Get Started 2016:
When I stepped into the Helix on Tuesday afternoon, I felt apprehensive. What was going to happen? Would I be counting down the minutes until I could have my dinner? Would I be inspired to start my own business the moment I walked out the door? Would I be put off entrepreneurship for life? In the end, none of these scenarios arose, so read on to get the real scoop on ‘Get Started 2016’.
As I was taking my seat, I was struck by the charged atmosphere which had enveloped the Helix. Upbeat music was playing over the speakers, and there was plenty of last minute chatting amongst my peers. At the front of the Helix, I could see all the speakers networking like pros.
We heard from six entrepreneurs in total, each unique and exciting in their own way. Philippe Brodeur, CEO and founder of Overcast HQ kicked things off with an engaging chat about his company.
Timing is crucial:
Overcast is a management system based in the cloud. It makes it easier for firms to access video content, saving them time and money when making presentations.
What struck me most about Brodeur’s talk was his remark that often timing can be more important in business than the actual idea. If the timing isn’t right, no matter how good the idea is, it won’t pan out. This statement led me to an interesting article written for Forbes magazine by the CEO of Swiftpage John Oechsle. In the article, Oechsle observes that ‘Looking into the future of business trends for your industry can determine if now is the optimal time to hit the market.’ As per the Gem Report sponsored by Enterprise Ireland in 2014, Ireland had only 6.5% of the population in the early stages of entrepreneurship in comparison to 13.8% in the US. What is stopping us?
Network to strengthen your team:
Next up onto the stage were Brian O’Rourke and Alan Farrelly, CEO and COO respectively of CitySwifter. Their business is designed to make commuting in urban areas easier, without over-reliance on undependable public transport. A shuttle bus is hired using crowd funding and takes the group to wherever they want to go. In their own words, Cityswifter is ‘a way to get from a to b without having to worry about the in between.’
Once again the concept of timing came to the fore, as O’Rourke and Farrelly spoke about launching CitySwifter before it was 100% ready, due to the Dublin Bus strikes of autumn 2016. The strikes were a unique opportunity to get plenty of media coverage and grab the attention of those commuters who would not have ordinarily used the service. Below I have linked a wonderful video from RTE News, mentioning CitySwifter during their launch week.
I learned from the lads that, surprisingly, a degree in business does not necessarily mean that you are more likely to succeed in your business venture. Alan Farrelly does not have a business degree but has a family in this bus industry. This unique insight into the industry along with O’Rourke’s DCU business degree provides a much broader set of skills than just O’Rourke’s skills alone. The emphasis on extending my network of skills truly hit home, so if you’re looking for me in the coming weeks, I shall be networking with and befriending some techies!
Does your idea need you?
When I thought about entrepreneurship before ‘Get Started,’ I thought about extreme ambition, long hours, unconditional self-confidence and above all else, the pursuit of money.
But when Elva Carri, founder of Girlcrew, stepped onto the stage, my perception began to change. Small, blonde, relatable and infectiously bubbly, Elva Carri opened her talk by repeatedly emphasizing the fact that she never wanted to be an entrepreneur. Instead, she found herself feeling lonely one night when her friends were unable to go dancing.
Upon putting a message on the popular app ‘Tinder’, Elva found out that she was not alone. Thousands of women, both in Dublin and around the globe, find themselves lacking the confidence to go to events by themselves. GirlCrew is a simple idea, which is perhaps why it is so effective. All a woman must do is sign up to the website (or get the new Girlcrew app), find other women in her area, chat to them online and then take it from there.
Elva knew her business idea is a good one because ‘it doesn’t need her’ to personally connect the women on the website. Girlcrew naturally bridges the gap between making a new friend and enjoying fun events, without a third person needed. Girlcrew also has a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blog, and I highly recommend checking out the fascinating ‘Meet the Girlcrewer’ feature, which highlights the diversity of Girlcrew members.
Linked below is a short video all about the Girlcrew story:
If at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again:
Gavin Walsh, CEO and founder of iCabbi proved to the audience that when a business idea fails, try and try again. Gavin discussed how his father’s entrepreneurship inspired him to follow in his footsteps, setting up his first successful business selling Christmas trees at the age of 19.
I have since found out that, this is actually how many young people start their journey of entrepreneurship. Interestingly I found out that you are 45% more likely to set up your own business if a one or both parents are entrepreneurial.
I was surprised at how open Gavin was about his biggest business flop MyFashionFair.com, a company set up at the start of the recession designed to swap clothes amongst women. The business never took off, but it was clear that Gavin learnt from his mistake, going on to set up iCabbi after being stranded in Portugal, wishing he could order a taxi. From this, I learned that resilience is perhaps one of the most important entreprenurial traits.
iCabbi is an excellent example of a creative, adaptable business model. The iCabbi website proudly calls itself ‘an innovative cloud-based dispatch system for forward-thinking fleets around the world.’
