We Are Catalyst Logo

What is Co-Founders?

Co-Founders is a one-of-a-kind entrepreneurship programme for anyone interested in early-stage startup

What is Co-Founders?

A Co-Founder is a person who, in conjunction, with one or two others, is instrumental in starting a business.

Co-Founders is a unique entrepreneurship programme that helps you form a team with like-minded individuals, build creative confidence and develop a product that customers really want. It comprises two areas of focus:

  • how to be a Co-Founder and;
  • how to develop a product and growth mindset.

Co-Founders is open to ambitious and talented individuals or established teams interested in developing new product/service innovation focused on science, technology and engineering.

The programme has attracted diverse participants such as: software engineers, data scientists, sales and marketing experts, medical professionals, mechanical engineers, researchers, undergraduates and PhDs – as well as professionals with many years of experience.

The programme has a two phased approach. Phase 1 (Co-Founders Core) focuses on co-founding a start-up team and validating your team’s start-up idea. It’s a competitive process and if successful you will graduate onto phase two of the programme (Co-Founders+), which focuses on accelerating your start-up journey.

Who should apply for Co-Founders?

Applications for Co-Founders 2022 are now closed

Co-Founders is open to individuals who are curious and want to gain an understanding of product development and the world of start-ups. 

You could be someone with an idea for an exciting new product and need a team to make it happen – or you might have experienced success in your career to date, but want to help someone else get their idea off the ground. 

Established team can also apply, allowing you to potentially add further expertise to your team. 

Graduating as one of the winning teams will also grant access to Co-Founders+, the second phase of the programme, that begins the process of development and rapid growth.  

*Co-Founders is open to individuals or teams based in Northern Ireland.

  • Brilliant opportunity to meet talented and skilled individuals outside of your normal network. 
  • Helps build resilience by encouraging participants to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. 
  • Learn the difference between a product mindset and growth mindset and how to leverage both. 
  • Gain a better understanding of the startup ecosystem in Northern Ireland. 

Hear from the Co-Founders Alumni

Hear from our Co-Founders Alumni about how they brought their concepts from idea to prototype


Ruby's Fitness

The Process

Form a team

Form a team

Validate your idea

Validate your idea

Build a solution

Build a solution

The Process

  • Co-found a Team

    Co-Founders begins with forming a team. You might be someone with an idea looking for talent. You might be talented and looking for an idea to pursue. Or maybe you are already a small team looking for the missing link. All are welcome – and at our Hothouse weekend we will bring the full cohort together to facilitate that teambuilding process. 

  • Validate your idea

    So, you have a team – and your team has an idea. Now begins the process of validation. Working alongside subjectmatter experts, and through direct contact with our leadership team, you will begin to learn how to assess your own idea, how to make sure it tackles a real-world problem and verifying that the demand is there to create a scalable business. 

  • Build a solution

    Once your idea has been validated – it’s time to start building a solution to tackle the problem. Again, utilising subjectmatter experts and course materials, we will take you through the process of turning a great idea into a great solution. We will show you how to prototype, how to test and how to understand what makes your business proposition unique and valuable. You will then pitch your start-up at the final demo evening event for a potential £10K Proof of Concept Award.  

  • Accelerate Your Start-up

    If your team is one of the teams to win one of the £10K Proof of Concept Awards, then you will be invited to join the second phase of the programme, Co-Founders+. It is a mentorled, learning track programme which is specifically tailored to suit your start-up needs and is facilitated by some of the best minds in your solutions industry. The goal is to craft achievable milestones to push your start-ups potential to its upper limits.  

Hothouse Weekend

Here you will meet the cohort and find your start-up team: 

28th (6-8.30pm) and 29th January 2022

Design Thinking Bootcamp

Learn the tools and techniques of Design Thinking. You’ll use these throughout the core programme to identify the problem your start-up team wants to solve and come up with innovative ideas and solutions.

12th February 2022

Core Programme

Co-Founders Core Programme is phase one of the Co-Founders experience.

It is designed for people with great ideas to meet people who want to work on great ideas. To help them establish a founder team, and with that team created – validate their idea, test it in the real world, develop their business know-how and ultimately to create a business proposal to pitch for a £10K Proof of Concept Award.

