Wed, 11/09/2019 - 12:28
Young Entrepreneur Wendy Oke meets ministers.

The bid to find Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur moves into top gear as candidates prepare for the National Final on 15th September.

Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) National Finalists from Cork County Council’s Local Enterprise Office South Cork, Wendy Oke and Darragh Lucey, were in Dublin this week to meet with Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, T.D. and Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen T.D.  They were joined by 22 other Finalists at Government Buildings in the lead up to the IBYE National Final.

The finalists had the opportunity to discuss their businesses and ideas with the Ministers ahead of the IBYE Final which will take place on the 15th September in Google HQ in Dublin.  The IBYE programme is run by the 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) in local authorities, funded by the Government of Ireland with the support of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and Enterprise Ireland.

The 24 entrepreneurs also attended a pitch training day at Google HQ in Dublin where they were given extensive pitch training and they had the chance to meet their fellow finalists for the first time.

Having studied machine learning algorithms while taking his Electrical and Electronical Engineering degree in UCC, Ovens native Darragh developed Yooni along with his co-founder, Nathan. Yooni is a student engagement platform that helps Higher Education Institutes to increase annual student fee revenue by attracting and retaining students. Yooni launched Carpool College Courses in 2019, promoting 3rd level courses through interactive content, and is working on its course selector and data collections tools for higher education institutes. Yooni have also participated in the UCC IGNITE Graduate Development Programme of which Cork County Council is a funder.

Their next product is a course selector, which engages Yooni’s AI algorithm to help students determine what course they are best suited to.

Darragh spoke positively about the experience: “IBYE has opened up so many doors for us at Yooni and we’ve met some really inspirational people along the way. Getting the opportunity to compete among the top entrepreneurs in the country is an opportunity we’re relishing.”

With a first-class honour’s degree and PHD in Early Childhood learning, Wendy Oke, from Donnybrook Douglas, wanted to put her learnings into practice.  Passionate about child development, she believes that access to quality education is vital for a child to reach its full potential.  Based on this she created TeachKloud, a cloud-based management and compliance platform that helps teachers spend less time on paperwork and more time on the development of the child.

Wendy had this advice for young entrepreneurs: ‘"IBYE has been one of my most memorable experiences, I would recommend it to every entrepreneur - if you have an idea your LEO is the first place to go"

Chief Executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey said, 

This year’s IBYE contestants were of an exceptionally high standard across the region, and to have two national finalists from the Local Enterprise Office South Cork is a remarkable achievement. We are very proud of both Wendy and Darragh, and look forward to following their entrepreneurial journey’


Mayor of the County of Cork, Councillor Christopher O’Sullivan stated:

‘IBYE is a wonderful opportunity for young entrepreneurs, and we are delighted to see two participants from Cork beat off the competition to make it to the finals. The enthusiasm and hard work they put into their business shows, and I look forward to their future success. Having met a number of the participants at the Regional Finals recently I am very confident for the future business landscape of our country.’

Sharon Corcoran, Director of Services, Economic Development, Enterprise, and Tourism had this to say:

‘Darragh Lucey and Wendy Oke are both exceptional young people, and we here in County Cork are very proud to be so well represented by them at a national level. I wish them the best of luck on September 15th, and look forward to supporting them on the day!’

Sean O’Sullivan, Head of Enterprise LEO South Cork, wished Wendy and Darragh the best ahead of the final;

“Wendy and Darragh have been exceptional entrepreneurs to work with right through the IBYE process.  They have an excellent attitude to furthering their business and that makes our job a lot easier.  They are credit to LEO South Cork and a further example of how the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the region.  Our team, having worked with them since the inception of their business ideas, find it very rewarding to see them now compete at such a national stage. We wish them the very best of luck in the National Final and we look forward to continuing to work with them beyond the Final to help them grow their business.”   

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, T.D., said: 

"Our young entrepreneurs are our business leaders of the future; their ideas will help to create jobs and ensure that our economy continues to evolve and grow. We want to encourage entrepreneurship and that’s one of the reasons we’re lowering taxes and extending more social benefits to the self-employed. Congratulations to all this year’s IBYE finalists, who are showcasing the huge wealth of ideas that exist across the Irish start-up sector. This competition, and the recognition it provides, will be the first step for many of you on a long and hopefully successful entrepreneurial road.”

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, T.D., said:

“The IBYE programme has been a hugely successful initiative of the Government with an investment fund of €2 million. Since its inception in 2014, it has attracted over 7,000 applications and has provided our young entrepreneurs with the peer-to-peer experience and contacts that open doors to help them on their entrepreneurial journey now and into the future. These finalists are Ireland’s very best young business minds and, whatever the result in the final, the supports will be there for them to continue in business.”  

Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen T.D. added:

“This year’s finalists represent the significant breadth and diversity of enterprises that characterise Ireland’s entrepreneurial landscape.  It is important that we encourage these bright young minds and give them the full range of supports that will allow their ideas and dreams into business realities. Making it to the final is already a great achievement and one that should give them great confidence in driving their businesses forward.” 

Oisin Geoghegan, Chair of the Network of Local Enterprise Offices, said;

“IBYE is a key competitive programme provided by Local Enterprise Offices.  It offers young entrepreneurs at different stages of their development a fantastic opportunity to avail of expert mentoring and pitch training as well as guidance and validation from experienced businesspersons and analysts.  It is the perfect start for these entrepreneurs and their journey has been supported all the way by their Local Enterprise Office.  They have worked closely with them to fine tune their ideas and business plans, hone their pitching and to bring out the best in them.  That is why they are finalists, they have the qualities to be here and be a huge success in Irish business and the Local Enterprise Offices will be there to support them all the way.”

Martin Corry, Enterprise Ireland, said

“The Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur programme has not just created great entrepreneurs, it has helped create great businesses.  These are businesses that are employing people across the country, helping to support communities and also bolstering Ireland’s entrepreneurial reputation globally.  Our previous winners and finalists are at the very top of their game and have gone on to be hugely successful both nationally and internationally.  There’s no doubt that having made the Final this year and gone through the IBYE process, our class of 2019 will hit the same heights as those that have gone before them and perhaps may even exceed them!” 

The finalists for this year’s Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur include a recent BBC Dragons’ Den participant, an entrepreneur using artificial intelligence drones for river rescues, a serial entrepreneur bringing shopping from your phone to your door, a 19-year-old whose skills learned in transition year now sees her employ 23 people, an entrepreneur using plant based nutrition to combat MS and diabetes and a young woman who is revolutionising the methods by which horses are bred. 

The 24 IBYE Finalists for 2019 will be competing for a €100,000 fund across the three categories.  The winner of the Best Business Idea will receive a €15,000 investment with the runner up securing a €5,000 investment.  The Best Start-Up Business and Best-Established Business winners will receive a €25,000 investment each with the runners up in those categories receiving a €5,000 investment, while the 2019 Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur selected from the three category winners will receive an additional €20,000 investment. 

The winners of the 2018 Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur awards were Conor O’Loughlin of Glofox who won the Best-Established Business and the overall IBYE Award for 2018.  Alan Hickey of Vromo (formerly WeBringg) in Fingal, Dublin was the Best Start Up Business winner, while Brendan Boland of Loci Orthopaedics in Galway won the Best Business Idea for 2018.

The Final of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur takes place on Sunday 15th September at Google HQ in Dublin.  For more information on the competition go to and for additional information on Local Enterprise Office supports and programmes go to  

Additional News Images
Young Entrepreneur Darragh Lucey meets ministers.