I certainly was! After a nice long Christmas break and plenty of rest, I was more than ready for my third DICE conference. This was the conference that I had been looking forward to the most and it did not disappoint. Get Started was all about explaining to us about entrepreneurship; what is it, who can do it, and how can we do it?
These questions were answered by 7 different speakers, who varied in terms of success with some having reached the top of their game already and others still reaching for their end goal, but on a fantastic journey nonetheless. This diverse mix of entrepreneurs allowed us to see the different stages involved in setting up a business and taught us a little bit about what it means to be enterprising.
As a business student, I’ve always aspired to become my own boss one day. In fact, I wanted it so much that the sole reason I chose to do my course in college was because I get to do two internships, which will give me good business experience and it might be easier for me to gain international contacts when the time comes if I have as second language! I never thought that there were organisations in Ireland which would be able to help me integrate with the wider world, until Get Started!
Niamh Bushnell, Dublin Commissioner for Start-ups and Angel Investor
Niamh Bushnell opened my eyes to the wonderful world of business in Dublin, as Dublin Commissioner for Start-ups, her job is to promote the city as a beehive of entrepreneurial activity in which businesses can thrive. I have to say that I found her talk really interesting because she seems to have had an amazing career and I think that it is brilliant that she is trying to encourage enterprise in Dublin because, as she mentioned, there are a number of reasons why Dublin is the ideal location for getting started in your own business…
- Cheap as chips! The corporation tax in Dublin is lower than most other EU countries so this should attract a large number of international companies to the city who are looking to get started in the EU market or in any market
- Can do attitude – There are so many organisations in Dublin specifically created to help people who are starting out in business find their way to success! The ones that Niamh mentioned were U Start and The Ryan Academy.
- Collaboration among Entrepreneurs! Niamh went into detail about the fantastic enterprising atmosphere that was in Dublin and how all of the entrepreneurs are welcoming toward ‘new kids on the block’ There are also numerous mentors in Dublin who coach start-ups and provide them with expert advice on how to go about getting started!
Overall, I learned a lot from Niamh about why I should set up in Dublin and not abroad! Before Niamhs’ speech I would have never considered staying in Ireland after college and trying to get started here in Dublin, but now that I can see how much of a catch the city is for budding entrepreneurs like myself, in a couple of years time, you might be listening to me at a Get Started Conference!
Dublin City, the ideal location to start up in business
So now that we knew where we should start up, what else was there to know except for why we should start up and how we should go about doing so! Our next speaker, David McKernan, founder and CEO of Java republic spoke to us a little bit about why we should bother going out on our own and he gave us some insight as to how we can go about getting funding for our business when we do!
Going out on your own
David had an interesting story to tell us about the journey he had to go on in order to become the successful entrepreneur that he is today. One thing resonated with me after his talk and it was that you have to be extremely passionate about what you are doing if you are starting up a business because it’s no easy task. His passion for Java coffee was so fierce, you could tell by the way he spoke about his business that it was his pride and joy. I think in order to be an entrepreneur you have to have a firm self-belief in your idea and also in yourself. It’s a huge task to undertake but it would be even harder if you had to try and inspire others to work for something you didn’t believe in, what would be the point? David described the challenges he faced on his journey ,such as being slated for ‘dressing like a knacker’ and I learnt that in order to be a successful entrepreneur you must be resilient and determined to do well because at the end of the day, its you vs. you. You will be the only one holding yourself back and you will be the only one who can propel yourself forward.
David McKernan, CEO and founder of Java Republic
David was of the opinion that we should all go out on our own because the freedom that accompanies the struggle of starting up your own business is incomparable with anything else according to him! He gave us the following and tips as to how we should go about getting funding for our future businesses;
1.Trust is key!
Angel investors (rich people with a lot of money) always want to invest in someone they trust. If you can be open and honest with all of your shareholders and manage their expectations effectively you should have no problems sourcing finance! David advised us to go with angel investors above anyone else when sourcing finance because you can get what you want in return for giving them a small share in the company!
2. Steer Clear of Venture Capitalists! They want to take back double what they gave you and you’ll end up in trouble!
Davids talk was very insightful and I feel like I learnt a lot about what type of personality you must have in order to become an entrepreneur, I would definitely take his advice on board for the future and try and apply the tips he gave me when I get to starting up my own business!
So now that I have a clear idea of how to get the funding for my business and I know where I’m starting off, what else should I take into account before my business is up and running and making me millions? The most logical answer is how am I going to get people to know what my product is about and want to invest in my product! This all comes down to explaining what my business is about and getting people to test it. The next two speakers at Get Started, Sean Ahern and Kealan Lennan were brilliant in explaining it to us!
