this district is brilliantly placed to support and we can’t wait to help them grow in the coming months and years.”

Liam Hannaway, Chief Executive of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, said: “The focus of Innovation Nation is to celebrate great ideas like the ones we saw in the Ascend pitches. As a council, we know that start-ups like these are the lifeblood of our economy and that’s why we’re determined to make this district a place they want to come and do business.”

Alastair Cameron, co-founder of Startacus who hosted the Ascend startup pitch competion said: “It is no exaggeration to say that we were totally delighted with the standard of the early-stage Irish startups on show. Whilst all credit must go to SmartRoutes, Get the Shifts and Cropsafe for being awarded with the 1st, 2nd and ‘One to Watch’ titles, it is fair to say that a good number of startups also scored heavily by the Judges and scoring was very close on the day.”

“I would not be surprised if quite a few of these startups go on to raise angel and VC investment over the coming 12 months.”

RISCalert, Unitek.AI, Motoklik, Afterbook, Journey Protector, Jadeblok, Elastic Energy, Compensave, MiBudi, Machine Eye, made up the list of early-stage start-ups on show.

The judges included Kevin McGivern of Kx, Ashleen Feeney of KPMG in Northern Ireland, Garrett O’Hare of Flexi Work Space and Drew O’Sullivan of InterTradeIreland.

Innovation Nation 2018, was run by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and a number of supporting partners from the public and private sectors. It showcased how organisations can use the latest innovations and technology to drive their businesses and shone a light on the burgeoning tech scene in Newry and the surrounding area.

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