Take the Risk: Raise Your Hand!
Out of approximately 7 billion people worldwide, 400 million own their own business. This means 1 in 18 people are entrepreneurs. Yet, at the Get Started conference in the Helix on the 8th of November a shockingly low number of hands went up when Andrew Keogh first posed the question, “who here would like to set up their own business?”. I did not raise my hand. This was not the response that I’d expect from an audience of DICE students (Digital Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise) – an audience consisting of young students from business courses at DCU!
Perhaps the reason for such a low representation of people wanting to become entrepreneurs was the embarrassment of raising your hand inside of a full Mahony Hall. In a lecture on entrepreneurship a couple of weeks ago we took part in some polls regarding entrepreneurship. This time when we were asked who would like to become an entrepreneur these were the results:
It is also interesting to note the reasons the students in our DICE module had for wanting to become an entrepreneur:
We were introduced to a number of entrepreneurs during the conference including young entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs to mention but a few. When Andrew repeated the same question at the end of the conference would the results be different?
The first speaker at the Get Started conference was Philippe Brodeur who is currently the CEO and founder of Overcast HQ. Overcast HQ is a cloud based content management system which is designed to easily manage the user’s video files without the user having to battle with the technology behind it.
“What will you do to stand out?”
Philippe spoke to us about differentiation. He made me think about how important it is to stand out from your competitors. Many people believe that entrepreneurs share some common characteristics but the truth is there is more diversity in this career than any other. His advice for anyone thinking about becoming an entrepreneur: The first thing you do is differentiate yourself.
He also spoke to us about the importance of traction. Getting traction is a big ask and it takes a long time to get but to become more attractive to investors you must have proof that people want your product. For example, Overcast HQ has the following traction:
- Google: We believe Overcast is capable of changing the world for good.
- Amazon: You are going to solve our clients’ biggest pain points.
- Daily Mail: It’s Google Docs for video.
However, Philippe also informed us that timing is the #1 reason for start-ups succeeding which was a surprise to me!
Brian O’Rourke and Alan Farrelly
The next speakers to come up on stage were Brian O’Rourke and Alan Farrelly, co-founders of CitySwifter. CitySwifter is a crowd based commuter shuttle bus which provides fast and direct transport between cities and suburbs. Brian and Alan are examples of young Irish entrepreneurs straight from college.
“Celebrate the ups, learn from the downs!”
They discussed with us the entrepreneurial rollercoaster. Their advice to us as college students was to network now and mix up our skill sets. For example as business students we should mix in with computer science students. I found that this was very useful advice because an important element of a founding team for a business is to have complimentary skillsets.
From listening to Brian and Alan, setting up a business is definitely very hard work but equally as rewarding. Leading up to the recent Dublin Bus strikes the CitySwifter team were working 12-16 hour days for 3 weeks. They weren’t fully prepared for what was to come but instead of fearing failure they used it as motivation. They pushed themselves to avail of this fantastic opportunity and launched their innovative idea to help commuters in Dublin during the strikes. It was also a brilliant opportunity to get feedback from customers on how they could improve their service. They highlighted the value of talking to your potential and existing customers, users and partners early and often.
I learned from Brian and Alan that you must be prepared to do what your competitors aren’t willing to do:
- Build your network.
- Know your competitors.
- Just do it!
Elva was the third speaker to introduce herself to us at the conference. This female entrepreneur founded Girlcrew, by accident! Girlcrew is an easy way of using an online resource to make friends offline.
She spoke to us about how she managed to build a tech business without being a techie. I found this admirable because struggling with technology can be a barrier to progression for a lot of people. So, what were Elva’s magic ingredients for setting up her business?
- There was a need for her business
- It appeared to be scalable
- She could scale it for free
- Her business didn’t really need her in order to work
Elva never planned to start a business. Her story goes something like this:
One night earlier this year she was in the mood to go out dancing but none of her friends were able to go with her. She wondered if anyone else was in the same position as her so she changed her gender to male on Tinder and set this as her profile picture:
She identified that there is a gap for this sort of platform in today’s word. Since then Girlcrew has led to the formation of groups of women all over the world who meet up and just hang out. Girlcrew also has traction – the invaluable element that was mentioned earlier. There are over 50,000 members today. Events take place every day and there are requests for more cities.
