A 35-year-old former Connacht Rugby star from Athlone was named Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE)for 2018 at today’s National Final in Dublin.

Conor O’Loughlin and his company Glofox took home the top award at today’s event after also winning his national category, Best Established Business, and securing a total investment fund of €40,000.

Funding for the LEOs and the IBYE competition is provided by the Government of Ireland through the State Agency, Enterprise Ireland.

The programme, which is run by the network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) nationwide and supported by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and Enterprise Ireland, attracted over 1,400 applicants in 2018 with an investment fund of €2million.  Already through the programme this year, 185 entrants have secured investments of between €3,000 and €15,000.

Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen T.D., made the announcement in front of 360 guests at the IBYE National Final, held at Google’s European Headquarters in Dublin today.

O’Loughlin, representing Local Enterprise Office Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, played 97 times for Connacht, including a Challenge Cup Final against Harlequins and appearances for Ireland ‘A’ and U-21, before retiring at 28 due to a hip injury.

The former scrum half went on to set up Glofox, a gym management software system, in 2014.  The business, which allows both gym members and gym owners to access usage, payment and service information, now has over 1,000 customers spread across 23 countries.  O’Loughlin is in the process of setting up a base out of New York in 2018 with the United States the company’s main focus.

Conor O’Loughlin, Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur 2018, said: “This is fantastic and such a huge shock considering the calibre of business and entrepreneurs here today.  I can’t quite believe it looking around at the competition but I have to thank my Local Enterprise Office Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and Enterprise Ireland who have been a huge help to me right from the start and without whom I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

The other IBYE National Final category winners were Brendan Boland of Loci Orthopaedics representing Local Enterprise Office Galway who won Best Business Idea and Alan Hickey of WeBringg representing Local Enterprise Office Fingal who won Best Start-Up Business.

The runners-up in each of the categories were Joe Perrott of Remote Signals and Kevin Kelleher of Ostoform in the Best Business Idea category with both securing a €4,000 investment fund.  In the Best Start-Up Business the runners-up were Ciaran Gorman of BevCraft and Jessica Kavanagh of Olann who both secured a €5,000 investment fund.

In the Best Established Business the runners up were Paddy Finn of Electricity Exchange and Robbie Skuse of Kollect.ie.  They will both receive an investment fund of €5,000.

The winner of the Google Award for Best Online Promotion of a Business Award went to Matthew McCann and Access Earth.  He receives €1,000 worth of Google Ad Words Credit and 13 weeks in a Google mentoring programme.

Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen T.D., said: “I am delighted to be with you here today and congratulations to all of the winners.  All of the finalists are to be commended on the very high standard of their entries.  Ireland’s strong entrepreneurial culture is in safe hands for the future.  It is particularly encouraging to see the wide breadth of ideas and sectors covered, reflecting the Government’s support for all areas of innovation and enterprise development.  Over 1,400 young entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 35 took part in Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) competition in 2018, bringing the total number of applications to over 5,700 since the programme commenced in 2014. We now have hundreds of businesses across every county created by IBYE entrepreneurs that are thriving and contributing positively to Ireland’s economic development.”

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, T.D., said; “Congratulations to the winner Conor O’Loughlin and to all those at the IBYE National Final.  The IBYE process, which is delivered by our network of Local Enterprise Offices, is not simply about creating award-winners; it’s about giving entrepreneurs the tools they need to bring their ideas to life and, ultimately, create sustainable jobs. The success of the competition has clearly demonstrated the appetite for young Irish people to start their own business.

“The facts speak for themselves: including this year’s applicants, over 5,700 18-35 year olds have applied for funding to develop their business ideas over the past four years. Research now shows that the €5m the Government has invested in IBYE between 2014 – 2016 has supported over 2,200 jobs and generated €124m in sales.

“We will continue to support our entrepreneurs to help them bring their businesses to life. I would like to commend the businesses involved, not to mention the staff behind our network of LEOs, for their strong dedication to the initiative.”

Sheelagh Daly, Chair of the Network of Local Enterprise Offices, said; “Congratulations to Conor O’Loughlin and all today’s winners.  The network of Local Enterprise Offices have been working closely with the hundreds of participants in IBYE throughout the year and today is a proud day for all the LEOs who supported and mentored these finalists right through the competition.  While this is a great day for the national winners and the finalists here today, all of the 185 IBYE local winners can be very proud of what they have achieved this year.”

The judging panel for this year’s Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur was chaired by Paddy Flynn, Director of Trust and Safety, Google.  The other members of the panel were Eugene Forde, Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Joe Healy, Enterprise Ireland, Rita Guinan, LEO Tipperary, Brian Crowley, CEO of TTM Healthcare and Sarah Doyle, CEO of Kinesense, while broadcaster Claire Byrne was the Awards host.

The Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) programme has been running since 2014.  Research commissioned by Enterprise Ireland for IBYE 2014 – 2016 Report, found that the 348 entrepreneurs, funded by the programme are currently generating annual revenue of €124million.  The research also highlighted that they are employing over 2,200 people.  In addition, 1,350 entrepreneurs received business bootcamp training and one to one mentoring.

More information on IBYE can be found on www.IBYE.ie and for more information on Local Enterprise Office initiatives such as the Student Enterprise Programme and the National Enterprise Awards see www.LocalEnterprise.ie

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