It is less than two months away from this year’s Entrepreneur Experience and Pete Smyth is excited about partnering 24 emerging entrepreneurs with 24 experienced ones.

Pete Smyth, the founder of investment company Broadlake, is captain of the annual event, a unique 24-hour programme that combines mentoring, networking, learning, and the sharing of ideas.

Organisers CorkBIC alongside event partners are seeking emerging founders to enter this year’s event, which takes place annually in Ballymaloe House in Middleton, Co Cork.

Last year, the event managed to attract 50 per cent female emerging entrepreneurs for the first time, and the target this year is to achieve this result again.

The Entrepreneur Experience is also hoping for at least a third of its mentors to be female and 20 per cent of its founders to be working in impact orientated businesses. “Last year went really well,” Smyth said. “But this year we want to work even more with underrepresented groups. Whether that is working with Ukrainian entrepreneurs or minority groups we want the EE to be inclusive and accessible.”

Smyth said this year seasoned and emerging entrepreneurs would be a mix of ages. He said he was also conscious of the economic environment facing people who have founded businesses or are thinking about it. “With the war, inflation, energy prices and the challenges of raising capital especially in the tech sector it isn’t an easy time to be an entrepreneur,” Smyth said.

“But great businesses get founded in hard times, not easy ones. Early-stage entrepreneurs need guidance and support more than ever. Raising money is harder so it is important to be efficient with it.”

The Entrepreneurs Experience took place virtually during Covid-19 before returning as a physical event last year. Smyth said the wind-down in government support, tightness in the labour market, issues in product supply chains and the continuing uncertainty of Brexit made having a mentor more important for start-ups.

“Seasoned entrepreneurs can help you avoid potholes and wasting time and energy,” he said. For experienced entrepreneurs, there was also the prospect of “reverse mentoring.”

Smyth points to America, where executives in large organisations are increasingly working with young graduates and entrepreneurs in order to learn about emerging trends in consumer behaviour.

“We find that seasoned entrepreneurs get as much out of the experience as newer ones,” he said. “Their ideas and thinking are challenged too. We are really looking forward to this year’s experience and hope the next generation of entrepreneurs will consider joining us in an open and inclusive environment that is about sharing and learning from each other,” he said.

Alumni feedback

The Currency spoke to a selection of emerging entrepreneurs who the event in previous years to get an understanding of how they found the Entrepreneur Experience.


Thriftify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform for charity shops founded by Rónán Ó Dálaigh in 2014.

Timur Negru and Rónán Ó Dálaigh

Entrepreneur Experience graduate: 2021

Mentor: Brian Crowley, founder of TTM Group and COO of Broadlake.

Rónán Ó Dálaigh: “There are a lot of workshops and accelerators, but the Entrepreneur Experience is miles ahead. It is very collaborative and based on peer-to-peer learning. Our mentor Brian is a trained coach and facilitator, so he is not coming in as if he knows it all. He facilitated us in coming up with our answers which was really empowering. We met some amazing people including one person who introduced us to two angel investors who backed us in our recent funding round (of €1.6 million). We also now have the ability to pick up the phone to the people we met and ask them for advice. It was a great opportunity for qualified networking. It wasn’t like being in a random room of professionals as it is a very curated event where you are matched with people who are relevant. That is a much better use of your time.”

Kuul Play

Kuul Play is a digital platform for developing physical literacy for children founded by Clare McSweeney.

Clare McSweeney

Entrepreneur Experience graduate: 2021

Mentor: Denise Tormey, cofounder of PlanNet21

Clare McSweeney: “My big takeaway was work on your ‘one thing’ as it is easy to get caught up in the minutiae. My mentor Denise Tormey’s perspective and insights on Kuul Play’s growth in the US market and her actionable takeaways were so impactful.”

McSweeney said she would recommend it to others. “It is a unique opportunity to step back from your business and immerse yourself in a fantastic experience with both seasoned and peer entrepreneurs.”

Ocean Revive

Ocean Revive is a clothing and product maker that recycles plastics from the ocean, founded by Tom Cotter.

Tom Cotter

Entrepreneur Experience graduate: 2019 and 2021

Mentor: Patrick Hickey, co-founder of Rothco and chair of Mobility Mojo.

Tom Cotter: “I struggled to articulate what we were doing in a clear, concise message, and by working with my mentor, Patrick Hickey, we stripped it right back to an easy-to-understand 30-sec pitch,” Cotter said. “I found both times incredibly energising and inspirational. The experience helped to refocus my attention on what is most important over the following three, six and twelve months.” Cotter said Hickey reviewed his plan in-depth and within the 24 hours had helped him form a plan to find a chairperson and a strategy to work on his company’s culture as well as marketing channels.  “I would highly recommend the EE to anyone starting or growing a company,” Cotter said. “It’s not for the faint-hearted; you need to be open to constructive criticism and soak in the vast amount of experience around you.”


Riley delivers sustainable period products to your door and was co-founded by Aine Kilkenny. 

Aine Kilkenny, Fiona Parfrey, and Lauren Duggan

Entrepreneur Experience graduate: 2021

Mentor: Joe O’Sullivan the CEO of Ophir, a new product introduction and supply chain management company.

Aine Kilkenny: “The Entrepreneur Experience gave me the opportunity to look at the business from the outside and gain different perspectives and inspiration for the future.” Kilkenny said her mentor Joe O’Sullivan helped her with some of the toughest challenges facing her startup. “We were finding our supply chain particularly challenging during that time and Joe was able to give practical and strategic advice stemming from his own experience,” she said. “I made many connections that I still reach out to for help or advice a year after the event.”

How to enter:

Date: Friday 14 and Saturday 15 October 2022 in Ballymaloe, Co. Cork.

To enter apply via Applications are open until September 9. 

The 2022 Entrepreneur Experience Partners are: Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Grant Thornton, Broadlake, William Fry LLP, and The Currency.