The main thing I took from Gavin’s talk was the quote
‘If not me, who. If not now, when?’
In my opinion, this quote exemplifies entrepreneurial spirit. iCabbi aims to become the global leader in taxi dispatch, and with Gavin displaying so many key entrepreneurial traits, I have no doubt that it will.
Iseult Ward, co-founder of FoodCloud, a food distribution charity, was my favorite speaker of the conference. Until Iseult spoke, I had never realized that charity and business go hand in hand. FoodCloud is a non-profit charity, yet it is still a business.
When still a Trinity business student, Iseult was disturbed by the amount of food wastage which occurs every day. Per current research, in Ireland alone, 1 million tons of food is thrown out by consumers and businesses each year. I know I am personally guilty of wasting good food, as is everyone.
FoodCloud has developed a system whereby retailers can post what food they have leftover that day, which may go to waste. Local charities can then view this post and decide whether they would like to take the food or not. This saves the business money on getting rid of the food, while also feeding hungry mouths.
On reflection, though, I learned that Social Entrepreneurship is not s simple as it seems. In my mind, I thought that a superb idea + a wish to improve society should be a recipe for success.
This is not always the case, as I learned when researching the expansion of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream. In 1988, when Ben Cohen and Gerry Greenfield wished to expand the brand beyond tubs of ice-cream, they came up with the ‘Peace Pop’ ice lolly. The idea was that 1% of the price of the pop would go to charities dedicated to achieving world peace. But marketing for the ‘Peace Pop’ was not strong enough, and the product failed. In the words of Jerry Greenfield, ‘We learned that a product doesn’t sell just because you’re trying to do good in the world.’ This made me realize that if I do set up my own business in the future, I must develop my marketing skills.
What struck me most about FoodCloud though, is how simple it is to globalize. FoodCloud is now rapidly growing throughout the UK, thanks to Tesco, and has now donated the equivalent of 5,106,000 meals. Iseult and her co-founder Aoibheann O’Brian also hope to expand to the US in 2017.
The phrase ‘scalable business model’ came up again and again during the conference, and it was clear that globalization is a key aim of every entrepreneur today. I feel that I should work on my planning skills if I wish to globalize a start-up in the future
FoodCloud has received many awards for innovation, most notably the Google Adopt-A-Start-up Competition, the Seeds and Chips Visionary Award, and the Social Enterprise Ireland (SEI) Award 2014 (which was also won by the 2015 Get Digital speaker Mary Maloney of Coderdojo).
It seemed to me that the biggest problem facing FoodCloud today is how to deal with the huge amount of surplus bread they collect. I have been wracking my brain for a solution to this problem since the conference, and if anyone as any ideas leave a comment below!
|Bread Idea 1:|
|Bread Idea 2:||Make houses out of bread|
Location, Location, Location:
Next up was Adrian Mihai, a seasoned entrepreneur from Transylvania. Co-founder of Opening.io, which is a software designed to filter the recruitment process for firms, helping them to locate suitable candidates faster. Adrian spoke about how he felt that founding your business in a location where other businesses are succeeding will improve its chances of survival. This point emphasized why he chose to set up his business in Dublin rather than Transylvania, where less funding is available to young entrepreneurs. When I did my own research on this topic, I discovered that Ireland is hugely popular for business start-ups, with over 50% of leading Financial Services firms choosing to locate here along with 8 out of the world’s ten leading Pharmaceutical companies.
Adrian also stated that the initial aim of a new business should be only to survive, which is something that I do not agree with. I personally feel that the initial aim of a business should be to connect and resonate with the target market as, for example, Alan Farrelly and Brian O’Rourke did when they launched Cityswifter during the Dublin bus strikes.
Closing the conference, was our host Andrew Keogh, founder of Aristo, a company which specializes in Liam Casey, PCH, a custom-manufacturing company which generates over 900 million in revenue, with its aim being to find a way to manufacture what companies need. Keogh ended the conference on an overwhelmingly positive note, giving the audience plenty of food for thought.
When I came home after the DICE lecture, my mindset had changed. In our lecture on entrepreneurship, the idea of starting my own business never once appealed to me.
While I find entrepreneurial statistics interesting, particularly the fact that women are less likely to start their own business in Ireland. I feel like I did not personally engage with the topic until ‘Get Started’ inspired me. Something about seeing real people taking risks, being resilient and working hard on a day-to-day basis makes my creative juices flow.
Watch this space for Jennifer Farrelly, entrepreneur extraordinaire!
DCU Picture- My own