Catalyst programme seeks to stimulate young entrepreneurs

Aspiring young entrepreneurs are being urged to apply to the new Catalyst Co-Founders programme, that is seeking to encourage more people to get involved in start-up ventures.

The programme is for first time entrepreneurs and early stage start-ups and takes place one night a week for 10 weeks.

The aim is to link people who have ideas with others from technical and commercial backgrounds who can help bring those ideas to fruition.

Catalyst Community Manager is Natasha O'Hea.................

Pic - Catalyst Community Manager Natasha O’Hea with Elemental co-founders Leeann Monk-Ozgul and Jennifer Neff.


Press release in full -


Innovate UK funding of £10,000 on offer for 5 best ideas as proof of concept grants

Only one week left to apply for an exciting new Catalyst programme in Derry-Londonderry that aims to tap into the North West’s talent base and encourage more people to get involved in start-up ventures.

Based at Catalyst Innovation Centre at Fort George in Derry, Co-Founders is a part-time programme for first time entrepreneurs and early stage start-ups that takes place one night a week for 10 weeks.

The programme brings together talented, skilled and ambitious individuals from technical and commercial backgrounds, to meet like-minded people interested in developing new product ideas focused on technology, engineering and science. 

Since launching in Belfast in 2017, Co-Founders has delivered four cohorts involving 170 people who formed more than 50 teams - over 20 of whom are still working together. Twenty teams have received Proof of Concept funding, and eight teams have progressed to the full-time Propel pre-accelerator programme.

Co-Founders has attracted software engineers, data scientists, sales and marketing experts, medical professionals, mechanical engineers, researchers, undergraduates and PhDs  as well as people who have experienced a problem in a certain industry or from everyday life and want to develop a product to solve it.

Participants in the new North West programme will have the added incentive of being in the running to win one of five £10,000 proof of concept grants from Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, which will be awarded to 5 teams with the best developed ideas at the end of the programme.

Sonya Kerr, Programme Manager of Co-Founders, said Catalyst is hoping to attract 80 to 100 people from Derry, Letterkenny and across the North West to sign up.

“We know there is a wealth of talent in the North West and a lot of people who have great ideas or are restless to try something new, who will really benefit from meeting others with different skills needed to build a start-up that they wouldn’t normally have a chance to meet,” she said.

“Teams on Co-Founders are willing to try something different, meet new people and stretch themselves. We certainly don’t expect everyone to leave their jobs immediately and create a start-up but by helping people validate their ideas and build teams, it becomes a real option for many.”

For example, of the nine teams who completed Catalyst’s first Co-Founders programme, three are still together and two have received over £100,000 in funding to build and launch their products.

Lorraine Acheson from Innovate UK added: “We hope Co-Founders will help encourage more people in the region to consider becoming founders of the new ventures needed to grow Northern Ireland’s knowledge economy. We look forward to seeing more exciting start-ups emerge from the first programme in the North West and we’re delighted to provide a seed funding prize for the best of the new ventures.”

Well-known Derry entrepreneurs Jennifer Neff and Leeann Monk-Ozgul, co-founders and co-CEOs of tech for good start-up, Elemental Software, are backing the programme. Elemental, who are a health tech innovation company based in Derry, are helping hundreds of organisations throughout the UK and ROI to enhance the impact of their social prescribing programmes via their award-winning portfolio of digital health and social prescribing products and consultancy services.

As the leading digital social prescribing software provider in the UK, Elemental are bridging the gap between health, housing and communities with a range of digital solutions designed to support the strategy and practice of self-care and independence.

“We were really lucky to meet, find we were passionate about solving the same problem and had the right chemistry to build a product and business together. But it would have been great to have had a programme like this available when we started. Catalyst providing an environment to help co-founders meet will hopefully lead to many more start-ups coming out of Derry,” said Leann.

“Meeting talented and skilled people outside of your normal network, who can help test and challenge your ideas is incredibly important to building the growth-mindset and resilience you need as a start-up founder,” added Jennifer.

Catalyst, the Innovation Centre at Fort George opened in 2014 and is fully occupied by 32 companies and 250 people working in the innovation and knowledge economy ecosystem.

While on the programme, Co-Founder teams get access to co-working space within Catalyst to allow them to grow their own networks.

Applications are now open for the programme at:

The deadline for applications for the North West programme is Wednesday March 11th.