The answer to the first question “How do I get people to know what my product is about” was explained by none other than Sean Ahern, CEO and founder of ThankFrank.com .
”ThankFrank.com is all about creating a thank you economy to reward goodwill.” Sean Ahern was a very interesting speaker for get started because he himself was still in the process of getting started! ThankFrank.com is an up and coming business whose vision is to incentivise people to interact with thankfrank and by putting a thank you button on all social media platforms and rewarding people for using thankfrank.com by giving them vouchers. It is essentially a way of being polite on the internet and getting rewarded for it! Seans determination was evident in the way he spoke about his business because although they are currently ‘in the trenches’ he still had an extremely positive outlook on life! I enjoyed Sean’s talk because he spoke about entrepreneurship as a stepping stone of sorts and used a number of quotes to reinforce what the journey toward success is like! My favourite one is pictured below
The following is a list of tips which Sean gave us in the hopes that they would help guide us through the difficult challenges we may face as young start up entrepreneurs!
- You must be able to explain your idea in the simplest form possible!
- As a famous batman character once said, the reason we fall is so that we can learn to pick ourselves back up again ! Resilience is key!
- Surround yourself with the best people who are able to do the things you can’t do
Kealan Lennon was fantastic at explaining to us how we can get people to test our product. As founder and CEO of Cleverbug, Kealan oozed creativity and passion for his business. Cleverbug is an inventive and creative app which removes the risk of forgetting someones birthday ever again! For someone as forgetful as myself, I fell in love with the idea from the moment he mentioned it!
Cleverbug uses innovative software to sync your facebook friends list with the app. Once synced, you can scroll down through your friends list and turn on notifications for the people whose birthdays you wish to remember! It then uses photo curation technology to identify who’s who to you and suggests appropriate pictures for you to use on their birthday e-card/print card!
As part of his speech, Kealan told us how he got Cleverbug into the public eye. It gave us a good insight into the type of attitude you need to have in order to get your product out there! I learnt that you need to be a risk seeking individual who isn’t afraid to put yourself out there for criticism. Kealan took a risk and contacted The Today Show when a speaker was on and said he would send in a bunch of cards for them to see! The cards arrived and the presenters were so impressed that they brought them onto the set and talked a little bit about Cleverbug and the quirky cards. This gave the organisation a lot of good media coverage and it also got people wondering about their brand! It generated huge success for Cleverbug all over america with a whopping 65% of the american population now on their database! This just proved Kealans theory that putting yourself out there will lead to success! If you want to find out more about Cleverbug and what they do, you can click on this video and see Kealan Lennon talking about the app or you can download Cleverbug for free on the appstore!
At only 18 months old, Cleverbug has received 5 acquisition offers!!
The two speeches from both Kealan and Sean showed how every business progresses differently! Both Thankfrank.com and Cleverbug are 18 months old and yet one has managed to progress further than the other in that time period! I think by putting both of these speakers in the same mini conference it gave us students a good idea of how every business varies in it’s velocity of progression and just because one business idea may flourish faster than another, does not necessarily mean that they won’t both become huge successes in the future!
At this stage there are 3 things we know for certain;
- we know what we want to do
- we know how to get funding
- we know how we can get our product out on the market! However, there are still a few major questions that have not yet been answered, How do we find the courage to take that leap and go out on our own? What facilities are there out there to help us along on our journey to becoming world class entrepreneurs? These vital questions were answered by our final 3 speakers of the day, Eoghan Stack, Richard Stokes, Ronan Furlong and last but not least, Paul Kerley.
Lets take the first question, how do we find the courage to go out on our own? Eoghan Stack, CEO of The Ryan Academy, had a very interesting methodology prepared in order to explain the journey toward entrepreneurship to us.
Eoghans methodology of the journey toward entrepreneurship can be summarised by the below 6 points;
- Call to adventure! You get a business idea and are called by your inner entrepreneur to set out on this uncertain path toward success and self governance!
- Refusal to answer- Your nerves get the better of you and you shy away from the idea of starting up your own company. Every worst case scenario runs through you head and you’re afraid that you might fail or that people won’t like what you’ve got to offer.
- The Wise Stage- Some sort of supernatural aid finds its way to, a Yoda-esque figure perhaps,and you know what you must do. It’s your destiny to follow the advice of a wiser one (or your inner-self) and become the entrepreneur you have always wanted to be!
- The deep dark forest- You’ve stumbled into the unknown, not quite sure of what you are doing but you know that turning back would be as tedious as to go on with your journey, the light at the end of the tunnel is dim but you still have hope that you will emerge from the dark forest of uncertainty.