The next speaker at the Get Started conference was Gavan Walsh. He is the CEO and founder of iCabbi. iCabbi is a taxi dispatch technology company which specialises in developing fleet management and booking software for the taxi industry. It has helped the traditional taxi companies to respond to the likes of Hailo and Uber. He described the evolution of iCabbi to us and how he made his idea a success.
“If not me, who? If not now, when?”
He spoke to us about ambition which is necessary for success. He also discussed his failures with us which I found captivating. Despite a number of failed business ideas and ventures, Gavan never gave up and has gone on to produce something great.
The fifth speaker at the conference was Adrian Mihai, an entrepreneur from Transylvania in Romania. He is the co-founder and CTO of Opening who write software for recruitment.
Adrian’s belief on why people start their own business is that we all have a sense of purpose. We have a fear of being unneeded. What are his steps on how to start a successful business?
“Find a problem you consider meaningful, make the solution obvious.”
Adrian gave us tips on how to practically set up a business. You should find 2 to 4 like-minded people from any area for example IT, arts etc. Once again the idea was suggested to us that mixing up our skillsets is key. He pointed out that initial business plans often become out of date very quickly which is why a focus on prototypes is more important than trying to produce the perfect finished product – a mistake a lot of start-ups make.
What I learned from Adrian is that it takes a certain type of person to become a successful entrepreneur. This next video shows Mark Zuckerberg’s thoughts on what it takes to be an entrepreneur:
The final speaker to talk to us at the Get Started conference was Iseult Ward. She is a social entrepreneur who co-founded FoodCloud. She now acts as the CEO of the non for profit registered charity. She talked to us about how FoodCloud works. They allow food businesses to contribute to their communities by donating any leftover food they have.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett
Iseult told us about how failure can set you on the path to success. Her advice for us was to look at problems we currently face in the world – such as overpopulation. We can create business ideas from these problems by coming up with ways to solve them. She also discussed the importance of technology in today’s world. Technology has allowed us to come up with new innovative ways of tackling major social and environmental problems. For example, the FoodCloud technology allows the companies to upload details of their surplus food and arrange a time for the food to be collected for donation.
I commend the fact that Iseult became an entrepreneur for the benefit of others. The following is an enthralling TED Talk by Lluis Pareras on how social entrepreneurs can be successful.
“Who here would like to set up their own business?”
After an inspiring talk from Andrew Keogh on giving people confidence, the same question was repeated. The number of hands raised was significantly higher this time, including my own. A job well done by the speakers at Get Started!
I definitely felt more inspired to become an entrepreneur after listening to the speakers at the conference. According to statistics, young people are 1.6 times more likely to want to start a business over the age of 34. Another interesting statistic is that young men are 1.3 times more likely to want to start a business than young women. A study by GEM in 2012 (http://www.gemconsortium.org/report) found that women fear failure more than men. It was also found that women tend to perceive themselves in a less favourable light than men regarding the entrepreneurial environment. As a young woman myself these results are quite alarming. However, after listening to the likes of Elva Carri and Iseult Ward at the conference I have been given the confidence boost I needed in order to understand that I can achieve my goals if I just believe in myself. The following is quite an inspiring video about what it means to be a woman entrepreneur today:
To conclude, the Get Started conference put into perspective the information on entrepreneurship that we had already learned in the lecture. People become entrepreneurs for all sorts of reasons. Of course there are many negative aspects to entrepreneurship such as the long hours, the hard work and high stress levels, not to mention the non-guarantee of an income. However, people are still encouraged to become entrepreneurs – often by existing successful entrepreneurs such as the speakers at Get Started. Some people are driven by the need to contribute to society and be recognized for the difference they’ve made. Entrepreneurs get to show off their talents while doing something they enjoy and if they make impressive profits then that’s a bonus.