Two weeks ago I was sitting in the Helix in DCU for the DICE Get Started ‘16 conference while suddenly I was overcome by a sudden feeling of bewilderment. I can only presume that this feeling was from the underwhelming response when the MC of the evening Andrew Keogh posed a question something along the lines of: ‘Has anyone in the audience here today ever thought of starting a business?’. As a business owner myself (cough cough Robotify cough cough..) the lack of hands in the air really did surprise me. However over the coming hours that was all to change.
What then occurred was a three and something hour absolute blockbuster of a conference. Riddled with industry standard entrepreneurs giving their experience on stage. The main narrative of this conference was really the struggle, the study and the survival of being entrepreneur. One aspect which really did show out of all these amazing speakers was their true and burning passion for starting something new. This was something which stuck with me as I walked out of this hall. Over the next few paragraphs I will discuss the content of these insightful and brilliant talks.
Philippe Brodeur – OvercastHQ
Co-founder of cloud-based video collaboration platform OvercastHQ, Philippe Brodeur gave a talk on the importance and value of differentiation in the business world. Such as the other guest speakers, Philippe gave an invaluable insight into his entrepreneurial experience i.e. what works and what doesn’t. As a self-proclaimed entrepreneur one thing which is difficult for me is funding. The age old dilemma of ‘I have an awesome idea and I can’t do it without funding but I can’t get funding unless I have proof of that awesome idea working?’ stood through with Philippe. However Philippe drew our attention to the fact that traction is vital for funding! He discussed how you have to find a happy medium between compromising your product in order to gain traction in order to eventually make your product better!
Finding the Niche was something which Philippe also discussed. This is the very definition of differentiation. In order to disrupt something you must find the niche and get at it from another angle in order to truly disrupt it. Look at what apple did with the computer industry in the 80s. They took what was already a huge industry ran by IBM and introduced a lower cost, more user-friendly option. They found the niche to differentiate themselves and disrupted an entire industry. What is left is one of the largest companies the world has seen and it all started with finding the niche. Philippe’s approach to entrepreneurship reminded me of a theory I read about in a Psychology module I am taking currently which is Locke’s Theory of Motivation. After finding the niche the next step is to work hard and to reach certain goals in order to attain funding (Locke, 1996).
Philippe Brodeur TLDR; Find the niche, work hard and get funding.
Brian O’Rourke & Alan Farrell – CitySwifter
These two lads gave an absolute cracker of a talk one which resonated with me dearly. Brian and Alan discussed how important it is to build a team of people you can trust around you. In a world becoming borderless (well at least it was before BREXIT and Trump..) it is so so important to take advantage of having a diverse team with a diverse skillset. Working with people who have different skills to you can create a synergy which is almost unquantifiable to a business.
The impressive duo who have founded an alternative transport service known as CitySwifter also discussed the importance of using failure in getting success. You’ve got to build → fail → talk to consumers → learn → get in a room → and just work! Their ethos of getting in a room to work on it reminded me of the Jobs and Wozniak-esque humble beginnings and interestingly it is also something which has been hugely popular in recent years (Audia and Rider, 2005). Fair play to the guys for delivering one of the most genuine talks I have heard since the dawn of my existence. A1 from me.
Brian O’Rourke & Alan Farrell TLDR; Build → fail → talk to consumers → learn → get in a room → and just work!
Elva Carri – GirlCrew
Founder of GirlCrew Elva Carri really impressed me with her sheer enthusiasm for what she does. Elva is a prime example of somebody that was thrusted into an entrepreneurial life by accident. Elva told the enthralling story of founding the social meetup network for women (AS FRIENDS!). It went a little something like this…
“So one night I was bored and none of my friends were around and I just wanted to go for a dance. Not having my friends around was not ideal and I didn’t want to go on my own so I changed my gender to male on Tinder to look for new girl friends to go dancing with! All of a sudden I got loads of people wanting to just go have fun and dance!”
And yes I am serious. This awesome idea came from somewhere nobody would have expected, not even Elva. However, it is of my opinion this is why many businesses are successful. If a founder is coming from a real and genuine place it makes it a lot easier to succeed, trust me! After a few meetings Elva started the website GirlCrew.com, befriending techies to make life easier the website soon took off and is now a one of the kind network for being social and making new friends in real life.
Elva Carri TLDR; Come from a real place, solve problems in creative ways, befriend techies and do things as cheaply and quickly as humanly possible!