- Rebirth- You will be transformed as you emerge unscathed from the dark forest. This side of the forest is more clear cut, having trekked through the wilderness to arrive at this point in time, you’re more surefooted as to what direction you want to take the business in next
- Masterful Return- Your first adventure is over and you are able to say with certainty that you have emerged a master of entrepreneurship. All you need now is another call to adventure!
I thought that the 6 stages listed above accurately defined the journey that an entrepreneur must undertake in order to get through each stage of business start up. I like the way Eoghan simplified the process and made it relate to us students through use of well known film characters and humour. I personally felt like it made his talk seem more interesting than your run of the mill speech on how to become a successful entrepreneur!
On to our next question that had yet to be answered, ”What facilities are there available to us to help us on our journey to becoming world class entrepreneurs?” Ronan Furlong, Executive Director at the DCU Innovation Campus and Richard Stokes CEO of the Invent Centre at DCU were brilliant at explaining this to us!
Both men have primary roles in two of the largest facilities associated with DCU. Firstly, let me talk a little bit about Ronan Furlong and the DCU Innovation Campus.
The Innovation Campus is a facility just 8km from DCU dedicated to cultivating an enterprising community of companies with innovation at their core. The Campus is home to a cluster of like minded companies who are collaborating with DCU and each other to make a wide range of innovative products. The idea behind the Innovation Campus is to provide a safe and helpful environment for start up tech companies where they can grow and develop their businesses capabilities. it provides them with research facilities such as labs and equipment, meeting rooms and it also gives the businesses on the campus a good brand image by being associated with one of Irelands most enterprising Universities.
Ronan spoke about how the innovation campus is the ideal place to start up a technology or science based company and he also was able to boast its success as one of the businesses who reside there, Novaerus, secured funding of 10 million euro from an angel investor because the investors saw that the business had brilliant access to research labs and fantastic equipment and they knew that they would be able to go far with such amazing help from the Innovation Campus.
Richard Stokes, CEO at the Invent Centre DCU was able to tell us about even more organisations and facilities that were available to young people like us who wanted to get started in business and who would be able to help us along the way. Richard is the current Director of Innovation here at DCU, which means he has a major role to play regarding the level of innovation at DCU and the programmes run to encourage enterprise here at DCU.
Richard spoke to us about the amazing service the people over at the Invent Center DCU provide for up and coming business people who want to get started in the high technology industry. The invent Center comprises of 210 sq feet of bio medical labs which can be rented out for use by any member of the DCU student body (engaged in the startup of their own business)to do their product research in.Invent, as he explained, is a spin in company that wants to work with DCU to try and help the young entrepreneurs with a flair for technology to start up in business by mentoring them and offering them expert business advice free of charge. I thought that this sounded like a brilliant idea because it gives the young tech geniuses at DCU the opportunity to gain free expert advice and opinions on their product which they may not have been able to gain otherwise.
The final speaker at Get Started was none other than Paul Kerley. Paul is a well known entrepreneur and investor. He was CEO of Norkom, a company based around preventing online fraud, until it was taken over in 2011(to read more click here) and he currently sits on a number of boards as chairperson or non exec director for companies such as Fenergo, MindConnex and SmartBin . Safe to say, Paul has plenty of experience in being an entrepreneur!
Therefore it was very insightful to listen to him speak about his life as an entrepreneur and the ups and downs he had to face in order to get to where he is today. I felt as if Paul embodied the whole concept of being an entrepreneur and that he was an example of what can happen if you follow the advice that was given to us by the other speakers.
Paul was the only speaker who didn’t have a powerpoint presentation for us and his reasoning behind this was that he felt as if the journey he has been on as an entrepreneur in his lifetime,was too personal to share with everyone through a series of pictures and sentences. This gesture really struck me because I realised how much emotion must be involved with setting up a business. Of course, other speakers at Get Started spoke about the passion and love they felt for their companies but I feel like Pauls gesture was so powerful and it really reinforced what everyone else was saying about how passionate you must be about your business before you decide to venture out on your own because the challenges you will face will change the person who you are going to become and shape your life into something new.
I think Get Started has been my favourite conference thus far because this is the only conference where I feel like it has actually made an impact on my life and how I feel about my future. I learnt some life changing lessons from the various speakers that day and I will most definitely be referring back to this advice when the time comes for me to make my entreprenurial debut.
That’s all from me now guys! If you yourself were in attendance at Get Started let me know what you thought! If not, you can follow the #GetStarted2015 on Twitter!
I’ll be back soon to fill you in on Get Digital 2015 which will be held on the 14th of April ! If you liked this post feel free to click the follow button and share it with your friends! Alternatively you can follow me on twitter @OmgEllen for live updates from the conferences!