Synergy entrepreneur graduates set to fly the nest armed with a fusion of good ideas

By Maurice Garvey

THE latest batch of Synergy entrepreneur graduates may come from different backgrounds but the common link they share is a fusion of good ideas with the right aptitude to succeed.

After completing Phase 2 of the New Frontiers programme, 13 graduates are now set to fly the nest, and enter the business world.

Micheal Swift Frankman Ian Croxon Voltedge 1

Michael Swift (39), had plenty of support from teammates on the rugby pitch during a 15-year professional career with Connacht, but now he faces a challenge of a different kind off it, as co-founder of the male grooming range Frankman.

Born and bred in London to Irish parents, Swift arrived in Ireland from rugby club Richmond for a planned two-year stint in 2000.

He ended up playing 269 times for the province, under the tutelage of coaches Michael Bradley, Eric Elwood and Pat Lam, helping to establish the side into the force they are today.

While he acknowledges with a wry smile his retirement a year before Connacht’s maiden Pro 12 league title in the 2015/16 season, Swift planned for a future off the pitch, developing the concept for Frankman with his Irish wife Gill Blake Swift.

Grooming products are not the first thing one associates with a burly second row enforcer, but Swift’s strength hitting rucks is already being applied to Frankman, in what he calls a “straight-talking male grooming range that cuts through the bullshit.”

“We did research with Smurfit Business School, which found men are been forced to use female specific products,” said Michael.

“Our product is targeted at the 18-34 age group, with 24 the bullseye. There is a huge appetite for male grooming products within the age group, and especially for under 25s.”

Now based in Terenure, Swift, worked with his wife, who had a lot of marketing contacts from her time with L’Oréal, have created a product which is both unique in substance and visually appealing.

“Visually, there is a lot of competition out there,” said Michael, who hopes to launch Frankman in stores and pharmacies in May.

“The next step is funding. Without the New Frontiers accelerator, we wouldn’t be here now. Launching a business is a different language – you only get one shot with an investor.

Meanwhile, Knocklyon entrepreneur Matthew O’Sullivan (29), like all Synergy graduates, is also looking for funding to get his venture up and running.

O’Sullivan co-founded online hospitality review platform Verivoo with his business colleague Ray Allen, and won a €10,000 InvestStart award from Philip Lee Solicitors at the graduation.

“I always had the idea to use technical skills to solve a problem,” said O’Sullivan, a former computer science graduate at IT Tallaght, who got back into the New Frontiers programme after a three-year stint working in the industry.

After building the technology for the product, O’Sullivan says the €10,000 will be useful to progress the concept, which is aimed at helping businesses combat lost revenues associated with fake online reviews.

He continued: “It’s focused on the hospitality sector and solving two points, reviewer anonymity and fake reviews. The current system is open to this. We’ve reviewed all the tech ourselves, and plan to raise funds.”

O’Sullivan cites the New Frontiers programme as crucial in getting Verivoo to this stage.

“Overall, the support in marketing, networking, and how to report effectively to investors is great,” he said.

“It gave me the opportunity to leave my job, and work on this with support. I’d recommend the programme.”

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