Startups Ireland

Reflecting on 10 Years of The National Startup Awards..


Reflecting on 10 Years of The National Startup Awards..


I find it hard to believe that 2021 will be our 10th year celebrating the Irish National Startup Awards! On this anniversary I hope that you will indulge me as I reminisce on the last 10 years and reflect on our journey…

Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.” – Bill Gates

The story actually starts in 2005 when I started my first business, an internet cafe in Dublin, not really having a clue what I was doing I started looking for help online and I could not find any independent, plain talking practical advice for anyone in my position. Out of frustration more than anything else I launched to be an independent entrepreneurial driven resource and just started blogging… Pretty quickly people began interacting on the site and lots of people started getting in touch offering relevant content for Startups and looking to share their story. It was pretty much a case of build it and they will come (thankfully they did on this occasion!).

Encouraged by the positive reaction to I took a stand at a show in the RDS that The Business Post had organised.. I had nothing to sell.. just me a monitor with the website on it and a few business cards. I met some interesting people at the show including Vodafone who told me they were looking to engage with the Startup community. We swapped details and they invited me to a meeting shortly after they also invited me to an event in the mansion house that they were sponsoring called the ‘Living in Dublin awards’. It was at this event that I was to meet the organiser ‘Des’ who ran a company specialising in Award ceremonies…

Still following my nose the following week I contacted Des and we met up for coffee, I explained that I felt that that early stage entrepreneurship was not being fully recognised and celebrated in Ireland, the tendency being to celebrate people when they had succeeded and not encouraging the companies who were just getting started and needed the support more…

And so it was The National Startup Awards were born, Vodafone were true to their word and backed us and in 2011 we sent out a call for applications not really having a clue what would happen. Des’s expertise really kicked in at this point and before I knew it we had photoshoots, a venue and a date locked in the diary….


Our First Startup Awards in 2011 with Grand Prix winners The Handmade Soap Company


I still remember the evening very well.. it was a rainy night in Dublin, the Burlington hotel was then venue and we were ready to go.. soon the room started filling up and an electric energy of excitement filled the room, I am used to it now but on that night I knew that something special was happening. The first Startup Awards was a huge success and we learnt lots of lessons on the night (lesson one..drop the black tie!). I realised that my hunch was right and that there was a huge interest in Startups getting out and meeting fellow entrepreneurs, letting their hair down, sharing war stories and being genuinely delighted for the winners. What most people don’t realise is that starting a business can be pretty isolating and scary, lots of friends and family don’t understand and budding Startups can be plagued with unhelpful ‘would it not be easier to just get a job’ type comments.. so to be able to meet other people in similar situations and celebrate together is just special..

Over the past 10 years the awards have gone from strength to strength.. we have had some absolutely brilliant nights and that energy in the room has always been so strong. We have witnessed so many incredible companies come through the program and have had the privilege of seeing many of them become household names and international success stories.. Keogh’s crisps, Strong Roots, Izzy Wheels, Apis Protect, Gym + Coffee, The Handmade Soap Company, Manna Drone.. the list goes on and on. Over the last 10 years over 5000 Irish Startups have entered the awards..kind of crazy when you think about it..

I have so many people to thank for their support over the last 10 years.. first and foremost Des Doris my partner in the awards..Des is the Ying to my Yang .. you can thank him for things like having a place to go.. seats.. food.. a stage.. a presenter..trophies… and about a gazillion other things that I would forget..10 years on and we have been through a lot together and I am glad to call Des a good friend..

A huge thanks to all the amazing sponsors we have had over the years and who the awards would not be possible without, I am not limiting this to current sponsors as all our sponsors have played an invaluable part in this story.. Thank you – Enterprise Ireland, McCann Fitzgerald,  Cronin & Company Accountants, Micro Finance Ireland, Sage, Bank Of Ireland, FR Kelly, IBM, Big Red Cloud, Independent Newspaper, Bord Bia and The IEDR.

Thanks to all the incredible judges who have given up hours of their time trawling through hundreds of applications, thanks to the Irish Startup Eco System for your support and encouragement (BIC’s, LEO’s, Hubs & independent organisations)..thanks to my wife Sally Anne for helping me prep all those speeches! x 🙂 I could go on and on..but a huge thank you to everyone who has supported these special awards over the years.

The 2021 National Startup Awards take place tonight (2nd December 2021) – due to the Covid situation this years event will be virtual but we hope to be back to a live in person event next year when we can all have a long overdue party!

I will finish my trip down memory lane with one of my favourite quotes.. a quote that I used on our very first night in 2011..

‘Whatever you do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’

Johan Wolfgang von Goethe


The Startup Awards are dedicated to the dreamers and the doers.. thank you and keep going…


Stephen Dillon

Founder & The National Startup Awards

The National Startup Awards






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