Edited and prepared by Oscar Michel, Masters in Journalism, DCU
There are 113 links in this article to help an entrepreneur through every step of their startup journey. Whether early stage or an established brand, the list provided at the end of this blog might be the difference between long term success and failure. The emphasis is on Irish startups but will be relevant to any startup worldwide. To skip my rant on why we should promote and encourage entrepreneurship rather than alienate it, go to the end of the article.
Every blog I read on startups seems to allude to failure. Why do we always need to use the word fail? Sure, less than 30% of startups survive past the 10-year point. Agreed. I don’t deny it. BUT…why must we always have to talk so negatively about the industry and create a stigma around it?
The Backbone of the Economy
Being involved in and attempting to create something to impact the world and create a better society is an incredible thing. 6 million small businesses are started each year in America, and the small business workforce accounts for 99.6% of the total American workforce. Startups create jobs, jobs foster communities. All of this suggests that we should be encouraging our population to get involved in creating a business.
“What if I told you that if you started a company today you’d more than likely be still up and running for the following 5 years, what would you say to that?”
60% of the Time
I was recently invited by the Irish Government to take part in a review of entrepreneurship policy. In reading the documents presented, I saw the figure for new startups annually: some 12,000. However, it was the next figure which took me by surprise: 7,200. This figure represents the average survival rate for the first 5 years for Irish startups – 7,200!! That’s a massive 60% of the total figure. Yet everyone seems so focused on how only 1 in 10 make it.
The Survival of Irish start-ups
I’m shocked to see such a high survival rate. Admittedly, that’s the 5-year survival rate and the greater issue is around long-term survival, but what if I told you that if you started a company today you’d more than likely be still up and running for the following 5 years? You’d probably think I was pulling your leg. Once it’s broken down like that, the impossible dream seems a lot more possible. We need to promote this and stop society striking so much fear into our aspiring entrepreneurs. Maybe this is the reason we have one of the lowest rate of startups as a percentage of overall companies in Europe, (Although it is steadily increasing). The first step is to remove this stigma and then we can increase the post 5-year survival rate for our Irish startups.
Increased the Survival Rate
Now that my rant is over I can get started taking you through how I can help you increase your chance of survival. The first thing you need to do is to make sure you are in the right space with the right product and service. How do we do this? Build a slide deck, create a business plan and get funded? WRONG. This is traditionally what we thought we needed to do but, given the rise of the lean startup methodology, we now know that we need to focus on finding a problem to solve and then verify its solution by using our resources in the most efficient and effective way.
“In a startup, the customer is always right, even if they’re a *****”
What’s the Problem?
In a study by C.B insights of over 100 unsuccessful startups, 42% of them specified that ‘no market need’ was a major reason for their lack of success. They created a solution and only then tried to attain customers. We need to find a problem and tailor our solution to our customer’s needs. 14% of them attributed it to ‘ignoring the customer’!
In a startup, the customer is always right, even if they’re a *****. We need to step into their shoes and empathize with them; only then will we be able to create a sustainable business. 17% attributed their failure due to their business model.
The Game has Changed
Luckily thanks to game changers like Eric Reis, Alex Osterwalder, Ash Maurya, Steve Blankand, more recently, Jake Knapp, there are step-by-step processes we can follow to create a successful business. We can create our business model canvas and start our customer development journey today. Once we’ve completed that we can run a design sprint. We don’t need to waste hundreds and thousands of dollars creating products when we don’t even know if there is a market for them.
We follow this lean cycle and continue to test and iterate until we have a viable business opportunity, all without spending any capital.
Below I have created a list with the help of David. S. Rose’s amazing book ‘’The Startup Checklist’’. I was blown away by the number of online tools available for Irish startups, any start-up for that matter, for every step of their journey and I felt compelled to share this further.
I have put (free) beside any tools that have a freemium version.
I don’t personally like surveys as customer development is done best when having a conversation with someone, which can’t be achieved through a survey. Everyone is different and it’s hard to get great insights through a questionnaire, or a focus group for that matter. It can be hard to get real individual insights from a group; someone may be led by another’s comment for example.
On the other hand, if you have had a lot of one on one meetings with potential customers and you feel you’ve nailed the problem, then surveys are a great way to contact the mass market, e.g. check the elasticity of your pricing.
Creating a minimum viable product
Creating an MVP (minimum viable product) to test your solution is critical. Eric Reis says ‘the minimum viable product is that version of a new product a team uses to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.’
Essentially what is the least you have to produce to satisfy your customers enough so they are willing to pay? Over time, through vast amounts of customer feedback, you will then be able to build on this over and over again until you have the finished article, without needing significant investment as you already have paying customers.
Crowdfunding has become a hugely successful avenue for entrepreneurs who have an idea they want to test before launching. Usually, they create a video that shows what the product will do without actually being in existence, the customer then buys it and, if the entrepreneurs are successful in raising their target investment, they go off and start building the product. They then ship it to the customer when it’s built. (Kickstarter and Indiegogo are some of the most popular crowdfunding websites, but in both cases, you must have a physical product).
If not, these online sites may help you:
Ireland Website Design
No Business Plan = No Investment (?)
Now is the time you can build a slide deck, prepare a plan and get funded! And how do you do that, you ask?
I use this in my classes and it never ceases to amaze me. Incredible software which will not only walk you through creating an excellent business plan, but will also help you draft your pitch and, most importantly, give you an easy platform to manage your finances. You don’t need to waste your time figuring out if your balance sheet balances, as the system does everything for you, allowing you to just input the numbers and see if your business is viable.
‘My competitors are doing it all wrong, they are clueless!?!.. ’
I Have No Real Competitors…
Whether I’m a judge in a business plan competition or an attendee at any Irish start-up presentation, it’s always the same. ‘My competitors are doing it all wrong, they are clueless…”. Funny how they are producing revenues of €500,000+ then, isn’t it?? Competitor-bashing has got to stop. Appreciate and respect your competitors and you’ll be more capable of outdoing them. So, if you have found product market fit (sold your product or service to a significant number of customers) you can start looking further into your competitors and look towards scaling your business. Below are more online tools that might be of use to you further down the line.
The final two links I want to share with you are probably the most important links you’ll ever click on if you are in the Irish startup scene or are looking to pursue a startup journey in Ireland.
The first is a website I found late in my research but I’d advise you to look into it when you get the chance as it seems to be the real deal- StartupStash: ‘’A curated directory of resources & tools to help you build your startup’’.
And lastly, a link to an Excel spreadsheet which has a list of every startup accelerator, incubator, hub and enterprise centre, along with a list of SME supports available – mapping of supports.