Irish entrepreneur and kitesurfer Philip McNamara has created a unique new competition for aspiring company founders this June in Ireland. The winners will get flown to network with high profile investors and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. The event is called Startapp Competition and mixes startup pitch sessions with a weekend in Achill Island kitesurfing, cycling and tech talks from influential entrepreneurs and investors.

Event creator McNamara moved to the US 4 years ago, and found it challenging to build a network in San Francisco.

“I was new to the city, did not know anyone, had a business plan and a few leads, but that was about it. I was sleeping on a friend's couch, trying to get meetings with investors, and hoping for the best. Even things like getting a US mobile phone, a car, all those things were hard to do.”

But McNamara had a good starting place because of his involvement in Kitesurfing in Ireland. He started to get to know some people in the city that were kitesurfers.

“Luckily for me, Kitesurfing is known as "the new golf" 

and as I spent time with other kite surfers in Silicon Valley they turned out to be well known CEOs and venture capitalists. Eventually, I got an invite to an exclusive event in Maui, Hawaii called MaiTai where 150 people were invited to take part.

And Startapp Competition Ireland was born, McNamara wanted to recreate the event in Maui, but back in Achill, Mayo.

“Why Achill? Because it is remote, has great wind and great beaches, and also has a lodge and school called Pure Magic Lodge.

Another key factor for McNamara was that he wanted to create a great prize for the winning startup, which would provide everything needed for when founders arrived in San Francisco from an office, a phone, a car, to most importantly - introductions to VCs.

McNamara has gathered an impressive list of entrepreneurs, investors and mentors to participate and travel to Ireland this June. Sean Percival, Venture Partner 500 Startups and Gabriella Draney of Tech Wildcatters are just some of the talent who will be in attendance.

Startapp Competition is a competitive event taking place in Belfast (June 3rd) and Dublin (June 4th), where the winners get to travel to Silicon Valley. This event is taking place with the support and help of sponsors (Invest Northern Ireland, Enterprise Ireland primarily). Eight high profile investors will fly to Ireland for a week where they will visit Belfast and Dublin, attending and judging startup pitching events. Afterwards, the group will visit Achill Island, to enjoy kitesurfing, surfing, cycling and tech talks by experts.

For McNamara this is all about “Trying to make it less hard to get into Silicon Valley, without having to spend years to build a network. All Irish Americans know that it takes time to build a network in the States, but this way, the process is somewhat fast tracked, because you're spending the weekend with these people, hopefully making some friends, and having fun.

There is an impressive prize package on offer so if you are a founder who fancies participating in this great event you can enter here -

- Flights to San Francisco

- 3 month stay in a top class technology incubator/office

- ZipCar Membership

- Phone and unlimited calling and data plan

- meetings with angel investors

- meetings with venture capital investors

- mentoring with CEOs from around the valley

For Mc Namara the key differentiator from the myriad other startup competitions that exist.

“Most startup competitions are a 5 minute pitch, and that's it. Our competition is where the winners spend a weekend with investors, plus then go to the home of startups and technolgy, and get a lot of help to get their company off the ground.”

Philip McNamara also has a day job, he is Managing Director, Voxpro USA. He finds and works with Silicon Valley companies who are expanding in Europe and who need to grow their business without being forced to open offices all over Europe to do so.

Cork based Voxpro are Ireland's largest exporter of multi lingual tech support services. The company helps technology companies like Airbnb, Google, Nest and others to grow in Europe, by answering calls and emails from their customers, in foreign languages, on their behalf. The company will double in size in 2015 (from 500 to 1000 employees) and are rapidly expanding right now. (