By @SimonCocking

Interview with Eugen Crehan @eugenecrehan Interested in Start-ups, Technology, Ideas, Marketing, Business development, the outdoors

Your background / what led you into what you are now doing?

My own background is in international business development and more recently working with start-ups in the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) School of Business. During my corporate career I conducted business in over 50 countries while working in senior management roles with Waterford Crystal, Baileys Irish Cream and A.T. Cross. I lived in Dubai for a few years in the 90’s working with brands such as Porsche Design, Carrera, Hugo Boss, Christian Dior, Dunhill, DuPont and Ulysses Nardin. I also worked in the U.S. with an Irish-American joint venture in the late 1980’s. While I enjoyed the challenges of the corporate roles, I have always had an interest in start-ups. My current role as Director of Programmes at the Centre for Enterprise Development and Regional Development (CEDRE) in WIT is very rewarding as I get to work with lots of exciting start-up businesses. There is a lot of variety in my work and no two weeks are ever the same. I also lecture in Strategy and in Marketing to undergraduates and post-graduates at WIT and University College Cork.

How was 2014, what was good, bad, anything do differently?

I would describe 2014 as the year when we started to see greens shoots emerging from an economic perspective. The hard work of the start-up business promoters participating in the New Frontiers Programme that I manage at WIT started to show positive results. Companies such as www.picstash.com and www.fonesense.com gained strong market traction and external funding while more recent participants www.bpmjunction.com, www.wrapsies.ie and www.cmchygea.net secured Competitive Start Funding from Enterprise Ireland to allow them to build out their customer offering. I also started a 5-year Doctoral programme in 2014. This is a significant time commitment: what was I thinking! My research interest is in how external investment impacts strategic planning in early stage businesses and I have already uncovered some very interesting correlations.

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What would you like to see in 2015 to enable even more Irish startup successes?

I have great admiration for people who decide to dedicate a huge portion of their lives and waking hours to starting and growing a business. On a positive note there are lots of financial and mentoring supports available to start-ups in Ireland, from assistance offered by the Local Enterprise Offices to the suites of supports offered by Enterprise Ireland including the New Frontiers Programme.

I would like to see some additional initiatives available to people who leave employment to start new businesses, especially potentially scalable knowledge based businesses. We are aware of the high failure rates amongst start-ups. But what happens to these people when their businesses fail? Unlike people who become unemployed they cannot access any form of unemployment benefit. They are literally left without a source of income. I believe that a mechanism could be found where the risk exposure for the start-up promoter could be reduced in the event of a failure that this could result in more people being encouraged to take the jump from employment into self-employment. I would like to see these people accessing supports similar to those available to the PAYE sector to help them to get on their feet and to potentially to start other businesses.

What tips would you give to new startups?

At the end of the New Frontiers Programme I ask the start-up promoters what advice they would give to the next cohort joining New Frontiers. Here are their Top 10 recommendations

  1. Keep building a strong business plan
  2. Cash is king. Sales bring in cash.
  3. Deal with problems early
  4. Seek help when needed
  5. Manage stress & time
  6. Learn from mistakes
  7. Learn from others
  8. Be realistic – know your limitations
  9. Be aware of the wall – stay focused
  10. Enjoy it

Any trends you think they should be considering?

The Internet Of Things (IoT) is a trend that cannot be ignored. This is where we will see information technology converge with traditional industrial and agricultural sectors. It is where machines talk to machines or sensors talk to devices and alter the settings for optimal performance. This will inevitably create a lot of opportunities where technology can be leveraged to automatically carry out numerous tasks e.g., manage energy usage in the workplace or our homes, manage feeding and watering in agriculture and in monitoring people’s wellbeing. Estimates suggest that between 30 to 50 billion IoT-enabled devices will come to market in the next 5 years. This presents huge opportunities of technology start-ups.

 What does the roadmap look like from here till October for the Waterford aspect of the Startup Gathering?

The Startup Gathering is an exciting initiative led by Startup Ireland and supported by the Government in the Action Plan for Jobs 2015. The Startup Ireland’s Vision 2020 aims to make Ireland the best place to start a business by the year 2020. On the morning of Tuesday October 6th, 2015 Waterford will host the Vision 2020 Forum which will see the private and the public sectors working together to develop plans to realise this vision based on the theme Start, Scale, Succeed from Ireland. The afternoon and evening will see a multitude of ‘crowd-sourced’ events take place across the Viking City of Waterford.

The roadmap until October is a very busy one as the organisation of the Startup Gathering in Waterford is a huge task. My role as City Coordinator is on a voluntary basis and due to work commitments could not be done without the support of a committed Steering Group.  Fortunately, this Steering Group has significant experience in organising events for large volumes of visitors to Waterford City through their work with the Tall Ships Race and various other festivals.

I am confident Waterford as Ireland’s oldest city will showcase its true potential as an emergent start-up ecosystem bringing together research centres, large corporates and high-growth start-ups in proximity to ignite the spark that fuels the vision to make Waterford a really great place to locate a start-up business by 2020. The Startup Gathering 2015 is a solid first step on this exciting journey.

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