HBAN (Halo Business Angel Network), the all-island organisation responsible for the promotion of business angel investment, has announced its predictions for 2018. HBAN is forecasting a 17% increase in angel investing in Irish start-ups as the economy grows in 2018, and it will reach €25 million per year by 2020.

HBAN, a joint initiative of Enterprise Ireland and InterTradeIreland, also anticipates that funding for start-ups in the Medtech sector in particular will grow significantly and artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality will again be big trends in the start-up scene next year.

As the Irish economy continues to recover, HBAN expects the number of angel investors and the amount available for investment to increase to record levels. This will be driven in particular by an increase in international angel syndicates taking an interest in Irish start-ups and the trend towards co-syndication, whereby different syndicates invest simultaneously in the one start-up.

John Phelan, national director, HBAN said, “The Irish start-up scene is vibrant and growing and it provides excellent opportunities for investors. Irish start-ups are increasingly of interest to US and other off-shore investors as they recognise that Irish start-ups seeking angel investment are often more developed with revenue streams, technology and business platforms already in-situ. Some are even making a profit.

“Although the start-up scene in Ireland is fertile, it needs to be continually nurtured. Both the Employment Incentive and Investment Scheme (EIIS), which enables individual investors to obtain income tax relief on investments made, and the Key Employee Engagement Programme (KEEP), which provides advantageous tax treatment on employee share options, are helpful to the start-up sector. Notwithstanding that many investors are returning to the property investment market, HBAN would like to see more schemes and policies that incentivise investing in and creating the next generation of Irish start-ups.”

Last year the medtech sector proved to be attractive to HBAN angels, with €4.1 million invested in just seven major deals. One of the big stories was Cork-based, AventaMed which received €1.8 million in a deal with three HBAN syndicates – MedTech, Boole and Irrus. HBAN predicts that Ireland’s medtech hub will continue to present excellent opportunities for angel investorsin 2018, and that the average deal value done in this space will increase from this year’s €585,000.

Other sectors that HBAN forecasts to be big in 2018 are artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT). John Phelan, said, “AI has growing phenomenally for the last number of years, is estimated to reach revenues of $60 billion by 2025, and has reached a critical point. People now understand how to use the technology and the value it has for business. A simple example of this is how banks engage with their customers through customer service call centres. When a customer calls a customer service desk with a query, AI can potentially answer the query or funnel the query to the right department through an AI enabled chatbot, the result is offering a better quality service to customers through machine learning. As the technology progresses and develops, we expect to see AI being used in bigger enterprise projects.

“IoT is growing exponentially with lots of different platforms for both products and infrastructure. We are starting to see emerging business models for applications and it’s another exciting and fast moving space.

“We are also seeing companies beginning to understand the business application of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Previously in VR, it was mainly the ‘techies’ who understood the technology and created the visuals. However, as more creatives engage with the technology, the images will become more beautiful and realistic. This will broaden the appeal for the consumer market and I think we’re set to see some interesting start-ups in this space as the business models develop.”

HBAN angels have invested over €80 million in Irish start-ups. These investments have leveraged a further €124 million from other public and private funds, bringing the total invested to €204 million. Since inception, HBAN angels have completed 395 investments.

HBAN will hold its national conference on Thursday, 8th February in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. The conference is open to non-HBAN members who want to see how the HBAN network works, connect with HBAN angels and listen to pitches from high-potential start-ups. Tickets for the conference are priced at €50 (free for members of HBAN) and are available now.

For more information about the event and to register, please visit: www.hban.org/conference

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