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As a sponsor of the Startups Awards, now in it’s 12th year, one of the hardest but most exciting challenges is being a judge where you have to sift through many excellent entries to distill that down to a shortlist of 6. This year was no different from 2014 and indeed previous years, where the strength of the entries in the service category reflects how important a category this is to the UK economy. Indeed, the Financial Times reports that the services sector is the real powerhouse of the UK economy where it accounts for over 75% of GDP and in fact, is one of the few parts of the economy to have surpassed its pre-recession peak.

Needless to say we are absolutely honoured and delighted to be the chosen sponsor of the service category. It may sound glib but the high standard of entries is always a pleasure and a challenge. If I may be critical of one thing and I’d use this opportunity to pass on some advice to companies considering spending the time entering an awards competition. Take the time to write, review and then rewrite your entry. You’d be surprised how little preparation, it appears, that some companies put into their submissions. It’s such a pity because for want of some better attention to detail, there is very chance you’d make the shortlist but how can you expect a judge to look favourably when you’ve overlooked some basic grammar rules.

Likewise, when it comes to the pitch, that is getting in front of the judges, please practice before you pitch.

The 2015 Startup Awards Service Business Finalist 2015:


Start-up name: Housekeep
Founders: Avin Rabheru
Started in: 2014
Based in: London
Business description: Online booking platform for home cleaners


Start-up name: ForrestBrown
Founder: Simon Brown
Started in: 2013
Based in: Bristol
Business description: Business consultancy focused on R&D tax credits

Gate One

Start-up name: Gate One
Founders: Tim Phillips, Simon Dennis, David Holliday and Alex McEvoy
Started in: 2013
Based in: London
Business description: Specialist business transformation consultancy


Start-up name: LOVESPACE
Founder: Brett Akker
Started in: 2012
Based in: London
Business description: By-the-box storage collected from your door

Much Better Adventures

Start-up name: Much Better Adventures
Founders: Alex Narracott, Sam Bruce and Guy Bowden  
Started in: 2012
Based in: London
Business description: Online marketplace for tailor-made adventure and activity holidays

Roc Technologies

Start-up name: Roc Technologies
Founders:  Mike Hockey, Sam Simpson, Steve Shirley and Matt Franklin
Started in: 2013
Based in: Berkshire
Business description: Managed services provider

The Service Business Finalist 2015 and the other Startups Awards winners will be announced at a grand awards ceremony at the Vinopolis, London Bridge hosted by comedian Alun Cochrane on the evening of Friday 27 November.

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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