It is a workshop-led, live learning environment. Where you will be presented with mini lectures from experienced professionals interspersed by practical breakouts with your team to take the concepts being discussed and put them into practice with your idea. As you progress down Phase 1, you will also get access to weekly coaching delivered by industry professionals.

We will equip you with training in Design Thinking and take you through a number of key stages in developing your start-up – Customer Research, Problem Framing, Journey Mapping, Testing as well as get into the nitty gritty of some of the less tactile subjects- like how to put a strong team together.

The goal for each team is to achieve one of the £10K Proof of Concept awards. You will pitch your business idea multiple times throughout Phase 1 – but as it reaches its conclusion, we will host what we call, Demo Night. During Demo Night a panel of external judges will select up to 10 winning teams to each receive £10K as well as access to Co-Founders+, Phase 2 of the programme – where we will take the winning ideas from Phase 1 and accelerate them further.

Monday 6-8.30pm from 21st February –  30th May (one night a week)


  • Location – The programme is delivered online via Zoom and Hivebrite. 
  • Cost – FREE (However, significant time commitment is expected). 
  • 10 x £10K Awards will be awarded to top teams at Demo Evening at the end of the programme. 


Application Deadline

Applications for Co-Founders 2022 are now closed for this cohort.

Co-Founders FAQs

  • Do I need to have an idea for a product?

    No – to form well-balanced teams we need people with “can do” attitudes and skills focused on the technology, engineering and science sectors. Previous candidates have included experienced professionals through to undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers – what’s important is getting the right balance on the team. We’ve had people from the following sectors on previous cohorts of the programme: Product Managers/Designers, Data Scientists, Medical Professionals, Software Developers / CTOs, Engineers, Architects, Wealth Managers, Lawyers, Project Managers, Entrepreneurs, Product Developers, UX Designers, Marketing / Digital Specialists, Sales/Business Development Professionals

  • How do you form the teams?

    On the first night of the Hothouse weekend, everyone will do a personal pitch by way of introduction to the group. For the remainder of the weekend, we will facilitate a series of energetic challenges aimed at getting to know each other and building relationships. A team of experts will also be analysing the group and providing suggestions for team formation. We encourage everyone to network over the first few weeks of the programme to help make an informed decision about who they want to work within a team. Everyone has to be in a team for entry into the Core Programme.

  • Can teams apply?

    Yes, you can apply if you’re already part of a team but you have to apply as individuals and everyone has to take part in the Hothouse weekend. For readily formed teams, the programme can help identify if they need to bring an additional person onto their team. We know from experience that early-stage startups usually have 2 to 4 people so 4 is the maximum number for a team on the programme.

  • What happens if I don't find anyone I want to work with during team formation?

    This is perfectly normal and if you don’t meet someone in the first 4 weeks, you will have developed your network with a bunch of like-minded and skilled individuals and will have learnt new skills. You are welcome to come back to a future cohort and try again with a fresh batch of candidates.

  • Do you expect everyone to have created a product/startup at the end of the programme?

    No, the Co-Founders programme is the first step on your entrepreneurial journey, introducing you to the support and help available and more importantly helping you to validate your idea.

  • Do you provide funding?

    No, we are not a funding body but will provide advice on funding available in Northern Ireland to help you build a minimal viable product and hopefully a successful startup.

  • What about IP?

    All candidates have to sign NDAs at the start of the programme however it is up to each candidate and/or team to manage their own IP.

  • Can I apply directly to Co-Founders+?

    Currently we do not allow start-ups to apply directly to Co-Founders+. Co-Founders+ is designed for start-ups that have gone through all the learning elements of the core programme and received a PoC award. If you believe you have an idea that would benefit from Co-Founders+ then consider applying to Co-Founders Core Programme first.

  • Who can apply to Co-Founders?

    Co-Founders is open to individuals or teams based in Northern Ireland.

Meet the Co-Founders Team

Patrick McIlveen

Patrick McIlveen

Programme Associate

Hannah Cummings

Hannah Cummings

Programme Manager

Jacqueline McCann

Jacqueline McCann

Progression Coach

Siofra Frost

Siofra Frost

Programme Coordinator

Sign up to our newsletter

Stay up to date with news, events and more.

      We Are Catalyst - © 2022