Looking back, thinking forward

August 18, 2017

Delivering the Propel Programme since 2009 we have built up a mass of experience stories and friendships. The 200 companies we have mentored and developed over 8 years have gone on to create over 500 jobs, realising in excess of £15m in equity and government investment.  They export goods and services across the globe, from digital tools to life sciences, to fintech to agritech. Most of the businesses were started from a simple idea, often around a kitchen table or over a glass of wine.

This weekpresenttree we took the time to pay a number of these a visit to see how they were getting on, a day that proved to be a very uplifting.

First stop was up to Ballymena to visit Jonny Small MD of HugeRugby.com, who has gone from zero to a global supplier of rugby kit, shipping balls and training gear to rugby enthusiasts across the world. During a quick tour of their recently expanded promises we witnessed a buzz of activity, efficiency and true passion for the sport.

Next, we had the pleasure to share stories and lunch with Catherine Cunningham CEO of ThePresentTree, who with similar humble beginnings back in 2013 has built a wonderful business sending tree gifts across Europe. Her team are located in a converted barn set in Antrim woodlands and have the company of hundreds of baby trees .. .. all ready to find a new home.  Organic, sustainable and

To round off the day we met with the impressive David Galbraith, MD of SwigFlasks. From pop-up shops in London in 2013, to building an online gift store, David and his team have shipped to customers across the world, including Olympic gold medallists and film stars. Swigflask are the UK’s first hip flask brand, dedicated to making the best flasks on the market, and perfect for gifting.

[Propel is currently not recruiting but it is anticipated that the next programme will come on stream in Autumn 2017.]


Press Coverage | Irish News

March 6, 2017

Our CEO Diane Roberts highlights in the Irish News, in my Kind of Job, sharing her views on jobs, careers and work.

diane irish news piece


8 new start-ups for 2017 Northern Ireland Accelerator

January 24, 2017

Having been whittled down from applicants from 40 countries, eight start-ups have been selected to take part in the latest startup accelerator based in Belfast. From drones to gaming, AI to VR. With companies from Hong Kong, Italy, London and of course teams here from the four corners of Northern Ireland.

The accelerator based at 112DonegallSt has become one of the most coveted accelerators in Northern Ireland.  The programme run by Xcell Partners combines the best of regional mentors with international advisers and guest speakers – with equity investment being placed by Colman Equity.




AIB Start-up Academy Summit returns to Belfast

January 24, 2017

The AIB Start-up Academy Summit, the popular all-island start-up networking series, is set to return to Belfast with a bigger and better event designed to bring together local start-ups, business influencers and experts from across Northern Ireland for an evening of invaluable learning and networking opportunities.

As one of only four events across the island this year, the Belfast leg of the AIB Start-up Academy Summit will take place on the evening of Thursday 9th February at LIFE Church in Belfast, a popular Belfast venue for evening socials and events. Other events in the series are being held in Galway, Cork and Dublin.



StartFastStartBelfast #DitchThePitch

December 2, 2016

We were glad to get involved in supporting a new social startup initiative in Belfast this week, with the very first StartFastBelfast taking place at 112 Donegall St on Wednesday evening. There was a music theme based panel Q&A with musicians/entrepreneurs, being asked questions about their journey, obstacles and the challenges they had faced in business, as well as questions on their personal aspirations and dreams.  #startup #sangria

A great turnout and a follow on gathering at the Maverick bar on Union St.  Well done to all involved and looking forward to the next one.




Yedup Wins Propel Company of the Year

November 11, 2016

A BELFAST-based technology start-up which uses ground-breaking social media analytics to enable investors to access real-time information about market conditions and what their customers are thinking has been named Company of the Year at Invest NI’s Propel Programme Awards.

Yedup, which was founded by mathematicians Paul McWilliams and Dr. Martin Spollen from Belfast, analyses more than 100,000 social media posts every second, extracting investor and consumer views about financial services, companies and industry that can then be used to identify advantageous trading opportunities.

It is one of 18 start-up companies on the 2015/2016 Propel programme, which supports and develops export focused business ideas with high growth potential.

A judging panel of business leaders, mentors and funders applauded Yedup for its ground-breaking use of technology and presented the company with the top award at a ceremony in Riddell Hall.



Propel PitchUp Event Showcases NI Startups

October 14, 2016

The 6th Annual Propel PitchUp event was held at the Titanic Suites on 12th October.  18 companies pitched their business to a panel of investors and Tracy Meharg, Executive Director of Invest Northern Ireland. Thanks to Stephen Houston, Brian Cummings and Hal Wilson for helping selecting the overall winners of Propel ‘Company of the Year’ and ‘Best Go To Market’ Company.



Summer interns bring international flavour

August 26, 2016

With an international feel to the summer of 2016, with the European Football Championships and the Olympics taking place, it hasn’t been difficult to feel part of a global community.  Working with new companies, with global growth potential is what we do at Xcell Partners – an international perspective is compulsory!


Over the past few months we have given a home to 8 placement students from Italy, Portugal, Germany and Spain – which is in addition to local students given technical skills placements in gaming and software development companies housed at our co-working space 112DonegallSt.

The interns have been placed with technology startup companies participating in both the Propel Programme and StartPlanet accelerator, and we give special thanks for the support from both Intern Europe and the British Council/IAESTE for their continued support.


Start-up programme celebrates £18m milestone

July 6, 2016

We are proud to be the delivery agent for this programme, 8 years in we have worked with some fantastic entrepreneurs.

Twenty of Northern Ireland’s highest potential start-up businesses have been selected to participate in the second phase of the highly sought after Invest Northern Ireland Propel Programme and helped it reach a significant milestone of over £18m secured investment for current and past participants.

The programme, which is designed to fast-track export focused business ideas with high growth potential, has now assisted over 140 companies over the past five years and latest figures show that as well as the funding milestone, it has helped create over 430 jobs so far.

The 2016 cohort is comprised of a diverse range of start-ups including Swig, the world’s first dedicated hip flask brand, Unique 11, a social gaming platform recently selected to create the official IFA fantasy football game for Euro 2016 and Flyte, a company creating ground-breaking new software for drone pilots.   (more…)


We’re Hiring || Business Consultant

May 11, 2016

With ambitious plans for growth we are seeking to add to our team, with the addition of a Business Consultant.   If your passion is startups, with an understanding of early stage investment and a knack of getting the best out of people, then read on.

Our business is young, dynamic and makes a difference.


·         Work as part of a project team to deliver business growth consultancy.

·         Deliver 1-1 mentoring to early stage and startup companies.

·         Builds open & trusted client relationships.

·         Assist client companies develop investor ready business plans and investor pitches.

·         Understands the business dynamics and issues facing startup companies and their founders.

·         Is aware of client’s business and external factors that influence it.

·         Takes a lead role in improving the overall development of brainstorming sessions, project reviews etc.

For further details, head over to LinkedIn.


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