Gavan Walsh – iCabby
Co-founder of taxi organisation service iCabby and EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award nominee Gavan Walsh delivered an impressive talk on the process of becoming a fully fledged company. He posed the ancient, motivational question which has surrounded humanity since the dawn of time; “If not me, who? If not now, when?”. In my mind Gav portrayed all the characteristics of an entrepreneur. He had and idea, he took the risk and he saw it through. An entrepreneur is defined as an individual independently owning and actively managing a business (Carland et al., 1984; Stewart Jr. and Roth, 2001) and I believe this definition to be suitable to Gavan.
Gavan described something known as ‘the point of no return’. He described it was a moment in time where you realise the business is either going to work or it isn’t. At this stage you are so committed that there is no turning back. You either fail or succeed. He defined an entrepreneurs as those who ‘take the next step’ and he advised us all to be ambitious. Personally I respect what Gavan has done and I think he embodies the characteristics of the typical entrepreneur.
Gavan Walsh TLDR; “If not me, who? If not now, when?”, Point of no return = success or failure, entrepreneurs need to have the courage to take the next step, be ambitious.
Adrian Mihai – Openings.io
Adrian Mihai is a serial entrepreneur from Transylvania (mwahahahaha!) in Romania. After selling off his previous ventures he is now working on Openings.io. This is a piece of software which employs “linguistic algorithms to identify patterns within the structure and phrasing of job posts and CVs, converting them into data points to match candidates to suitable jobs.” according to their site. Adrians talk gave an insight into a more technical mind approaching business and entrepreneurship in a much more pragmatic manner than the previous speakers.
Adrian believes that humans start businesses in order to satisfy a deep need that is to feel fulfilled. While I somewhat agree with the premise I don’t agree entirely with this view. The way I see motivation for becoming an entrepreneur is the want to do something different to set oneself apart from the crowd and to try make a change whether it affect their life or the lives of many.
However I really feel as though I gained a great extra degree of understanding from listening to Adrians talk. Within it he discussed how he views starting a new venture in a process driven set of stages and it’s almost as if due to his coding background he viewed entrepreneurship from a completely different angle. This is something which grabbed my attention. Adrian believes a business should deliver a prototype fast, validate this prototype and then survive. He also placed good emphasis on not looking for investment just for the sake of it.This is something which certainly did not echo the opinion of Philip Brodeur in an earlier talk. This pragmatic view of entrepreneurship is similar to that of the Bank of Ireland – Starting a business guide.
Adrian Mihai TLDR; Entrepreneurs start in order to feel fulfilled, Deliver a prototype → Validate → Survive → Don’t look for investment unless you really need it.
Iseult Ward – FoodCloud
Co-founder of charitable app FoodCloud which connects supermarkets with the less fortunate by giving them a platform on which they can donate their excess food to charity organisations. It is an example of what is known as a social enterprise. A social enterprise is defined as “a business model that puts people and community first, ahead of private or personal gain, while operating in a commercially viable and sustainable way” by socialenterprise.ie!
Iseult gave an extremely insightful and inspiring talk on the concept of social entrepreneurship explaining her story and how she came to be so successful. What I gained most from this talk was the concept of doing something YOU TRULY BELIEVE IN! A lot of people start out a business looking to make money first. In my opinion if you are not starting a business doing something you believe in then there’s no point in starting at all because by default it will be a failure. If you can’t believe in something why expect others to believe in it? This viewpoint was only simply backed up by GirlCrew’s Elva Carri previously. It is also a premise which governs the whole concept of social enterprise. A great quote from Iseult’s talk is to “just wing it”! As an aspiring entrepreneur it is nice to know someone else adopts my ingenious approach to pretty much every single aspect of my business.
Iseult Ward TLDR; Social Entrepreneurs do good things, DO WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN, just wing it.
To conclude after listening to all of these top entrepreneurs speak about their wonderful projects it was hard not to feel incredibly inspired to be productive. One thing which became evidently clear as I was listening to each one of these speakers and after attending a class on entrepreneurship with DICE was that there are countless numbers of theories and studies which can and do govern entrepreneurship as a whole and I have cited but a few. However, no book, journal, study or definition can define these people we know as entrepreneurs. Because each one has his or her own story, own views and own morals. After attending Get Started I feel as though my entrepreneurial skillset has been significantly improved and that is extremely difficult considering how great I already am…For real though entrepreneurs never give up and Get Started ‘16 was incredible! Props to the DICE team. I’ve been Adam, this has been a blog, goodbye.
PS When the question was posed at the end again there were a lot more people interested in becoming an entrepreneur than there was at the start, thats good.
TLDR; Struggle, Study, Survive.